Allegrini 2018

2020 of quality, but the uncertainties of the markets leave the wine brands with bated breath

On the road, with WineNews, among forty wineries symbol of Italy. In the cellar a beautiful vintage, in front of winter of sacrifice

We have written a lot, and there will be a lot to tell from now until the end of the year, about the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on consumption, even of wine. A sector that, in Italy, has been good at resisting the lockdown and the first wave, learning to relocate and to guard the domestic and foreign markets in a different way. Now, however, there is to face the second phase of closures, both in Europe and in Italy, with the last Dpcm that literally clip the wings of a sector that, between May and September 2020, has experienced a moment of enormous recovery. Certainly, in the meantime, as emerges from the story - in WineNews - of forty of the most representative winemakers of Italy, there are wines of absolute quality, which enrich the wineries from the North to the South of the peninsula. A good way to face the coming month, but also to think with a little optimism about the future, especially because in most cases these are wines that will go on the market in a year or more, when, hopefully, the world will have had the time and the way to regain its normalcy.
“At Villaggio Fontanafredda the 2020 vintage was characterized by a general trend characterized by excellent quality and a good degree of ripeness and health of the grapes”. This is how Andrea Farinetti presents the harvest among the rows of vines of the Bionatural Reserve of Villaggio Fontanafredda, a world of 120 hectares in the heart of the Langhe UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Compared to last year and contrary to what was thought at the beginning of July, we had an advance of only one week. Moreover, the first characteristic we noticed this year on the white grapes is a slightly higher degree of ripeness than the previous one. Above all, the Moscato is very rich with higher quantities of aromatic substances, which are superior to the last two vintages. Arneis also gives excellent results, aromas that seem to have an excellent freshness and cleanliness”. The red grapes also promise great results.
“The conditions for red grapes are good, starting with Dolcetto: excellent color, great scents, fine and balanced. For Barbera and Nebbiolo we try to preserve all the best possible of excellent grapes. From the quantitative point of view it is a vintage with average production for white grapes, while for red grapes it will perhaps be slightly below expectations, but not too bad since the quality seems to be excellent”.
“Having healthy and beautiful grapes in the winery as you wanted is not only a source of pride, but also of true enthusiasm”, begins Ernesto Abbona, at the helm of Marchesi di Barolo, one of the most important wineries in the Langhe. “Proceeding in order of ripeness, the Moscato di Canelli is amazing, as are the Sauvignons we have in Barolo and Barbaresco. The Arneis are good in quantity, although we have worked on a reduction in yields, and satisfactory quality. The Dolcetto, which has been suffering a difficult market situation for a few years, are the most difficult to manage: we have arrived at discreet qualities and sufficient quantities. The top of excellence is for the Barbera, in particular those of Agliano and Castelnuovo Calcea, in the Nice area, but also those of Alba, which have enjoyed an ideal climate. With the Nebbiolo we were lucky, because when those torrential rains came, 6 centimeters of water fell in Barolo and ten times as much in the mountains. In the end, it relieved the vines after weeks of heat, and then the following days, ventilated, they avoided stagnation of humidity - avoiding mold and fungal diseases - leaving the soil nice and humid. It wasn’t as amazing as Barbera, but it went better than we expected. For the grape harvest there is satisfaction, until today we were also happy with how the market was recovering - comments Abbona - but today there is concern about a lack of precise guidelines. We rely on others to have certain data on the basis of which to decide, but if there are, they are conjugated in such a way as to throw us into uncertainty, and this for an entrepreneur is the worst situation in which to find ourselves: we do not know what decisions to make. We remain optimistic, it is in our nature, but there is some discouragement, both for the health situation and for the bureaucratic framework uncertain and constantly changing”.
Staying in the Langhe, the vineyard and the winery are the comfort of a difficult year for Pio Boffa too. Here, “nature has been merciful, with the harvest and brought with it a perfect combination of quality and quantity”, comments Pio Boffa, at the helm of the Pio Cesare winery, “despite the fact that we were ready to make a quantitative sacrifice this year”. Nebbiolo grapes with red drops as they had not been seen for years, a sign that we have been able to wait patiently and this wait has undoubtedly and unanimously rewarded in terms of production quality. Outside the winery, however, reigns the economic uncertainty that the market crisis continues to bring with it, with the closure of the Horeca channel in Italy and abroad and a drop in exported volumes. “Without neglecting the off-trade, we relied heavily on Horeca and suddenly we found it closed in Italy, in the USA, in Asia, in Australia”, says Pio Boffa. “They kept Canada and Northern Europe better, but then there were serious problems, and it is clear that you don’t move from one channel to another at a time, especially with an important wine like Barolo. Direct sales and online undoubtedly help but they are not the solution to compensate for the losses; one must be serious and realistic, communicating this suffering to the consumer as well”.
