Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Tuscan harvest 2015

Tuscan harvest watch 2015

Sangiovese TrebbianoWelcome 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 four seasons of Tuscan Harvest Watch, the reports on 2015 appear here.

Many thanks to the wineries that have agreed to let us know how the harvest is proceeding and the 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, 13 October 2015

Here we are at the conclusion, tired but satisfied. The harvest having finished, now we can say: ‘2015 is a very, very good year’.
As I wrote in my post of mid-August, as we review the unfolding of the season as a whole we could imagine that we will pick top quality grapes and that is what has happened.
It is important to underline how much the work on the canopy and selection carried out on the bunches contributed to this, especially on the parts of the bunches which had been damaged by a small amount of hail during a storm in June.
In line with our pursuit of increasing quality, this year we equipped ourselves with a sorting table. Party mechanically and partly manually this vibrating table enables us to remove the berries which are not fully formed and any other parts of the bunch which are not wanted.
Our work now in the winery is to continue to transform what was brought from the vineyard as well as possible.

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 6 October 2015

I am sending pictures of these last days of the harvest. The weather continues basically to be fine here; we can pick calmly and delay further the varieties which do well if allowed the time to mature on into October, ie Sangiovese and Alicante among the reds and Greco and the old Pitigliano Trebbiano in whites.

We are even now completing the harvesting of the Ciliegiolo which is extraordinarily beautiful and healthy (and abundant!) Today we should finish in the old San Lorenzo vineyard opposite Pitigliano.

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 30 September 2015

Today is the third day of the harvest of the Sangiovese. The readings are very balanced, the potential alcohol level is 13.5%, and the view this morning was a fairy tale. In 45 years I have never seen a maturation as fantastic and uniform.

Andrea Contucci, Cantine Contucci, Montepulciano, 26 September 2015

As I promised I am sending you some photos. Here we are on the third day of the harvest.
The grapes are really beautiful, confirming excellent expectations.
The rain has not been troublesome for the time being. It was only Wednesday, the second day of the harvest, that we had to stop the harvest at 4 pm, losing a few working hours; on the other days we worked well.
The forecast for the few next days is for an improvement. As a result, we are optimistic with regard to the outcome of the harvest overall.

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 26 September 2015

We have already picked the Sauvignon, Merlot and Teroldego. Today we have done some Trebbiano. The rest of the Trebbiano, the Greco and the Ciliegiolo and the Sangiovese will be picked early.

With regard to the rain, it seemed that we were in the eye of the cyclone. Every now and then some drops would create a rainbow and then there was wind and sun.

The days have been wonderful, cool and windy, the grapes very beautiful and healthy, including the Sangiovese – which here is not normally the best – is good this year, savoury, sweet, lively, like Ciliegiolo. Yes, I am a bit biased!

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 25 September 2015

The Sangiovese harvest has been postponed. Now we have picked for a rosé wine. The rain and above all the cold temperatures have completely changed the situation with regard to the decision about when to start the main harvest. The year remains of a quality to dream about.

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 21 September 2015

We have determined the date for the harvest of the Sangiovese for next Wednesday. Following precise analyses, we are more than 10 days in advance. In the cooler areas, the grapes are excellent while in the more arid areas the grapes are beginning to dry out. The acidity is certainly lower than average which will be a novelty for the wines of Caparsa which are noted for this characteristic. The sugar level is high and we can be more precise about that during and after the harvest. It promises to be an excellent year, not least because we have worked effectively by hand every day of the year and it shows in the way that the vegetation of the Caparsa wines is still extremely green! See the picture taken this morning. Radda-in-Chianti

