Year 2016 took off in substantial continuity with fall 2015: mild temperatures, very little rainfall and abundant winds.
The winter’s low rainfall helped us perform winter vineyard management practices, but it also caused seriously decreased water supply levels in both winegrowing areas and high mountain regions due to the lack of snow until February.
Under these conditions, the vines never entered full dormancy.
Therefore, we expected early budbreak which, in Central Italy, occurred two weeks ahead of time as compared with the average of the past fifteen years. Early budbreak affected not only vines but all crops and all over Europe. Instead, March reversed the winter trend with abundant and continuous rainfall (even snowfall at times) and dropping temperatures, which continued through May, with solid rainfall alternating with sunny days throughout the month of June.
The early budbreak was negatively affected by the stress caused by the reversal of seasonal trend from hot to cold temperatures and high humidity, bringing the first signs of disease here and there, such as leaf yellowing and even downy mildew. Luckily, the spring rains pushed water tables back to normal levels. The first ten-day period of July brought hot temperatures, lack of rainfall, high humidity and moderate night-day temperatures swings until August.
The veraison stage was delayed by a few days as compared with the average of the past fifteen years and we were quite worried about the risk of unbalanced vegetative growth (due to the increased water availability and high temperatures); the hot July weather caused major stress in very few cases.
During the month of August, the plants slowly entered the reproductive stage, slowing down the growth of the shoots and completing the veraison process.
August weather was quite favourable, with normal temperatures for the season, large night-day temperature swings, low humidity and a regular rainfall pattern. Harvest was slightly delayed as compared with the average of the past ten years, but accompanied by large night-day temperatures swings and healthy plants.
Grape yield was high, as well as wine production.
We made some good wine, the fruit of an “easy” and well-balanced vintage; aside from a few “scars” caused by the hot summer temperatures and high grape yield. Our wines feature generous fruity notes, good tannins and steady aromas: the prerequisites for a beautiful evolution over time.
The beginning of 2015 was marked by abundant rainfall, which actually began in summer 2013. The vineyards’ vegetative season got off to an early and luxuriant start: many leaves, many clusters, some worries about downy mildew and, above all, about another cold and humid year like 2014. Flowering occurred on time.
The rains, which fell from early 2015 into the last days of June, suddenly made way for the first heatwave of the year, because of the arrival of the longest African anticyclone that has every hit Italy. No rain for 40 days and temperatures soaring above 34°C and moderate night-day temperature swings.
The vines reached the beginning of the veraison process in good condition: a well-distributed and non-excessive fruit load, well-balanced by the leaves, low powdery mildew, downy mildew and grapevine moth pressure. The beginning of harvest time was marked by warm temperatures and a dry spell, which created a seemingly ideal situation for harvesting: beautiful and healthy grapes with high sugar levels, but also hiding some dangers up its sleeve, such as rise in pH level, loss of leaves and slowdown in evolution of flavours and tannins.
A beautiful vintage: outgoing, generous fruit and colour, but not always equally deep and fresh and, perhaps, long-lived.
2014 will be definitely remembered for its climate anomalies and frequent extraordinary events.
Winter 2013-2014 brought very little snow and abundant rainfall, replenishing the water tables, which were already high from the previous season.
These meteorological events, together with mild winter temperatures, led to very early budbreak. This event represents the first, major anomaly of the year, because in the past we had never seen vegetative season getting off to an early start after a humid winter, being early budbreak usually the consequence of a dry winter season. This led to some difficulties in completing the pruning operations and, above all, to a high disease pressure (as the pathogens had very little trouble getting through the winter) and, at the same time, to a lush vegetative growth, not well-supported, however, by the roots, which suffered from the excess of water in the soil (even cold and, at times, asphyxial soils) with leaf yellowing as a consequence.
The spring and summer growth, from flowering onwards, was affected by the frequent rainfall and moderate temperature peaks. As rarely occurred, the vineyards required careful management to fight against fungal diseases (downy mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis which proved to be very virulent) and in order to manage the canopy.
The veraison stage occurred 3-5 days ahead of time, actually nullifying the effects of the early budbreak. The ripening of grapes began in quite critical conditions due to the low temperatures (in particular, the maximum temperatures), little solar irradiance (with the sun veiled because of the high humidity) and very abundant rainfall (with the most rainy July in the previous 66 years and the disastrous downpours on September 21, which hit both sides of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, and the most extraordinary amount of rainfall recorded since 1962).
At harvest time, the vines had not achieved the desired sugar levels and color. Harvesting was, thus, performed not so much because the grapes were ripe, but in order to preserve the grapes’ health, the thickness of skins and the drop (often anomalous) in acidity.
Among the good news is the red grapes’ bouquet, which, all things considered, is more complete than that of the 2013 vintage (more vegetal) and things could have been far more catastrophic had it not been for the early budbreak and the lower fruit load than vintage 2013.
At the winery, we had a hard time separating the best grapes and working very carefully on the delicate skins and very fragile and oxygen-sensitive musts.
Our first vintage. Very different from many others. Definitely, a vintage of character.
Normal rainfall and snowfall levels in winter, providing for deep water supplies, and then continuous and incessant rainfall throughout May, with overflowing water tables saturating the ground and causing lack of oxygen in the soils to the point of asphyxia. The late spring and summer season will be remembered as basically cold and humid with very few sunny weeks bringing, as a consequence, virulent fungal diseases, downy mildew at first, followed by powdery mildew and, late into the season, by botrytis. Late budbreak and flowering, and then a long growth season slowly leading to veraison.
The mid-summer rainfall was followed by rains, alternating with sunny weather until harvest, which was performed behind schedule and gave high grape yield.
The wines offer beautiful aromatic potential, minerality and acidity. We had trouble with extraction and in pursuing power in very vertical wines bordering on under-ripeness. Definitely a long-lived vintage.
It was a very intense and hard year, striving to achieve vegetative-production balance in the vineyards and sharing the difficult choices we had to make for this vintage. A year that put the nature-man relationship to the test, marked by the obsessive pursuit of balance and the sensitivity required evaluating the skins and clusters. These aspects of knowledge, often associated with instinct, make emotions possible even in this vintage, which features an old-fashioned flavour and a “pre-global warming” style.
Our agronomist and wine maker Francesco Bordini – www.francescobordini.it
CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO (EC) REGULATION NO. 1308/2013