Italian Vintage Report 2009

I love keeping myself and all of you updated on the growing seasons throughout the world.  It not only gives us a clue to the quality of the upcoming wine vintage, but also a window to the world of wine.  My latest report comes from the Gaja Family Wine Estates, and their three properties in Italy: one in Piedmont and two in Tuscany.

The Gaja Family is very optimistic about this vintage, and have rated the harvest as good to excellent.  Here is more info on the weather conditions and harvest dates:

  • Piedmont: A very snowy winter kept the vines dormant, followed by rain in the spring and beginning of June.  This kept the soil moist, and helped it to recover it's balance from the drought of the past few years.  Summer was hot and sunny, giving the grapes much needed warmth and light.  September experienced some rain, and the harvest was warm and sunny.  Harvest lasted from September 2, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc, and lasted until October 9, with Nebbiolo from the Sori Tildin and Sperss vineyards.

  • Montalcino: Two phases of weather trends.  First, alot of rain in the spring with a cold May and June beginning.  Secondly, the temperatures rose, and additional rain in July swelled the Sangiovese grapes.  Dryness came and the heat continued.  The Sirocco wind rushed over the vineyard for about 10 days in August, keeping the grapes dry and cool.  Tramontana winds in September brought the grapes to a dry harvest, held from September 24 to October 10.

  • Bolgheri: Very rainy winter and early spring led to a hot, dry summer.  Harvest began on September 3 with Merlot.  Both Merlot and Syrah were completely harvested by September 18.  Five days of rain began followed by a northern wind, which helped dry the grapes.  This occurrence restored balance to the grapes after the hot, dry summer.  Harvest resumed with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, and concluded on October 7.

Here is a general assessment from Angelo and Gaia Gaja:

"The quality of the grapes this vintage has been optimal.  Even though it's still too early to predict the quality of the wine they will produce, some are speculating that due to the top quality of the 2009 vintage in several European countries and in California, 2009 could be a repeat of the success of the 1990 vintage."

This bolds well for the world of wine, especially Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, and Super Tuscans.  Now, while it will be over two years until we see most of these wines released, make sure to keep the 2009 vintage on your radar, as this is sure to offer some tasty wine.  I know I can't wait!

Night Harvest

Night HarvestThis is a photo of a harvest worker in Chile, gathering grapes by spotlight under a midnight sky.  I recently received it from a friend of mine who works with Casa Lapostolle in Chile. 

The winery experimented with this practice for the first time last season with their Sauvignon Blanc at the Las Kuras vineyard in Cachapoal.  The experience was such a success, they decided to perform night harvesting in 2009 at all of their three estates!  This made quite a difference as the workers were cool and relaxed while experiencing quiet, soothing moonlit nights.  They also felt more in tune with nature, and able to enjoy work more.  The harvest started on February 25th, and ended on April 25th with the harvesting of Carmenere from Apalta.

The experience yielded not only a great work environment, but also a superior product.  When the grapes are able to cool down from the daytime sun, they can be picked at an optimum temperature.  They will not be sitting under a hot sun, heated up further from interacting with other hot grapes and hot air in gathering bins.  This would oxidize the grapes and release complex compounds, robbing them of alot of the aromas and flavors they can give the wine.  Only time will tell if the winemakers can take the juice and make a great '09 vintage, but they have an excellent start.  We will look forward to further updates from Casa Lapostolle in Chile.