A theme that also brings with it considerations on another aspect, closely related to the markets, that of promotion, addressed by Alberto Cordero, at the helm of Cordero di Montezemolo. “It is a broad and complex discourse, reasoning as we did until a few months ago, today, makes little sense. There is the theme of mobility and travel, which is global, there is the theme of events, fairs, dinners that cannot be done. There are issues that go far beyond the world of wine tout court and it is useless to think of having money available for promotion: in more general reasoning, one should think of spending public money to support mobility in safety, support those who work, and, consequently, earn money and maybe even spend it on a good bottle of wine at the restaurant”.
Invites to look with confidence to the future Stefano Chiarlo, of the company Michele Chiarlo. “I was surprised, this summer, to see so many tourists in the Langa, especially Italians and foreigners from countries you were not accustomed to as Dutch and Belgians looking for slow and immersive experiences in nature. So we have to look at digital to be ready, as a territory, thinking about 2022, when we will probably be really out of this crisis. And so, I hope that there will be that spirit of revival and growth, of desire to do and enjoy the good and beautiful that life offers, that there was in the post-war period, and that never more than now I find current in the stories of my father Michele Chiarlo”.
In Franciacorta, taking stock of the end of the harvest, with the grapes in the cellar for weeks, and the current situation, is Mattia Vezzola, oenologist of the Bellavista brand, owned by the Moretti family. “There are some wineries, representing the majority, that will face this moment almost only through financial analysis: that is, buying the wine for what the market demand is. Then there are the companies linked to viticulture, so no matter what happens, quality viticultural management must be done anyway. And it costs between 7 and 10,000 euros per hectare, which means that for the 200 hectares of Bellavista, however, 2 million euros of fixed expenses, are in the vineyard, there are. On the other hand, if we sold fewer bottles today, they would be even better in a year. There is a problem with production costs, but certain wines, such as the classic method and the great red wines for aging, are still a guarantee of financial soundness. The weakness is where the management cost is added to the problem of the supply chain, for certain white wines and for rosé wines that must be sold now, not in a year. Going back, at the harvest, the grapes arrived in the cellar in a very good phytosanitary state, for us it was a harvest I had never seen before: it never happened to me that the harvest lasted 23 days, a challenge between me and nature. It is as if the grapes were on stand by, ready to be harvested, and from August 20th to September 13th they hadn't changed. First of all, it gives wonderful scents, great freshness, elegant but not exuberant acidity. It is one of the most beautiful harvests I can remember, there is nothing out of place: nature has taken over the experience”.
To take stock of the 2020 harvest, with the wines in the cellar, for the Mezzacorona Group, one of the leading Italian wine producers, which through 1,600 member winemakers, oversees a mosaic of 2,800 hectares of vineyards in Trentino Alto Adige and Sicily, general manager Francesco Giovannini. “It has been a good harvest, on average with the last few years, also on a qualitative level we had good satisfaction, especially with regard to the sparkling wine bases. There was a bit of bad weather, but our members did a great job in the countryside, and all the conferring in the end was of great quality, both for the whites, in particular with good qualities on Pinot Grigio and aromatic, but also on the reds, with Teroldego and Lagrein above all. Looking at the markets, our two foreign subsidiaries, Prestige Wine Import in the USA and Bavaria Weine Import in Germany, which we have owned for ten years, play a key role for us. Even more important tools in this moment of difficulty linked to Covid-19, which will give us some problems, especially on Horeca in Italy. We hope to manage the situation, as we did in the spring, both online and through our privileged channels abroad. It is an advantage that we have, in two fundamental markets, in a difficult moment for us too, we will lose something, but we try to keep a certain optimism”.
