Tuscan harvest watch 2018

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 seven seasons of Tuscan Harvest Watch, the reports on 2018 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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It has been a rather strange harvest. It lasted for a long tim for a tiny quantity of grapes.

We began at the end of August with the Aleatico with which we had to make a rosé because of the spring and above all the July rains which ruined with very delicate variety. All the other grapes were affected above all by the downy mildew that affected all the varieties we have in the area around the winery. By contrast, the Fornace vineyard, which was in great condition, both the plants and the grapes, unfortunately was hit by four hail storms. Therefore in the end in that place as well there were problems for the harvest, and we had a little bit less than usual.
We have produced virtually half of the grapes that we have done recently. And as a result, the 2018 harvest was genuinely and truly meagre.
Fortunately, the grapes were really beautiful as you can see in the pictures. The fermentations have gone really well and the wines seem really interesting. Now we are expecting to do the first racking off in the early days of November.

 

Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 1 October 2018

The final bunches have been picked, I will attempt to imagine the wines which will result from them. Given that I will be very cautious in my predictions, occassionally as in this harvest, I have been uncertain as to what will be the result.  

In the final period heat and humidity accelerated ripening in a major way. The phenomenon was particularly evident with the Sangiovese grapes, the skins are very thin and extremely fragile. For this reason it was opportune to pick in advance of the predicted storms.  

The musts show interesting aromas and colours but without great structure. 

For our part, there will have to be maximum attention to interpret this harvest well. Once again the rule will be confirmed: every year is a challenge, every vintage has its character and now, as though it was an old friend, we get furious with him, but we are going to put up with him, because we really like him. Very much indeed! 

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 1 October 

At Caparsa the harvest finished on Saturday 29 September.

It was the most demanding of vintages because the windows of opportunity were so small due to the frequent rains, heat and relative high humidity. With stubbornness and lots of work, at the limits of what we could put up with, we succeeded in bringing healthy and really ripe grapes to the winery. We were also helped by beautiful weather in the second half of September. 

Carla Benini, Sassotondo, Pitligliano, 23 September

This year was very complicated. At the end of it we will have a big reduction in the amount of harvested grapes but at least the quality is high.  
 

Now I will explain. Spring was very rainy with an excessive vegetative growth in the more vigorous plants which resulted in powerful abortive flowering.  Then the rains continued for the whole of June and part of July accompanied by an explosion of temperatures and of humidity: downy mildew everywhere – the American vine on the pergola in front of the house was almost completely defoliated.  There was serious damage in the whole Pitigliano zone (I don’t know about other places) with a 40% reduction in yields.  Some vineyards will not be harvested at all.  

What remained was really small but very good. It took a lot of patience to clean the bunches from the dried parts. This was particularly the case with the reds which will be macerated on the skins after fermentation. The smell of the grapes, however, is wonderful, the wine is crisp with a fine malic acid, very perfumed musts thanks to late season of August and September which was was cool and without significant rain. 

We have picked the Sauvignon and the Trebbiano for our Isolina wine, the Teroldego which will go into Ombra Blud and in Franze. Now we are in the process of picking the Ciliegiolo (we have a micro-terroir project which I will tell you about if you are interested [we are of course!]) 

I am sending some photos with captions [hover over the photos for these] so that you can understand better what I have written above. 

Andrea Contucci, Contucci, Montepulciano, 23 September
I am sending you some photos of the arrival of grapes at the winery in Montepulciano. I will send some pictures of the vineyards in the next days.  The lad who is working is my cousin Damiano Contucci who is in charge of the production side.  

The grapes this year are really beautiful, even if there are not many of them … but even so there is more than last year. 

We began on Thursday, in line with normal years, thus without any significant bringing forward or lateness in the timing of the harvest. Everything has gone well and normally … as nature dictates.  

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 21 September

The Sangiovese harvest started on Wednesday 19 September 2018, a few days earlier than predicted. The changes to the climate along with high temperatures to this point and the high humidity have favoured the attacks of insects which we never seen before, such as Japanese fruit fly. They find the organically grown beautiful fruit very appetising. Nonetheless, the grapes are fantastic with a perfect ripeness and a medium high level of potential alcohol.  I can’t write anymore now as I must go and pick grapes …

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 14 September

Yesterday we harvested the whites grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca for our white wine and at this point we are picking the bunches of Sangiovese in the the most humid and productive parts of the vineyards. Here the grey mould is begin to ‘work’.  As a result, we are seeking to reduce the load on the most productive plants and collect the bunches which are suitable for making rosé. In the drought year 2017 we were not able to produce this wine.   

The whole family is intensively engaged and at the moment, alongside this activity of lighten the load on the Sangiovese, we are deleafing the vines in order to bring out the best in a vintage with relatively high humidity.  

It is, however, such tiring work! It is only our passion that propels us forward and we hope to offer the best wines possible, both in terms of quality and wholesomeness, in the hope that our hard work and commitment is recognised. I would remind you that Caparsa has been working organically for many, many years.  

Marco Capitoni, Capitoni, Val d’Orcia, 12 August 2018

After quite a mild winter in March we saw a sharp drop in temperatures which caused substantial damage to the olive trees but fortunately not to the vines. The latter had not yet restarted on their vegetative growth.

Rain then dominated the months of May and June, causing no little difficulties for us in managing the canopy, both in terms of its health and its vigour.

The vines right up to today are thriving, deeply green; the bunches of grapes being carried are limited and the maturation is proceeding very well. These conditions give us hope for a very good harvest.

In the mean time we are continuing to care for our vines and will keep you informed. To the next update!

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa, Radda in Chianti, 9 August 2018

After a ‘normal winter with excellent precipitation and intense periods of cold, spring was also marked by rain. Even today afternoon storms are making themselves felt.  Thus it has been a marvellous year at Caparsa as the the vines have not suffered the drought and heat such as in 2017. They have found a harmony which is difficult to remember in the recent past.  

The level of production forseen is a good quantity but above all it is the quality of this year which is marvellous, as long as we have do not have catastophic events like hail.   We anticipate a harvest of the Sangiovese here at Radda in Chianti in the first days of October, a return to a period of harvest which is normal for this place.  

From the begining of vegetative growth to today we have had to increase the number of treatments to combat peronospera (downy mildew) in particular, due to the frequent rain and relatively high humidity. I remind you that at Caparsa we only use natural products (NO SYNTHETICS) given that we have organic certification. Also we have worked resolutely to care for the vines during the spring period of growth into summer. As a result, we have not had particular problems with peronospera, a fungus which appears to have hit other zones hard.  Every leaf has been looked after with a maniacal attention to detail which has taken 750 person hours per hectare.  The wine will be expensive but the satisfaction will be huge.  

 

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