Allegrini 2018

The heroic and impervious harvest gets into full swing even in the most remote vineyards of Italy

In Valle d’Aosta harvest started in mid-August, on Etna it will start in mid-September: the key role of biodiversity
The heroic vineyards of Marisa Cuomo, in Amalfi

In Valle d’Aosta, the harvest has been going on since mid-August, but in Sicily, on Etna, it will perhaps begin in mid-September, at least 10 days late. An Italy literally split in two: from North to South, that of the heroic harvest, or the maneuvers, mostly manual, that are being set in motion for the harvest of grapes in the most inaccessible and biodiversity-impacted vineyards of Italy. Taking stock is Cervim, the Center for Research, Studies, Safeguarding, Coordination and Enhancement for Mountain Viticulture, which has the situation of all the wineries located in the most remote and hardly practicable corners - heroic in fact - of Italy.

As anticipated, twenty-day early harvest in Valle d’Aosta and lower production (30% drop) due to drought and heat. Those who were able to irrigate, half of the Valle d’Aosta vineyard, were saved. “The quantity is decreasing”, comments Stefano Celi, Cervim president and Valle d’Aosta viticulturist, “throughout Valle d'Aosta, those who were able to do relief irrigation did not suffer significant decreases in product, those who did not have this possibility, especially in the terraces and terraces where there is less drainage, the productions are really poor. As for quality, we will have to wait for the grapes in the tanks. The harvest advance is around three weeks: the Blanc de Morgex, grown at high altitudes, will be harvested as early as the end of August, while the Petit rouge (Torrette and Chambave) will be harvested from mid-September. The situation is exacerbated”, Celi concludes, “by the general context, with rising production costs, particularly energy and fuel, which have increased both irrigation and processing costs and raw material costs, compounded by the poor availability of glass bottles, which are hard to find”.

There is expectation for the harvest of His Majesty Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), a symbol of Valtellina’s wine biodiversity, where production is expected to drop by 20% and a year not easy due to drought and heat. “The drought has also affected the Valtellina vineyards”, says Danilo Drocco, president of Consorzio Vini Valtellina and director of the Nino Negri winery. “The few rains there have been, were immediately dried by the wind and high temperatures. Also, in the terraces, with little land available, the water is drained and does not remain available to the plants. Fewer problems below, where in general the quality is good. The harvest will take place a week earlier, in the last week of September”.

Already begun, more than 15 days early, the harvest at the Cantina di Aldeno winery in Trentino Alto Adige, where anomalous heat and prolonged drought have set the harvesting machine in motion. “A vintage that we will remember not so much for the quality, which is also being seen in the bunches harvested, but for the uncertainties in the organization, dictated by harvest times never seen before”, explains the director of the Trentino cooperative, Walter Weber. It started with sparkling base whites, Pinot Noirs, and Lagrein is just around the corner. “We are particularly concerned about the acidity of the red wines, which, however, have had a hand from the rains of the last few days”, Weber continues, “here a change in the behavior of the vines is to be expected, hence a different winemaking approach, with wines with high gradations”.

In the Candia Colli Apuani and Colli Apuani area (Massa-Carrara province), the situation is not so different, with a harvest that is starting these days, 10 days earlier than normal. “The climate inevitably changes, our advantage, however, is that we can still invest in supportive water resources, if ever we need them in the future”, comments the president of the Candia Colli Apuani Consortium and owner of the Calevro winery, Fabrizio Bondielli. “The lack of viticulture in our parts would mean hydrogeological landslide, disruption of the hillside landscape and loss of identity”, Bondielli concludes, “biodiversity has saved our heroic viticulture”.

Overhanging the Amalfi Coast, in Furore (Salerno), Marisa Cuomo's vineyards are ready for the harvest, with no particular problems or anticipation dictated by the weather; here it is biodiversity that safeguards the vines. “Ours are free-standing vines that are more than 80 years old”, explains Andrea Ferraioli, owner and agronomist, “and they react to the heat in a natural way, taking advantage of the humidity created in the dry stone walls that support them and in the steaming of the sea, the pergolas do the rest by keeping the soil in the shade”. The problem is another in Furore: labor. “We cannot find people who can withstand the heaviness of heroic viticulture, all by hand and in extreme conditions, not suitable for those who suffer from vertigo”, Ferraioli continues.

On Antioco Island (Carbonia-Iglesias), everything is ready for the harvest of whites, slightly earlier than last year, but, case in point, heat and drought have halted the ripening course of Carignano. “We have 100-year-old vines that react naturally to climate change, in the island we cannot provide even irrigation, even if it is granted, so the choice of having continued on planting layouts that were considered archaic was the secret of maintaining the vines”, says the president of the Cantina Sardus Pater, Raffaele De Matteis.

Finally, in Sicily, along the slopes of Etna, in Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania), they are waiting for a good time to begin, within the canonical timeframe, the harvest of the white sparkling wine base, probably by mid-September (with at least a week’s postponement). The rains of the last two weeks have in fact stopped ripening. For reds such as Nerello Mascalese, one will have to wait even for October. “The climate change taking place has led to wine grapes ripening at 1,000 meters, something that did not happen until less than a decade ago”, comments Vincenzo Bambina, the winemaker at Tornatore wineries, “so harvesting high up was a gamble that is paying off today. I can say with confidence that in our 60 hectares I might be able to make completely different wines from the same grapes, and this is the added value of Etna and the luck of those who, like Tornatore, bet here in unsuspected times”, Bambina concludes.

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