In what is the home of the Trentodoc bubbles, between the rows of the Ferrari brand, as Marcello Lunelli, vice-president of the group, says, “it went well, we were pardoned by the hailstorms and this is already causing for contentment. For the sparkling wine bases we finished on September 27th the longest grape harvest in our history, which lasted a month. It was a vintage that respected very well the altimetric gradient of our vineyards, so from the bottom to the top the evolution of ripening respected this gradient, and we followed it during the harvest. Which I would define between good and excellent, with yields slightly above average (+5%). Perhaps there is a little bit missing in terms of sugar, but for us it is a relative problem, they are balanced grapes with excellent acidity, and being positive is a duty to those who are having a worse time, between hailstorms and heat stroke”.
Remaining in Trentino, there is satisfaction, at the end of the harvest, even among the 800 members of the Lavis Winery: a journey that began at the beginning of the second half of August with the harvesting of the grapes that go to make up the basis of the sparkling wines and then came to an end at the end of September with the last medium-late ripening red berry varieties. It is a positive result that Cantina Lavis has drawn up after the harvest, which involved about 800 members who take care of 750 hectares of vineyards located in the hills of Lavis, Sorni and Meano, among the characteristic terraces of the Cembra Valley, up to Isera in Vallagarina, as well as some plots in the South Tyrolean territory.
A harvest that in many ways is more than good, sometimes of great quality and interest, as Loris Vazzoler, technical director of Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo, explains to WineNews. “Our overall judgment is positive, considering that we are dealing with increasingly extreme weather seasons and that we were coming out of a very important 2019 harvest in terms of production. We start with the hillside Prosecco Docg which, with a summer tail at the beginning of September, allowed us to bring to the winery an excellent vintage in terms of quality: grapes of great balance, with good acidity and great richness and concentration of aromas, against a slight drop in production. An excellent vintage for Prosecco di Pianura and for all the varieties of eastern Veneto: from Pinot Grigio to the reds, the quality is high. In Alto Adige, in a year marked by frequent rainfall, we managed to harvest both the vineyards for the sparkling wine bases and those of our selections in optimal times. The result is very positive for us. In Lugana, not an easy vintage due to the weather conditions, but at Cà Maiol we were able to bring some excellent grapes to the cellar, for a thousandth of vintage to be discovered. Tuscany has two sides: in Maremma we have a long dry phase that led to a more contained harvest, the opposite of 2019: the grapes are sparse, with small berries and higher alcohol content. Chianti enjoyed an optimal vintage: regular rainfall at the right time, so much so that in the height of summer there was no sign of water stress in the vineyards. We are perhaps not at the level of excellence of 2018 - 2020 will be one thousandth cooler - but certainly very close. Good news, finally, also from the vineyards of Cantina Mesa in Sardinia: 2020 was an exemplary year, and the vines of Vermentino and Carignano were able to work in the best conditions”.
Taking a step back, and going right back to Prosecco, among the rows of one of the illustrious brands of Venetian bubbles, Bortolomiol, “the 2020 vintage was very interesting, limited in quantity, but a lot of work was done in the selections," says Elvira Bortolomiol. "Grapes with great organoleptic qualities, because in any case the weather was favorable to guarantee us grapes with the right acidity, the right alcohol content and a large quantity of minerals. It promises to be a beautiful vintage, at least in Prosecco, a territory that is experiencing, thanks to UNESCO recognition, a moment of great visibility and popularity”.
If there is an area where the grape harvest has presented some criticalities, it is Valpolicella, where, as Andrea Lonardi, operations manager of Bertani Domians, says, “more than 600 millimeters of rain fell between June, July and August. At the same time as the beginning of the harvest we also had a strong hailstorm, which put a strain on our ability to set aside, which today is limited to one third of our potential. This, however, gave rise to better grapes for the Valpolicella selections. It will not be a great year for Amarone, but we expect a lot from Valpolicella. As a territory within the Valpolicella, the Valpantena has been much easier than the rest of the area, Tenuta Nuova, where hail did more damage, is in the lower part of the Negrar Valley, and has suffered a little more”.
