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Harvest 2019: excellent quality, for some the best ever, for the great reds of Italy

Merano Wine Festival: from Piedmont to Sicily, the words of the producers of the most important territories
Harvest 2019: excellent quality, for the great red wines of Italy

Scarce, or even stingy, in quantity, in some territories, even generous in others, but of absolute qualitative excellence everywhere, from Piedmont to Sicily: this is the widespread sentiment, with the grapes now all (or almost) in the cellar, among the producers of the most important “red” territories of the Belpaese, from Langhe to Valpolicella, from Bolgheri to Montalcino, from Chianti Classico to Irpinia, from Manduria to Sicily, collected by WineNews, in the Merano Wine Festival, the “good salon”, the “New Year’s Eve” of Italian wine... With some talking about one of the best vintages of recent years, others even see it as the best ever of their experience, and still others hope that vintages like this can be repeated often.
In the Langhe “it was a surprising harvest in its own way, which brought us back up to 20 years in time. A lot of work and attention was needed in the vineyard, but in the end, we achieved great results”, comments Anna Abbona, at the head of the historic Marchesi di Barolo. Federica Boffa of the Alba label, Pio Cesare, agrees: “2019 could be defined as a classic and traditional vintage, as late as the great vintages of 30 years ago. We harvested Nebbiolo in mid-October, something that hadn't happened in a few years, with grapes in good quantity and of excellent quality. We are very happy, and we expect very structured wines, with important tannins, but also soft and elegant, as it is typical for the Nebbiolo”.
There was a slight decrease in quantity in Valpolicella, where however, the quality of the grapes gave smiles to the producers. As Silvia Allegrini (Allegrini): “It was a very cold spring, with a vegetative delay at the beginning of the phenolic season of 20-25 days, so important, largely recovered thanks to the summer heat, which however was complex to manage, with a very strong sun, and a sensitive heat. We worked carefully on the leaf wall of the plant, leaving the bunches covered, especially those facing south, and therefore depending on the position and altitude of the vineyards we managed things in an optimal way. It was a slightly delayed harvest in recent years, and very slow, especially for the grapes intended for Amarone with vineyards where we had to review several times because a few individual plots were late, but the grapes are excellent, although we register a drop in production of 15% for grapes in drying”.
“We are happy, we have had a 10% drop in production, but the quality seems excellent - says Sabrina Tedeschi of the Tedeschi label - it is clear that a lot of grapes are still drying, and winemaking is still long, but from the first impressions we are satisfied”.
Judgement that goes well with that of Alberto Zenato at the head of the famil’'s historic winery, Zenato:“2019 was a very interesting vintage. At first we were very worried about the fact that the first part of spring was quite cold, with a difficult flowering, and with a particular fruit set. Then the summer was in average temperatures, before the harvest came rains that cooled and lowered the night temperatures, and this allowed the grapes to mature with a balanced alcohol content between sugar and acidity”.
Andrea Lonardi, chief operating officer of Bertani Domains, is the “trait d'union” between Valpolicella and Tuscany:
in Valpolicella, despite a reduction in the production of -15/-20%, it was a great harvest for the quality of the grapes. On the other hand, the harvest in all areas of Tuscany was excellent, both in terms of volume and quality, from Chianti Classico (where Bertani owns San Leonino, ed.), to Montalcino (Val di Suga), to Montepulciano (Tre Rose)”.
A harvest that, right in Tuscany, seems to have given the greatest satisfaction, as also tells Giovanni Folonari at the helm of the historic Ambrogio and Giovani Folonari Tenute. “The 2019 harvest is unique, I do not remember one like that, but not even my father who is 89 years old. We had very balanced, healthy, perfectly ripe grapes, both in Chianti Classico where we have the Tenuta del Cabreo, both in Montalcino with the Fuga, and in Bolgheri with Campo al Mare. They are different zones, for altitudes, exposure and microclimate, and it often happens that one zone gives better results than another, while this year it has been uniform, everywhere. A harvest to remember, we hope to have others like this”.
We are also excited about the vineyards of Brunello di Montalcino, which emerges from the words of Alessandro Mori, at the head of the brand Il Marroneto. “I have 44 years of experience in the harvest behind me, and I don't remember a harvest like this. Usually there is always a lot of tension for the selection of the bunches that we make in the vineyard, while this year it was a celebration. I brought 570 quintals of fantastic grapes to the cellar, above all expectations. A great harvest, with slow fermentation, which has fixed a lot of color, there is a beautiful acidity inserted perfectly with polyphenols and structure, we will have wines of a beautiful complexity”.
