Tuscan harvest watch 2016

IMG_9758-1SangioveseWelcome to the first Tuscan-wide online diary which gives a day-by-day account of the grape harvest in Tuscany. After the success of the first five seasons of Tuscan Harvest Watch, the reports on 2016 appear here.

Many thanks to the wineries that have agreed to let us know how the harvest is proceeding. They offer a unique chance to compare the progress of the harvest across the key Tuscan wine areas. The wineries have been chosen to give a broad view of the season in key areas of Tuscany, reflecting different terroirs and climatic conditions. From north to south the featured areas are: Chianti Rufina, Chianti Classico, Bolgheri, Val d’Orcia, Montalcino, Montepulciano and the upper and lower Maremma.

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Latest reports

Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 20 ottobre 2016

Racking off from the amphora. Once the first part of fermentation has taken place, we remove the must from the skins. We will put the must back in the amphora and complete the fermentation. This will become Trooccolone 2016.

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 20 ottobre 2016

The harvest was completed on 8 October. Up to 1 October the sun helped us. The period of unstable weather meant we had to work very hard to avoid bringing less than good grapes in to the winery, above all because as usual no chemical or biological products were used to protect the vines from diseases. We have achieved it, hard work.

For Caparsa it looks like an historic year thanks to the very good acidity which will give a freshness and a taste which will contain the alcohol. The tannins are being extracted through daily pump-overs as you can see in the photo. This operation is similar to maternal breastfeeding in which the times and the correct amounts (of natural oxidation) help to build up and express the character of the year. Here’s to next year!

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 14 October 2016
The grape harvest was finished on 4 Octoer: the last grapes were the Sangiovese and the small amount of Greco which survived the frosts in April.
The weather has been splendid, the grapes beautiful and mature.
What suffered a bit was the Ciliegiolo which was attacked by Japanese fruit fly during the rains half way through September. (It lays eggs in the grapes, damn it!) As a result the harvest has required particular attention in order to eliminate the ruined berries.

We accelerated the conclusion of the harvest in comparison to our usual practice because there was a forecast for heavy rain and we did not wish to risk the production in what is already a light year (the frosts of April, alas!). Thus with the vineyards in great form and a small amount of fruit the maturation was already perfect with potential alcohol levels between 12 and 14.5%. In conclusion, a very good harvest but not perhaps stellar – we will see.

The must is fermenting now, the winery is bubbling. The stems are being returned to the vineyard (picture) and we are toasting another harvest concluded with joy and good fortune!

Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 8 ottobre 2016

IT’S DONE!!!!! The harvest of 2016 is finished. Tired, very tired but satisfied. The grapes have enjoyed the final beautiful weeks of sunshine reaching a good degree of maturation. I will happily send you information about the fermentations and the wines that are made.

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 4 ottobre 2016

The harvest began on Friday 29 September a few days earlier than anticipatied as rain was forecast for the weekend. The idea was to pick before and after the weather event. Up till today the picking of the Sangiovese has gone splendidly. At Caparsa the quality if fantastic and we are very satisfied: good acidity (higher than last year) along with good sugar levels (the wines will be between 13.2 and 13.8 degrees). This allows me to say that at Caparsa in Radda in Chianti it will be an historical year.

Andrea Contucci, Montepulciano, 25 September 2016 

For the 2016 harvest the grapes are ok, the equipment and the fermenters are ready to go, it’s beginning!!!!

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 20 September 2016 

Today we are beginning to pick the Merlot which in truth we should have harvested last week but we had bottling to finish and it’s not possible to do everything. We are very much in line with previous harvests and the abundant rain at this time has refreshed the vineyard and helpfully washed the grapes. A few hail stones fell but without doing any significant damage.

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The grapes there are are excellent but the serious problem this year has been the wild animals which did serious damage. They did this either by eating the grapes or by ruining them by bashing into them. The electric fence seems to have done little good and certainly does not keep out roe deer of which there really have been many this year. (I have included a picture of a young deer which we found this spring under a row of vines … my vineyards have certainly contributed to its healthy and steady growth but now perhaps a conflict has arisen.)