Gianmaria Cesari, at the helm of the historic Umberto Cesari winery in Castel San Pietro Terme, on the Bolognese Hills, tells us “a harvest of outstanding quality, the grapes harvested surprised us in a positive way, because despite the drought of March and April the quality was not affected, and the quantity only in a small part. The problems arrived instead in July, with hail that took away 30% of the harvest, but with peaks of up to 70-80% in some plots. I hope that this pandemic will free us from this harassment, and that in two or three years, when so much of this wine will be ready, we will have less. The 2019 white, instead, we hope to sell it between February and March next year. In the general trend, what upset the picture, were the short phenomena but of an intensity to be frightened: unfortunately in our world it takes only fifteen minutes to change everything. Returning to the wines in the cellar, even the whites, in addition to the reds, give us excellent feelings about what will be the vintage”. Widening the horizon to the domestic market and the Italian situation, “the latest Decrees, unfortunately, have delayed the recovery and lowered morale, and with that consumption, it is a very worrying situation, for us as for the whole sector”.
Among the historic rows of Brunello di Montalcino grapes from Tenuta Greppo, the harvest according to Biondi Santi’s CEO, Giampiero Bertolini, “is definitely very good, almost at the level of last year, which was extraordinary, at least for what we saw in our five vineyards. From a quantitative point of view the yields were lower, by about 10-15%, but in general the first tastings satisfy us very much. We were saved by the rain at the beginning of the harvest, which swelled the bunches slightly, diluting the concentrations just enough to bring excellent results to the winery. We are happy, then of course there are variations from one area to another, but in the end it was very good news in a terrible year. It is difficult to understand how to plan the work for the next few months, while for us 2020 does not close even that badly, even though it was very hard and we lost a lot on the catering side, saving us thanks to the wine shops, both in Italy and in other markets. We should get closer to the results of 2019, so a very good closing, and this thanks to the foreign markets, which grew very well despite everything. Italy is the one that has paid the highest price, with the four terrifying months of catering. A difficult year, which has taught us many things, even to work in a different way, and this will bring benefits for the future, if we want to find positive sides”.
Among the estates in the Marchesi Antinori galaxy, led by CEO Renzo Cotarella, the harvest generally went very well, starting from the heart of production, Tuscany. “It was an excellent harvest, not good, starting from Chianti Classico, where it was a beautiful harvest, grapes of excellent quality despite some rain, Sangiovesi tasty, structured and fragrant, slightly acidulous but with an adequate size, in my opinion it was a great harvest for the territory and the wines that are produced here. In Bolgheri it was a very good harvest for both Merlot and Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines leave us happy, as well as in Maremma, better than 2018 and just under 2019. In Apulia production was scarce, even 20% less than 2019, but very fragrant and fresh wines, Primitivo and Rosato came very well. Well also in Umbria - continues Renzo Cotarella - with lower than average production especially for Chardonnay, in line with the best vintages, let's see if very good or exceptional, we wait for the malolactic Cervaro to unbalance us. Well, in Piedmont, both Barbera and Baroli, with the torrential rains slipped away on the kettles without doing any damage in the vineyard. The first impressions are of very mature and colorful Barbera and Nebbioli of good color and intensity. Franciacorta also held up in quantity, as well as confirming a very good vintage in terms of quality. The only area that experienced some difficulties was Montepulciano, the later area that suffered the most from the rains: the international varieties were good, less the Sangiovese, slightly diluted. Nothing dramatic, but we are not at the level of Montalcino, where we saw a quantitative drop, as everywhere else, but qualitatively it went well. My impression is that in general there were fewer grapes than last year. In the current context, the fact that the quality was generally guaranteed by the vintage, helps a lot, a little stock is there and justifies a harvest a little more scarce than the average but that satisfies us. The moment is difficult to interpret and to foresee”.
It turned out to be a harvest of the highest quality that of Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari Tenute, carried out in the five estates of the company. The harvest began with grapes from the Vermentino vineyard, grown at the Tenuta di Campo al Mare in Bolgheri. It continued with the Vigna Estate in Porrona in the Grosseto area and La Fuga Estate in Montalcino and ended, after about two months of work, with the sumptuous Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Nozzole and Cabreo Estates in Greve in Chianti. “At the end of the 2020 harvest, we can say that we have all the prerequisites for an excellent vintage - comments President Giovanni Folonari -, the result of a very harmonious season, without excessive climatic peaks, has allowed us to fully respect the timing of the vine. The perfect relationship between grape ripeness, acidity and alcohol content will create particularly elegant wines”.