Andrea Contucci, Cantine Contucci, Montepulciano, 19 September 2015

uva 2015 005

Francesco Gagliardi, Campo alla Sughera, Bolgheri, 12 September 2015

In the final week of September, the accumulation of sugar was very restrained in both the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc. Maturation then immediately accelerated decisively at the beginning of September and we picked all the parcels of Merlot furiously in the second week of September; similarly, the Cabernet Franc which usually matures a bit later. The grapes were perfectly healthy and mature and released a significant amount of colour even in the first days of fermentation. We are confident about the future quality of the grapes we have picked up till now. We are currently closely monitoring the Petit Verdot which seems a bit advanced in relation to standard dates and seems very close to a perfect maturation. Our philosophy with the Petit Verdot is to wait until the skins begin to get thinner and are just about to have perfectly mature tannins. This brings with it risk but for us this variety is not a complementary one but has the same importance as the other Bordeaux varieties. By contrast, the Cabernet Sauvignon still has very compact skins and the values of pH, total acidity and sugar point to a picking date which is not yet close. On the subject of the weather, we did not have rain at the end of August/ beginning of September and it remains quite hot in the day time with a drop in temperature at night. I attach the graph for the temperatures for the first 10 days of September. Grafico

Visit to Massa Vecchia, Massa Marittima, northern Maremma, 5 September

Janet and I met Francesca Sfrondini at Massa Vecchia during a brief visit to the Maremma. The harvest had just begun and the first product was the Aleatico grapes hanging in their rain-proofed shelter to dry out for a few weeks before being turned into wine. It is likely that the Merlot and other early ripeners will be harvested next week. The other big surprise is that the mid part of the winery which acted as a storeroom has been completely cleared – revealing a larger vessel which we had never seen before! Francesca has been able to rent the cellar of the next-door building to store her finished wine, creating a new sense of space – see the pictures below. She also has a plan to buy some old but good quality cement fermentation vessels if she can find someone to transport these heavy beasts – if cement is good enough for Cheval Blanc, its good enough (as we know) in humbler places.

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitigliano, 31 August 2015

It is a marvellous here! At the weekend we will pick the Sauvignon Blanc and then we will wait for the other varieties which look beautiful, healthy and with a lovely bloom on the skins. I attach pictures of the Sauvignon, the Ciliegiolo and our new stone tondo which reflects our lucky star!

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 28 August 2015

We are at the end of August and here at the heart of Radda in Chianti the Sangiovese is maturing in a marvellous way. Apart from the unexpected, the prospects are for a really great year! The photo gives an update of 28 August.

Tuscan harvest 2015

Francesco Gagliardi, Campo alla Sughera, Bolgheri, 25 August 2015

We are preparing to manage what will certainly be a harvest which will start in more favourable conditions than the very rainy vintage of 2014. Until today the climatic trend of the year has been propitious with a mild spring without significant rain giving conditions which favoured first a perfect flowering period and then fruit set. The month of July and the first half of August were very muggy without rain and with temperature spikes above 35ºC in the day and barely any day/night temperature difference. During the second part of August, the temperatures returned to the seasonal norm. We have managed the lack of rain using irrigation allowed in time of need with precision up to the point just before the berries change colour (veraison) and avoiding an overly severe leaf removal and thinning out of bunches. The grapes seem to have responded well and at the moment the maturation is on a regular and gradual track without any early signs of hydric stress in the vineyard. In the second part of August, during the reduction of the temperature, we have taken steps to reduce the canopy in the entire vineyard without the fear of scorch on the exposed sides of the bunches. The yield in the vineyard seems balanced and the grapes at the moment are perfectly healthy. Right now we are monitoring the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay which are very close to the maturation point which corresponds to our objectives. The Merlot still has tight skins with tannins which are not yet perfectly mature with a balance between sugar levels and acidity which would not indicate the early harvest which we had feared. At the moment there are all the signs for an excellent harvest even if, as always, the month of September will be decisive to capitalise on the very good development of the season which we have had so far. Attached is the graph of the temperatures from the beginnings of June until today form our weather station.


giugno_agosto 2015
Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 16 August 2015

The winter was basically mild if complicated with the vines returning to vegetative growth a bit early. The spring saw high and low temperatures alternate regularly but with few problems with the vegetation even if its growth was not regular and constant. The fruit set was also affected by this ‘stop/start’ phenomenon, indeed the phenomenon of millerandage (immature berries alongside developed ones) was evidently more than usual in the bunches.

