Allegrini 2018

Italian sparkling wines: 2019 is an exceptional vintage for quality, but quantities are down

Grapes are in the cellars, WineNews talked to producers from Franciacorta, Trentodoc, Prosecco Doc and Docg, Asti and Alta Langa 

The Cà del Bosco cellar for aging in Franciacorta

The 2019 vintage, almost everywhere in the Italian sparkling territories, which were the driving force of Italian wine exports last year (especially thanks to Prosecco ed.), should turn out to be one of the most memorable ones quality-wise, while quantities, instead, almost everywhere, are slightly lower. Grapes everywhere reached almost perfect ripening, while the acidity and pH make one think that the wines will have great aging potential, high-level aromatic profiles and well defined at the level of vines and territories. This is the consolidated and widespread sentiment coming from Franciacorta, Trentodoc, the UNESCO hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg, the largest Prosecco DOC, Alta Langa and Asti, according to wineries (Berlucchi, Cà del Bosco, Ferrari, Mezzacorona, Nino Franco, Adami, Bortolomiol, Dogliotti and Cocchi) and Consorzi (Prosecco Doc), as told to WineNews, and in some cases, they have said it will be one of the best years ever. The assessments will be confirmed, as usual, by the test in the glass. However, the grapes for sparkling based wines are now all in the cellars, and in some cases the first assessments already confirm the sensory perceptions. One producer, for example, Arturo Ziliani, responsible for the production of Berlucchi, the historic company in Franciacorta (who is at the helm together with his siblings, Cristina and Paolo) is very enthusiastic. He said, “even though a very rainy and cold spring did worry us quite a bit, as it caused a pause in flowering, and then there was a very hot summer in August, we had a rainy period that was good for the vineyard. We estimate a decrease of 25% in quantities compared to 2018 (which was very abundant), and I believe this vintage will be considered one of the best in the last 20 years. In the next few weeks, we will better understand whether it will be an exceptional vintage, or maybe just one step below exceptional”. One of the most important brands in the territory expressed the same sentiment, as the winemaker Stefano Capelli for Cà del Bosco, explained, “this is my 34th harvest here, and it is the first time I have made wine from such expressive grapes. The quality is exceptional, extraordinary. This is a year of great vintage wines and reserves, as fruitiness, aroma, cleanliness and acidity has held up well and the pH is low, which also give a sense of great longevity. It is upsetting quantity-wise, for Franciacorta in general, which will see a 25/30% drop compared to 2018. Our drop in quantity will be a little bit less “. Similar considerations have come from the "mountain bubbles" territory, i.e., Trentodoc. “The territory will see a 10/15% drop in quantity compared to the abundant 2018”, Matteo Lunelli, reference winemaker in the territory explained to WineNews “but we are very satisfied quality-wise, and we think there is great potential for aging as well. The grapes express an interesting aromatic profile. It is a positive harvest, even though we did have to discard a few batches due to the hail a few months ago; however, the quality has not been affected”.
“Quantities are down compared to 2018, however they are roughly in the average of the last 5 years”, added Francesco Giovannini, CEO of Mezzacorona Group, one of the most important companies in Trentino, “but we have excellent quality sparkling wine bases, and I would say this vintage will be for vintage wines and reserves”.
It is a different territory but the script remains the same even for the Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene UNESCO Heritage. “There are still some bunches in the vineyard, and in terms of quantity it is a small harvest, the quality, though, is extraordinary. The wines are very good, and from my experience I would say that it is quite rare to have the balance between sensory perceptions and analytical data like this year”, explained the head of the denomination Primo Franco, at the helm of the historic company Nino Franco.
Franco Adami, at the head of the Adami label expressed the same thought, “between yield reduction and the hail that hit some areas, quantities are lower, but quality-wise the grapes are amazing. The summer was not too hot, budding occurred at the usual time, and in the last month we also had great day and night temperature changes, so there was an excellent relationship between malic and tartaric in the berries, an excellent grade of sugar, and so on. The musts are outstanding and I have seen such good musts probably only a couple of times throughout my career”. “It is an excellent year quality-wise, and in the past month there have been ideal conditions” added Elvira Bortolomiol, at the helm of the historic family winery, “plus, control policies adopted during flowering and budding have brought reduced quantities, but they facilitated achieving an almost perfect quality of the berries”.
It seems things have gone very well even in the much more vast Prosecco DOC, as the director of the Consortium, Luca Giavi explained to WineNews. “We are below the maximum production quota according to regulations, but overall, before stock quantities, production will be around 4 million hectoliters. Harvesting started a little later compared to average in previous years, and finished just in the last few days. The grapes ripened wonderfully for sugar content and acidity, both key for our sparkling wine. The temperature changes in the last few months helped the quality of the aromatic profiles, and I believe we will have more products than usual with these characteristics”.
The sentiment is positive for Piedmont sparkling wines, too. “Muscat is now in the cellar, the quantity of this harvest is slightly lower, but the quality of the grapes is very good, ripening was perfect, so I would say it was totally positive”, commented Romano Dogliotti, producer and president of the Asti DOCG Consortium. “The harvest began at the usual date, around August 18th in Alta Langa”, concluded Giulio Bava, at the helm of the historic Cocchi and Alta Langa Consortium. “Pinot Noir grapes were the first to be harvested at the end of a season that has given us quality, fresh musts, good acidity and perfect ripening for sparkling wines. Quantity-wise we are down 15% compared to 2018, which, though, was a very abundant year, so I would say we are in the medium-term standard”.
Now, obviously, we are waiting for the test in the glass, which, for some denominations will arrive in a few months, while for others it will take more time, but expectations for the 2019 Italian bubbles are really very high.

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