Allegrini 2018

Grape harvesting is already in full swing in Franciacorta, Trentodoc and Sicily

WineNews talked to Marcello Lunelli, Silvano Brescianini, Maurizio Zanella, Mattia Vezzola, Filippo Buttafuoco and Renzo Cotarella
The first musts of grapes harvested and pressed at Ca’ del Bosco, in Franciacorta

The last several months have been hard and challenging. The land, however, seems to have restored the serenity that was stolen from us due to the health emergency and the lockdown. This year’s grape harvest promises great things, which we have seen in the territories where the first bunches of grapes have already been harvested: Franciacorta, Trentodoc and Sicily. In the rest of the country, though, as usual, the next few weeks will be decisive. There are reassuring notes on the labor front, too, which deeply concerned, at least until a few days ago, the entire wine world that has dealt with the emergency, engaging young people and students as well as workers from Eastern Europe, obviously, after the mandatory two weeks of quarantine.
As the winemakers Marcello Lunelli, technical manager and vice president of Ferrari, Silvano Brescianini, at the helm of Barone Pizzini and president of the Franciacorta Consortium, Mattia Vezzola, oenologist from Bellavista, Maurizio Zanella, at the helm of the Ca' del Bosco brand, Filippo Buttafuoco, agronomist from Mandrarossa, and Renzo Cotarella, CEO of Marchesi Antinori told WineNews, up to now, the seasonal trend has been optimal. The grapes are healthy, though they are a few days ahead in ripening (which has been a constant occurrence for several years) and balanced, and quantities are on average with recent harvests.

“The first data to emphasize is that we are 9 days early compared to 2019”, said Marcello Lunelli, from the Trentodoc vineyards of the historic Ferrari maison, “following 6 very mild months, the intense rains in May and June increased the water reserves on our land, and in July and August the trend was uniform and regular. We expect an excellent harvest - which would also help to cheer us up - the grapes are healthy and the quantities are in the average. We are producers of the classic method, so we are not too concerned about the market, at least for the moment. Our reserves are at a minimum, and what we produce today will not go on the market for at least two years. Covid-19 has clipped our wings, but the longer our wines stay in the cellar the better they become, so we are confidently waiting for Christmas”.
Silvano Brescianini, at the helm of the Franciacorta Consortium, said, “the most obvious fact is that in Franciacorta we have managed to recuperate workers for the harvest, which may seem banal, but it is not. Many of our workers come from the area, but others are seasonal workers from Eastern Europe, and while some were already in Italy for other harvests, many of them had to arrive here two weeks earlier and be quarantined in hotels. Going back to the situation in the vineyard, quality-wise the grapes are healthy, and quantities are more abundant than a year ago. We are hoping the weather will hold, because tonight we had a storm, nothing tragic, but we are still at risk. It is extraordinary that we are harvesting at the same time as Champagne. This vintage could be one we will remember for a long time, certainly more interesting than everything that has happened so far. Ripening is proceeding slowly, so nature is giving us the time to harvest calmly. We started with Pinot Noir, but some”, concluded Brescianini, “have already started with Chardonnay”.
Maurizio Zanella, at the helm of Ca’ de Bosco, also confirmed that the predominant issue is finding the workers to carry out this exceptional grape harvest, “a few decades ago, young people and retirees did the harvesting, today we need to have seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. This means we had them arrive here at our expense and also took on the cost of quarantines and swabs, as well as the controls to ensure work safety in the vineyards and in the wineries”. The first bunches of grapes are in the cellars, "but, I will not express my opinion on quality. As usual, I will not say anything until January. We are harvesting plot by plot, with the utmost precision and only when the grapes are perfectly balanced between acidity and sugars. In the meantime, unfortunately, we have to deal with the damage caused by last night’s hailstorm, because our main concern is the effects on the quality of the grapes more than on the quantities”.

Mattia Vezzola, winemaker of the Bellavista label, in Franciacorta, commented that there is an “unusually uniform, luxuriant and beautifully colored vegetation. Quantity-wise, we are between medium and abundant, while the health of the grape is impeccable, so much so that it seems painted by Caravaggio. The berries are slightly larger than average, which is excellent, from a physical-chemical point of view. Another positive aspect is the climate in the last 10-15 days has helped the fruit to be perfect with respect to its area of ​​origin. Each vineyard has its own times, and the harvest will follow the grapes and their ripening, so there is no pressure. Temperatures have dropped in the last few days, which will guarantee very good acidity and freshness, as well as proper ripeness. In general, the conditions are excellent”.
At the southern end of the country, in Sicily, the first bunches of grapes are at the Cantine Settesoli where the agronomist Filippo Buttafuoco said, “we started to harvest on July 30th, with Pinot Grigio. Then we moved on to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier, and today we started to harvest Syrah, Merlot and Alicante. The classic Mediterranean climate-hot, dry and humid- is helping a lot, as the grapes are ripening almost a week early. The grapes are healthy, excellent, and the harvest, counting 33 varieties, each with its own ripening times, is going along very well and efficiently, on all the 6.000 hectares of the company’s vineyards, whose grapes will be vinified in three different wineries, all close to the vineyards. We hope it will continue until the first ten days in October, when we will finish the harvest with Grecanico. We expect great wines, because the raw material is truly excellent and the wine cellar is technologically at the forefront”.
What about the rest of the country? It is still early, but there is room for hypotheses, that we entrusted to Renzo Cotarella, CEO of Marchesi Antinori, one of the historical names of Italian wine in the world, that has companies in practically all of the most prestigious territories: Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Langhe, Franciacorta, Umbria and Apulia. “It could be a good harvest, despite some local challenging situations. Production is limited, especially in some varieties, like Chardonnay and Sangiovese. Right now, the plants are suffering slightly, but this is not new compared to what has been happening in the last several years. There is always some drought in August; however, the later varieties, such as Sangiovese and Cabernet, will be able to recover, thanks to some rain and lower temperatures. I would say, all in all, it could be a harvest of good quality and quantity within the average. In terms of health”, continued Renzo Cotarella, “there was no problem, except for some localized glitches, while the dry season in July and August was a cure-all for the grapes. Considering the individual territories, the general picture is valid in Tuscany, with the obvious differences that distinguish Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Bolgheri. A lot depends on the ability of the farmer, because in seasons like this you have to be careful, remove a few grapes at the right time to rebalance the plants and avoid water stress. In Umbria the grapes are beautiful, but quantity production will be conditioned by the cold weather in April. In Apulia, regular production and excellent quality. In Franciacorta, it is difficult to make predictions because so far it has gone very well, but the storms in the last few days are creating concerns. In Piedmont, it is a dry but good year. This is the analysis now on August 19th, the next thirty days will be decisive for this grape harvest...”.

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