“2020 will be a vintage that we will not easily forget, for countless reasons, but also for the great quality of the harvest”. This is how Lamberto Frescobaldi, president of Marchesi Frescobaldi, summarizes the harvest, then goes on to tell, one by one, the harvests in the companies of the group. “In Tuscany, the winter was generally mild and not very rainy, while the spring was full of rainfall that enriched the aquifers. The hot and dry summer brought all the varieties to good ripening in all our terroirs, from the Ammiraglia on the sea of the Maremma to Pomino on the slopes of the Apennines, passing through CastelGiocondo in Montalcino, Perano in Gaiole in Chianti, Castiglioni in Montagnana and Nipozzano in Pelago. An exciting harvest. 2020 was a difficult year especially from a human point of view, in fact when Italy closed for health reasons, we winemakers continued to take care of our vineyards with passion, always respecting all safety regulations. The reward: extraordinary wines. In Nipozzano - explains Frescobaldi - ideal conditions have led the vines to express their full potential, giving us healthy, high quality grapes that, together with the uniqueness of the territory, have been a prerequisite for production with excellent quality and quantity levels. At Castello Pomino, if the first bunches of grapes arrived in the cellar were perfect in terms of health, the grapes harvested in the following weeks were not to be outdone: the hot, dry days of September made it possible to carry out a harvest of the highest quality right to the end. At Tenuta Perano - continues the president of Marchesi Frescobaldi - the climatic trend was regular with hot summer and early autumn days with fantastic temperature changes between day and night. This gave grapes with extraordinary concentrations of sugar and polyphenols for a Chianti Classico, Riserva and Gran Selezione that we will remember”. In Montalcino, in Castegliocondo, “the harvest began with the first Merlot on September 3, while for the Sangiovese destined for the production of Rosso di Montalcino, harvesting began on September 10, and continued until the end of September, with the harvesting of the grapes that will give rise to the Brunello and Brunello Riserva 2020 wine”. We then went to Tenuta Ammiraglia, where “the first part of the harvest, which began in the last week of August, allowed us to harvest Vermentino and Syrah with a perfect quality of grapes rich in fresh and fruity aromas and, the second part, given an interlude of rain, allowed us to bring the remaining red grapes produced on the estate to a good ripeness”. At Tenuta Castiglioni it will be “an excellent vintage to remember for quality and intensity”, while at Gorgona, the vineyard on the prison island enjoys “a microclimate made unique by the presence of the sea, combined with isolated rainfall events, allowed the grapes to reach the harvest period in perfect physiological and sanitary condition. A September that was just as sunny but always ventilated, finally allowed the grapes to develop a good polyphenolic maturity, accompanied by an intense and elegant aromatic profile”.
Among the vineyards from which one of the finest wines of the Belpaese is born. Ornellaia, as the estate’s director, Axel Heinz, explains in his account of the harvest, “2020 will be a successful year for all Ornellaia wines. Given the particularly hot summer, the white grapes were harvested early to preserve their aromas and freshness. The Sauvignon Blanc was very well balanced, with moderate alcohol, fresh and juicy acidity and magnificent expressions of ripe tropical fruit. Vermentino and Viognier are rich and floral yet lively, while Petit Manseng reached levels of concentration rarely seen before. The reds are very promising, with a rich and structured style. Merlot has a velvety texture and great intensity of fully ripe red fruit, but without any heaviness. Cabernet Sauvignon is still in fermentation in some cases, but the first tastings reveal wines with a regal bearing, dark colors and classic notes of blackcurrant and vegetable, solid and dense tannic structures. It is no longer a secret that Bolgheri is one of the best places to grow Cabernet Franc, but the level reached with the 2020 vintage can only impress. Rich, dense and with refined tannins, it literally explodes in notes of blackcurrant, violet and delicate vegetable aromas”.
In Umbria, what worries Marco Caprai, at the helm of Arnaldo Caprai, who has relaunched from oblivion a great red wine of Umbrian and Italian heritage such as Sagrantino di Montefalco, is not so much the grape harvest as “the context of uncertainty in which we find ourselves operating. With the grapes in the cellar and the first wines that have seen the light, we can say that the quantities are falling on average and the quality is excellent. We are dealing with a Sagrantino that can remind us, in some ways, of 2016, in the sign of balance. The whites are also good, starting with Grechetto, harvested after a perfect season that has guaranteed perfumes and crunchiness”.