This week we will also bring the Trebbiano into the winery. It is already very mature and in top condition. There is less of it in terms of quantity than usual and as a result we are bringing forward the harvest. Next week will be the turn of the Teroldego and perhaps a bit of Ciliegiolo, depending again on to what extent we succeed in keeping the animals out of the vineyard. After that it is the Sangiovese.

Francesco Gagliardi, Campo alla Sughera, Bolgheri, 17 September 2016 

The weather during the unfolding of the season was certainly favourable with a mild spring without significant rain, conditions which led to a good flowering period and then good fruit set.  The months of June, July and the first half of August were quite hot but without extremes and with little rain while in the second half of August the temperatures rose again, above 30 centigrade with northerly winds, which contributed to accelerated sugar accumulation by the plants.  We managed the lack of rain in the four months before the harvest with emergency irrigation used in a precise way until just before the veraison (change of colour), thereby avoiding defoliation and unduly severe thinning out.  

Maturation of the grapes proceeded in a regular and gradual manner up to mid August with an acceleration in the second half of the month. This led to the need to pick the Cabernet Franc, and some parcels of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot a bit early, while the Merlot and the white varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Vermentino) matured in a more regular way.  

The yield is well balanced and the grapes are perfectly healthy and ripe at the point of picking.  We began the harvest in the final week of August with the Sauvignon Blanc, the Chardonnay and the Merlot.  By the end of the first week of September we have picked some parcels of Cabernet Franc and by the middle of September some parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon.  

The harvest has been pretty much in line with the 2015 vintage in terms of quality with very healthy and very concentrated grapes.  We received our first real rain after four months on 16 and 17 September. We are awaiting with full confidence the complete maturation of the parcels of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon which have not yet been harvested.   

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 12 September 2016 

We have harvested the Sauvignon which was beautiful if a small amount. The hares were just about to eat the lot! The other varieties are very good and at the end of this week we will pick the Merlot. Some storms have been breaking up a rather long period of drought and washing the grapes but when I hear thunder I am always anxious.
I am sending a picture of the Ciliegiolo variety which is so beautiful and high quality. We will wait further to harvest it as we want the tannins to be perfectly mature so as to have the possibility of carrying out a long maceration in the cellar. I don’t like ‘girlie’ wines.

Francesca Sfrondrini, Massa Vecchia, Maremma, 6 September 2016

We harvested yesterday and today and we picked the Aleatico for the appassimento (semi-dried grape) process. The yield was a bit lower than usual because we had an attack of powdery mildew at the end of June on this delicate variety. We removed the unhealthy grapes in successive passes in July. The harvested grapes are excellent and have already been lightly semi-dried. The weather forecast is for beautiful sunny days and so we are confident that the grapes will dry out quite quickly.

Francesca Sfrondrini, Massa Vecchia, Maremma, 1 September 2016

We have been waiting for rain because in recent days the maximum temperatures were very high and the coolness of the evenings was moderated. As a result the varieties which are most susceptible to the heat (above all for us the Merlot) were in danger of getting unbalanced with very high sugar levels ahead of maturation. Finally on Tuesday and above all on Wednesday it rained properly. We have again been fortunate with hail which in other zones close by has been devastating. Now we are waiting for things to dry out and probably we will start picking the Merlot on Saturday! The harvest is beginning!

Paola de Blasi, I Veroni, Chianti Rufina, 1 September 2016

The weather during the spring/summer season of 2016 has seen alternating periods of a lot of rain and periods of heat and dryness. However bud-break and the vegetative growth in summer has gone smoothly. August was hot but not excessively, alternating cooler, windy days with intense, sun ones. The rain at the end of August was absolutely vital in energising the final ‘sprint’ for the maturation of our Sangiovese, the beating heart of our viticulture.

