From North to South Italy's Grape Harvest 2016
As the summer winds down along the curving hills and winding shores of Italy a word, la vendemmia, whispers its way from north to south amongst the placid vineyards ripe with fruit, a word most likely derived from the Latin words vinum meaning wine and demia meaning to take. If you're ever so lucky as to find yourself in Italy during the season of the grape harvest, take a stroll through the countryside and watch as a simple set of sheers and wicker or plastic basket begin the stages of what will become one of the country's most prized products… vino.
2016 is being heralded as a year for high quality vintage in Italy, one that will however emphasize a rather marked quantitative difference in harvest from the north to the south of the country. In the northern vineyards of Lombardy, where Italy's sparkling Franciacorta wines are produced, harvesting began almost a month ago on August 12th for those vineyards lying on the southern side of a hill known as Monte Orfano. These vineyards which produce Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco are generally one of the first areas of the Franciacorta to begin harvesting as they mature slightly faster compared to other vineyards in the vicinity.
“This year harvesting in the Franciacorta is quite inconsistent from one area to the next as a result of numerous variables which mark this particular territory for wine production,” affirmed Vice President for Franciacorta wines Silvano Brescianini.
In fact, this year's weather in Lombardy has been highly changeable alternating between days of heavy rain and others which were extremely hot and humid. The frequent rains and sharp drops in temperature during the season when the flowers first began to bloom on the vines and when the first fruit began to grow slowed the ripening of the grapes which negatively impacted the growth of the grape bunches and in some cases contributed to the formation of a plant pathogen known as peronospora, a water mold which causes a downy mildew to form on the leaves and can affect the quality of the grapes.
As a result the 2016 vintage in the Franciacorta is expected to have a yield inferior to that of 2015, a drop expected to be around 10-15% less volume total. However, the superior quality of the grapes grown will thankfully remain the same since the temperature range allowed for the grapes to ripen well and produce fruit with a strong balance between sugars and acids.
Notably different is the situation for 2016 in the south of the country, which on the other hand is rather prosperous. One region which has benefited greatly from this year's weather is Puglia where the Primitivo di Manduria is harvested, producing a deep red wine. “We are expecting an excellent vintage above all thanks to the quality of the grapes, excellent compared to last year, with an improvement of 10-15%,” confirmed Roberto Erario, President of the Consorzio di Tutela del Primitivo di Manduria.
The grapes on the vines appear to be completely healthy with good skins that would make for the production of wines that are rich in color and well structured. In this area of Italy the combination of the weather conditions and the northerly winds allowed this year's grapes to ripen slowly. “In terms of quality the 2016 vintage promises greater volume as well in part due to the measures implemented by the agricultural policies of the Common Market Organizations which cover various aspects of wine production from market regulation to specific details regarding production, processing, labeling and transportation of wines, and which in specific have allowed for improvements in terms of both the techniques and management of the vineyards, in particular the introduction of advanced systems for sustainable production.