From Abruzzo, Marcello Zaccagnini, founder and guide of one of Abruzzo's iconic wineries, the Montepulciano label, photographs “a vintage that is quantitatively down on last year's abundance, but in line with the average of recent years. We have already released an important wine for us, Novello, and we have also bottled our Montepulciano-based rosé. In addition to the native grape varieties, we expect a lot from the international white grape varieties, such as Pinot Grigio and Riesling, on which we have been focusing for years, going beyond Trebbiano, but also from Pecorino and Passerina, which are not really from Abruzzo. We are among the most present labels on the Gdo Usa among Italian red wines, and even with Pinot Grigio we are carving out an important space for ourselves. We cross our fingers, but despite the difficulties the trend is still positive for us. Of course, we weigh the difficulties of the Horeca channel, as well as the collapse of duty free and the negative performance of almost all European markets, from France to Belgium, but we resist, and this gives us great satisfaction, especially in terms of enhancement and visibility of the brand, even more important than the numbers”.
Between Abruzzo and Marche, the voice of Michele Bernetti, at the head of one of the leading companies in the area, Umani Ronchi. “Fortunately, 2020 leaves us at least one piece of good news, the grape harvest. We are very satisfied, especially now that we have a general picture resulting from the last tastings. From an organoleptic point of view, everything seemed very good, the whites were beautiful, the reds excellent, with ripe polyphenols and tannins, there is structure. Really a nice harvest, slightly below the average quantity of recent years but in line with last year, due mainly to the drought of September. The weather was clement even during the harvest, giving us a very easy harvest. On Verdicchio, the high parts went very well, with an early harvest especially in the lower parts that required a certain speed of reaction. Where the maturation was more gradual the wines are very well balanced in alcohol, acidity and aromas, perhaps a little backward as an evolution compared to last year, but it fits. We found balances that had not been found for years, and even in the Conero we reached phenolic maturation and the harvest, slightly early, was accompanied by the sun, without haste. Even what little we have of international seems very good. Premises to make a great vintage, even if it will remain forever tied to 2020, a very hard year. It is a theme that exists, to untie the vintage, excellent, from the year, bad, which includes the harvest among the few positive notes. Marche, however, arrive with the wineries quite “unloaded”, also thanks to the integration of regional aid, stocks are falling, and even Umani Ronchi has been able to react well, but the second wave will have effects all to be deciphered on the economy”.
In Sicily, Alessio Planeta, at the helm of the brand of the same name, in his judgment of the vintage - and the year, terrible, still in progress - is tranchant: “the only good thing about 2020 is the harvest. Sicily comes out of it very well, we had a vintage with rainfall at the right time, little production, which turned into quality. On average the drop was between 15 and 20%, but the quality is amazing. It makes exception the Etna, that to the quality conjugates the same quantities of the past years. On the volcano it rained little in winter and much in spring, and after the summer temperature changes, a beautiful and cool October accompanied the harvest. The rest of the island enjoyed a perfect mix, with a not too hot summer and simple management. Even in Milazzo, where summer is usually hot and rainy, the trend was perfect. Water reserves were not lacking even in the South of Sicily, where the picture is similar. In general, the whites are very good, because it rained a lot in November and December, then after a mild winter it rained in March and then very little in summer, giving us nice concentrations. The reds are rich in fruit and concentration but without being shot of alcohol. So, the harvest that it takes to face these times. That is, without quantitative pressure but firm in quality. We had deluded ourselves after a period between July and October very positive, in which we returned to breathing normalcy and optimism, but now how the next two months will go is not easy to say. Maybe the worst is over, but we are still in a condition of risk, the next three months will not be easy, but once we are over the spring we will be ready to start again and put everything behind us”.
On the same line the balance sheet that made Antonio Rallo, at the head of the five Donnafugata estates, between Pantelleria, Contessa Entellina, Vittoria, Etna and Marsala. “The seasonal trend has been really excellent, you could see it already from the first bars, which gave us healthy grapes, and musts, and now wines, balanced. We too, like the rest of Sicily, register a significant drop in production, which has fallen by about 20% on the average of recent years”. On the other side of the scale, however, there is “a generally very high quality, both among whites and reds, both inland, where summer temperatures have almost never reached guard levels”.