Francesca Sfrondrini, Massa Vecchia, Maremma, 24 agosto 2016

The winter of 2016 began with a warm January, except at the end of the month, with lots of rain which led into a mild February.  The temperatures were were well above the average with only rare morning frosts.  We only had 3-4 properly cold days with the snow on the hills only appearing at the end of March/beginning of April.  Lots of rain fell both at the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  

However the cold came in April and the snow returned on the hills: the north wind blew for 3 days and there was danger for the plants.  All the varieties started their vegetative phase early with a big danger of frost at the beginning of April. However, we escaped without significant problems.  

May again was rainy and it was necessary to do treatments in the vineyard from the first days of the month. Short intervals of time allowed us to carry out the treatments with the rain returning regularly after a break of 2-3 days.  The land was quickly drenched to the point where it could no longer absorb water and stagnation occurred as in 2014.  This certainly exposed the plants to diseases and consequently we also had to pay attention to this fundamental point.  And just as in 2014 June again began with rain which continued without a break until the twenty-first.  

The beginning of summer marked the end of the rain and the heat arrived: in July there were three weeks with the same temperatures as 2003. The summer obliterated every memory of the wet and cool spring.   The wind, which got stronger in the middle of July, created some problems with oidium (powdery mildew) but we were able to contain the damage, if with some problems with the most sensitive varieties, Aleatico and Malvasia Nera. 

Veraison, the change of colour, took place a bit in advance of the norm, especially for Sangiovese, which definitely is not an early ripening variety.  August, up till now has been very good because the minimum temperatures have been moderate which has slowed down the maturation of the grapes, breaking the course of early maturation which they had been on.  The maximum temperatures were average for this period.  

For the time being therefore we have had a rainy winter, absolutely not cold, a rainy spring, rather cooler than usual, and a hot summer, at times very hot.  

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 24 August 2016

After a very mild winter the vines came back to life from their winter slumbers very early. However, rain and less than average temperatures cancelled out the early start between the beginning of May and the final third of July. In this period there was also hail here and there in a random way. And even when the conditions stabilised with normal high temperatures and sunny days at the end of June and the whole of July there were storms in a similarly random way. Praying all the time that atmospheric instability did not cause hail became a habit. But it is the case that for those who worked well, with good fortune, are anticipating a very promising year: heat and rain at just the right moments have created the  optimal conditions for an excellent year.

The seasonal plentiful sunshine in August was ideal at Caparsa where the wines had good reserves of water in the subsoil. The soil is well prepared for drought which I have been told has been an issue in other zones.

Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 22 August 2016

A mild winter with the temperature only dropping below zero on two occasions. An early spring with temperatures above the seasonal average which favoured an early start to the vegetative growth for the vines. Rain arrived in May with frequent low temperatures. The first three weeks of June were also very rainy with continuing low temperatures. These conditions slowed down the phenological development. Then, finally, the heat also arrived and with it the leaf canopy which the bunches need to resume their normal cycle. Due to all the rain of the earlier months the soil is now sufficiently moist, allowing a luxuriant canopy which is very active in photosynthesis. The bunches have benefitted and the maturation is proceeding well.

 

Winery profiles

Paola da Blasi I Veroni, Pontassieve, Chianti Rufina


Winefriend on I Veroni – attractive Rufina
Paolo Cianferoni in vendemmiaCaparsa, Radda, Chianti Classico


Winefriend on Caparsa – Chianti vertical
Dr Francesco Gagliardi Campo alla Sughera, Bolgheri,


Winefriend on Campo alla Sughera: Alabaster, building materials and wine
IMG_0219Massa Vecchia, Massa Marittima

Winefriend on Special places: Massa Vecchia
Cantine Contucci, Montepulciano

Winefriend on Cantucci: at the heart of Montepulciano
Gianni Brunelli, Montalcino

Winefriend on: Gianni (and Laura) Brunelli
Capitoni, Pienza, Val d’Orcia

Winefriend on Capitoni: Mixed farming and viticulture
Sassotondo, Pitigliano

Winefriend on Sassotondo – retreat to the land

Tuscany: the featured wineries

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