As the weeks passed days of heat, real heat, arrived with the thermometer often above 35 centigrade. The plants did not suffer too much from the high temperatures as there were repeated and abundant showers between the boiling hot days. However, these conditions favoured the growth of the foliage wall, making repeated pruning necessary. During the storms, there were also some bouts of hail which fortunately were not too intense.

Now we are carrying out the usual green harvest as well as removing bunches or those parts of them hit by hail. This requires a great deal of time and patience but allows us to address the damage done. For the time being the general condition of the plants and the progress of maturation leads us to hope for a better than good harvest.

Carla Benini, Sassotondo Pitigliano, 12 August 2015

I must start by saying that 2014 was very rainy with a winter which was not cold or rainy. There were, therefore, concerns about insects. A hot and dry spring with rapid bud burst meant little damage by vine bud moths. It was dry in the pre-flowering period. The end of May was very cold with a regular flowering phase in the first week of June. However, despite the lack of rain there was no stress on the vines due to the earlier accumulated rainfall. From 15 June to 10 August the heatwave with a range of temperatures above seasonal average led first to a healthy stop to the vegetative growth and then, combined with a continuing lack of rain, the beginning of hydric stress where plants were susceptible (on tufo, Sangiovese). Then there were two days of abundant and welcome rain which revived the dried soil and let the vines breathe.


Now the grapes are beautiful, with only the late flowering whites (Trebbiano and Greco) having lost a few berries. Checking my schedule, we appear to be abit ahead of an average season but only by a matter of days, not more.

As a result, the quality could be a 5-star vintage due to healthy and complete foliage, renewed water availability, a vineyard focused on fruit production and a summer with good temperatures (tonight is chilly) … but as you know, until the grapes are in the winery it is better to be silent!

Nocchianello bianco
Nocchianello Bianco
Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 12 August 2015
Caparsa 22 Giugno 2015
Caparza, June 2015

This year has been completely different to 2014. A lovely spring with sunshine and rain at the right times allowed an early start to growth and an even bud break. From mid-June unusually hot temperature arrived but, due to the reserves of water in the soil due to the rain of 2014 and a regular spring, the vines were able to stand up to temperatures up to 38 centigrade. In particular here at Carpsara the vines which face northeast have a good balance which promises great things for this year. The rain from some storms in July and the first ten days of August have helped in this respect. We were ‘praying’ that the increasingly destructive storms caused by changes to the climate don’t destroy the beauty of this year at Caparsa. Due above all to our commitment to manual labour we can at the moment enjoy the results.

Andrea Contucci, Contucci, Montepulciano, 11 August 2015

Up to the current moment we are pretty happy about the way the season has unfolded. The spring was regular, neither too hot, nor too wet. In June there were some dangerous storms with hail but fortunately we were not hit. From the end of June we have had a very hot summer without rain until three days ago, followed by two days of very good rainfall. The fruit at the moment is in optimal condition, and if nothing adverse happens, we are getting ready for an excellent harvest, perhaps with a slightly early start.

Winery profiles

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

Winefriend on Caparsa – Chianti vertical

Dr Francesco GagliardiCampo alla Sughera, Bolgheri

Winefriend on Campo alla Sughera: Alabaster, building materials and wine

IMG_0219Massa Vecchia, Massa Marittima
Winefriend on Special places: Massa Vecchia
Tuscan harvest watch producers
Tuscan harvest 2015Cantine Contucci, Montepulciano
Winefriend on Cantucci: at the heart of Montepulciano
Tuscan harvest 2015Gianni Brunelli, Montalcino
Winefriend on: Gianni (and Laura) Brunelli
Tuscan harvest 2015Capitoni, Pienza, Val d’Orcia
Winefriend on Capitoni: Mixed farming and viticulture
Tuscan harvest 2015Sassotondo, Pitigliano
Winefriend on Sassotondo – retreat to the land

Tuscany: the featured wineries

Tuscan harvest 2015

Click here to read the latest reports

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