There is no space for fear in Sardinia, where the grape harvest, says Francesca Argiolas, at the helm, with her sister Valentina, of the wine label, “went well. We started with the fear of an excessively productive vintage, but here the production per hectare is already low. In the end, it is a year of balance, healthy, normal, with the vineyards that have produced quality grapes. The harvest has slipped away quietly, and now that it's over we are even calmer. The summer was not too hot, and the grapes arrived healthy, but Sardinia from this point of view is a lucky land. Warm currents cross the rows avoiding humidity, and this allows us to arrive in the cellar with grapes of great quality, and this year was an important year, in which there was much less work in the cellar, because the vineyard had already done most of the work. Both for the whites, which ripened on time, and for the reds, with the grapes caressed by the mistral, which helped to balance the ripening and keep the grapes healthy. The rains, which arrived only at the end, did not hit us but helped us”. The picture, however, is not one of the best, even if Francesca Argiolas has no intention of jumping down. “We always try to make programming, because those who live the whole chain, from the vineyard to the marketing, live the world of wine in a different way. Taking more risks, of course. After the lockdown, it is going to be a difficult winter, but making programs is impossible, we cannot guarantee how sales will go, especially because we are very pushed on the Horeca channel, which has suffered so much. In a territory that lives a lot of small and quality productions we suffer even more. We too, after a harvest with a smile, we have to live from day to day or almost, but we think positive, we have a bigger problem than us”.
Staying on the island, Massimo Ruggero, CEO of Siddùra, talks about a “grape harvest that recalls the past. There was a nice temperature range during the ripening of the grapes, and now that the fermentation, especially of the whites, are complete, some light is beginning to be seen, there is a good chance that it will turn out to be a good year. Sardinia, in general, produced 20% more than the average, we will not be on those levels, but compared to last year it was a more generous vintage”. Even Ruggero, of this long period of difficulty, does not give an exclusively negative reading, remembering how Siddùra responded 2following his consumer and his way of buying wine. We were ready on the online and organized distribution. The difficult moment did not create the absence of the consumer, but the radical change in buying habits. It would be worse if consumers were missing, but this is not the case. It is as if the fish, from one tank, moved into another, and we who are fishermen must follow them. In this case, making us only 20% abroad, we have simply followed the Italian consumer we know well and we have moved more strongly in other markets. The wine lover, in the first phase, looked for the product with a quality/price ratio, then the wine became a moment of leisure and pleasure, and consumption moved to higher level bottles. I’m sorry for the Horeca channel, but the goal is to satisfy and follow the consumer”.
Going back up, in a second virtual tour of Italian wineries, for Ivo Basile, marketing and communication manager of Tasca d’Almerita, “talking about “a” harvest in Sicily is a bit reductive. Sicily has very different territories, from the coast to Mount Etna, to the hinterland, with great temperature ranges. Usually we talk about vintages, to be divided again, between whites and reds, because the trend that gives us superlative whites, for example, can be ruined and give us reds not up to scratch, or vice versa. Waiting for the Nerello Mascalese on Etna, it seems to be a beautiful vintage. The climatic trend has led to perfect ripening everywhere, but the Grillo di Mozia and Malvasia in Salina stand out. After a slight initial advance, the coolness at the end of August also brought the timing back into balance, it is an almost textbook harvest, and the health of the grapes is the aspect that impressed us the most”.
In Puglia, Domenico Spinelli, at the helm of Terre dei Vaaz, a small brand of Primitivo, says “a challenging year, the one just ended: there were heavy rains, fortunately Puglia was not affected everywhere, but we still expect great results. It will be more demanding the work in the cellar, more important to have patience and attention, especially during the aging process. For us it is important that the wine can express its fragrances independently of weather factors, even if they obviously leave an imprint, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. We will certainly have wines of great drinkability, capable of expressing freshness without losing complexity”.
In Basilicata, according to Paolo Montrone, at the helm of the Enoteca Lucana and Re Manfredi - Terra degli Svevi, the Italian Wine Group’s Vulture brands, “it was certainly an excellent harvest, to be remembered as quality. Basilicata and its companies will thus be able to take shelter for the near future. Aglianico is a great wine, but we must aim to make high quality, following the examples of other regions and territories, from Tuscany to Piedmont. With patience, but it is what we want and we must aim for”. In technical terms, to tell the vintage, is the oenologist Andrea Otino: “ 2020 in Basilicata was very good, excellent in the area of Vulture and its Aglianico. Both as far as the whites and the reds we have obtained good maturations and excellent health, that in some years we will be able to appreciate at best. Remembering that this is a very difficult vine in a very complex territory. As far as we are concerned, in addition to Vulture, the harvest went well in the North of Italy, there were no major problems, if not some excessive rain in the North East, but otherwise it is a good year”.