From Radda in Chianti, in the heart of the Chianti Classico area, comes the voice of Martino Manetti, at the helm of Montevertine, one of the landmarks of the territory (although it does not produce wines under the Gallo Nero DOCG, ed.): “it was a very satisfactory harvest. A November May in Umbria delayed the ripening a bit, but we thought we would have a longer delay. Then September was very hot, and we began on September 30, which for us is also quite early, and in the end, we had great results both in quantity and quality”.
Andrea Cecchi, at the head of the historic Chianti wine cellar Cecchi, also gives words of great optimism: “it was a beautiful harvest, from the point of view of quality we have peaks of incredible excellence, the structure of the grapes has also allowed us to macerate for a long time, and therefore we expect red wines that will express themselves well in the long term, especially thanks to the Sangiovese that has given great results”.
And if, from the lands of the Nobile di Montepulciano, Iacopo Felici, winemaker of the Cantine Dei, speaks of “good quantity and excellent quality, with grapes ripened late and that makes you think of really important wines”, the sentiment is also very positive in nearby Umbria.
As Marco Caprai, at the head of Arnaldo Caprai, the winery that gave new life and impetus to the “wine of San Francesco”, the Sagrantino di Montefalco, says: “May was cold and rainy, but then we had a very good season in the following months, in the heart of the ripening process. The harvest was later than usual, but balanced in quantity, with grapes arriving in the cellar very mature and of great quality, and when the harvests are good like this, everything gives hope for the future of the wine”.
And from Torgiano also Chiara Lungarotti of the historic Lungarotti winery, speaks of a 2great harvest, especially for the reds. In the Torgiano area, Sangiovese gave the best performance, thanks to a very long harvest, with equally long ripening times”.
The plot doesn't change in the south. As in Irpinia, where “it was an excellent vintage, and we are really very happy - explains Luigi Mojo at the helm of Quintodecimo - and on the reds, especially on Aglianico, I would say that we are facing an extraordinary vintage. Those who have worked in a certain way on Aglianico will have great results. It is a grape that usually has tannins that are difficult to manage, a fairly high acidity, with a low pH. And, instead, the maturation led to slightly less acidic grapes, with a very ripe skin, and wines came out already balanced, with all the components of the bunch in perfect harmony. It is really a year in which the work, from the enological point of view, has been that of simple assistance. Because the balance was perfect, it was very easy to work in the cellar, because you simply had to not affect a balance that this year has already been achieved in the vineyard”.
A vision also shared by Paolo Sirch, enologist of the Feudi di San Gregorio group, led by Antonio Capaldo. “In Irpinia we have not yet finished, there is still a little 'of Aglianico to collect, but it was an excellent vintage. The grapes ripened well, on schedule, thanks to a good climate, with the final part of the maturation characterized by beautiful temperature differences between day and night, and the grapes are really beautiful”.
Extraordinary vintage for Aglianico 2019, also in Molise, according to Alessio Di Majo, at the head of Di Majo Norante: “It was an exceptional vintage, we finished on November 7, the climate gave us time to wait, and we returned to earlier times. It was a great harvest for our area”.
The same sentiment was expressed by Gianfranco Fino, at the head of the winery of the same name in Puglia: “It was a beautiful harvest, a harvest of expectation, we returned to the early eighties in terms of timing. We were able to harvest calmly, we could wait to have excellent phenolic ripening, and we started as usual, in Manduria, after September 3 which is San Gregorio. A great harvest, accompanied by an excellent climate, and we are very very satisfied”.
A great satisfaction, on the quality front, even in Sicily, where the only worry comes from the low quantity. “The harvest was beautiful, especially for the autochthonous - explains Antonio Rallo, at the head of Donnafugata, one of the wineries that created the Renaissance of Sicilian wine - with great Nero d’Avola from the point of view of the reds, which have given great results throughout the region”.
This is the same judgment as that of Carmelo Bonetta from the small label of Baglio del Cristo di Campobello: “It was an exceptional harvest, one of the vintages that made us work better, with perfect grapes. There was little production, but excellent quality, for a truly important vintage, and the Nero d’Avola among the reds is truly amazing”.

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