Moving back to Abruzzo, according to Valentino di Campli, CEO of Codice Vino, “2020 was certainly a very positive vintage. We had incredibly good quality grapes, both white grapes (Pecorino came out very good) and red grapes. It was thought that Montepulciano, which goes a long way, could suffer, but in reality the coolness and the rain of August gave new vigor to the plants, which no longer suffered, giving grapes of great quality, which give hope for 2020 that we can tell over the years. The territory on which we work, in the province of Chieti, is quite large, and our experience makes us say that there were definitely differences, but in general they are more related to the diversity of the territory than to the trend of the vintage: in general, great wines everywhere”.
In a slightly different way it went between the rows of Cataldi Madonna, in the L’Aquila area, as Giulia Cataldi Madonna tells us: “at the end of the harvest, we can say that it was a very particular vintage, but it looks very good. It was a very dry year for us, we felt the winter very little compared to normal years, so the plant had to face both winter and summer heat. The early varieties came much earlier, but we made up for it with the other varieties, which we harvested even later, because the temperatures up dropped abruptly earlier than expected. The vintage, however, is expected to be quite good, even at a national level of what my colleagues say”.
In Emilia, in the heart of Lambrusco in Modena, according to Sandro Cavicchioli, winemaker of the homonymous brand, passed in 2011 to Gruppo Italiano Vini, “the 2020 harvest, from a quality point of view, is an excellent year. Healthy grapes, harvest with beautiful weather, but we expected a slightly higher quantity. Despite an increase of 8%, at least in our company, we are below average last year. Specifically, the Lambrusco di Sorbara is particularly in good shape, therefore the Lambrusco Grasparossa of the hilly area, a show both qualitatively and quantitatively”.
Among the vineyards of Valpolicella, Marco Speri, of the brand Secondo Marco, says that he “brought a healthy product to the cellar, but my production suffered from hail, which destroyed the harvest of three hectares of vineyards. The quantity is therefore limited, but that little is doing well. The windy areas, which have suffered less from the problems related to humidity and rain, have certainly had some extra points”.
In Friuli, Massimo Furlan, director of Le Monde, in the province of Pordenone, points out that “the 2020 harvest, for us as in the rest of our territory, was much more limited than usual, with yields down even more than 30%, but of excellent quality. From this point of view, it went better in Southern Italy, in terms of quantity, but we are satisfied in this way, because in the winery we really have wines destined for excellence2.
Driving ideally up to Piedmont, in Alta Langa, Giorgio Rivetti since 2018 with the brand Contratto di Canelli (purchased by the family business, La Spinetta, in 2011, ed) also signs the bubbles of Alta Langa Docg, which refine in the beautiful underground cathedrals of the company, historical heritage of wine and architecture of the territory. From here, he says: “in Alta Langa the production has been lower than average, but the quality is very high. There are wines, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also Muscat, which are absolutely memorable, and it’s nice to repeat it and remember it in a difficult year like this. And this, widening the horizon, also applies to Barbera, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, as well as Arneis and Roero. For me it’s one of the best ever, it’s been years since I could remember tasting such good Moscato grapes. We had enough water, but not too much, so the vine did not suffer, and the result is a very important vintage”.
Closing the circle ideally, Giorgio Conterno, at the helm of Paolo Conterno, in the Langhe speaks of “a perfect harvest at the end, but it was a difficult year, in which we earned everything. The way the weather was, we had to work much harder than usual, but not being able to travel, we were able to take better care of our vineyards, doing all the work in time. In the end, we brought home an excellent harvest, which we could call classic, given the somewhat cooler weather during the harvest period. Quantity decreasing, but we are very satisfied. Nebbiolo is always the grape that in the end gives the best result, holds up and allows us to take a few more risks, but in general the other types went well, despite, in some cases, really significant drops in production”.
The last line is by Giovanna Maccario, at the helm of the brand of Rossese di Dolceacqua Maccario Dringerberg, a few kilometers from the sea, obviously in Liguria: “2020 marks a decrease in production, but you will have wines with a very low Ph and a great acidity, so certainly long-lived wines. The higher altitude territories will be able to have, in my opinion, better results”.

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