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Posts from the ‘harvest report’ Category

Angelo Gaja’s reflections on the current grape market in Italy

The following editorial by Angelo Gaja appeared in the Italian national daily La Stampa in January 2013.

After years of low grape production due to the reoccurrence of unfavorable climatic conditions, excess heat, and summer drought, there is a shortage of wine in Italy.

What could happen to Italian wine in 2013?

It’s possible that there will be no wine left by June and that wineries that sell at less than Euro 2 per liter (a price floor for more than eighty percent of Italian wineries) will no longer have any wine to offer.

Prudent, far-sighted bottlers might also contribute to the shortage because they’ll begin stocking up in order to avoid being left high and dry in the months that follow.

It’s a “we’ve never seen anything like it” scenario. There could be panic in the grape market when the 2013 harvest arrives because buyers will be fearful of rising prices.

Someone might become curious and start comparing grape production and wine production reports for the 2012 harvest. They might discover that between independent producers and the cooperative wineries some have reported a drop of up to thirty percent and some have reported no drop at all — the very same sky and in identical geographic areas.

It’s possible that in 2013 Italy could lose its record in hectoliters exported, with Spain taking the lead. It’s another “we’ve never seen anything like it” scenario. And there will surely be those who merely crunch the numbers and blame the Italian wine industry for drops in production and competitiveness. They don’t recognize that wine is a natural product and that the sky is the vineyard’s ceiling. If the weather causes growers to produce fewer grapes, then it’s impossible to sell more wine.

It’s possible that cooperative wineries in Italy (who control more than fifty percent of national grape production) and large winery groups will soften their refusal of the European Union liberalization of planting regulations. It’s also possible that they will agree on a shared strategy intended to introduce a mixed system by 2015: a continuation of planting rights for DOCs and DOCGs and liberalization of IGTs and table wines.

It’s possible that springtime budget analysis for large Italian wineries will reveal that 2012 profits were often penalized by the drop in gross revenue in the Italian market and that the recovery of foreign markets was the industry’s saving grace. This could give greater urgency to investment in those markets, even if that means sacrificing some of the resources earmarked for the growth of the domestic market.

Dire times for the Italian wine media, who survive thanks to advertising, just as in other countries. Tough times as well for the more than two hundred journalistic prizes instituted by wineries and public relations firms, a common phenomenon here in Italy and unheard of abroad. They will became hungry for recognition by Italian writers and more generous in their regard to the foreign media.

Brussels has contributed to this sprint toward foreign markets by financing promotional projects for wine in markets beyond Europe’s borders. Italian national pride has found new lifeblood in these initiatives as winemakers — small and large, in groups or on their own — have embraced an open-order quest to conquer Asia.

And in the meantime, we continue to learn how to explore the world that will come to be.

—Angelo Gaja
January 2013

Translation by Jeremy Parzen, Do Bianchi.

Harvest Report 2010

PIEDMONT

In the right amounts, sun and rain are what create quality in Piedmontese wines, the Nebbiolo-derived wines of Barbaresco and Barolo among them.

The climatic progression of 2010 has been different from that of the previous ten years. During the summer of 2003, there were eight exceptionally hot weeks. In 2010, there were only two. In 2010, it rained nearly three times as much as it did in 2003 and as a result, the vines never suffered from hydric stress. From a climatic standpoint, it is as if we had traveled back in time: there are more than a few similarities with 1996 and 1982.

In 2010, hard work was necessary in the vineyards: the frequent springtime rains made vineyard management more difficult than usual and the rainfall in late August and September was a cause of concern for grape growers, who feared that the health of their fruit would be compromised. In Piedmont, winemakers were somewhat surprised to find that harvest ended with superior quality. In fact, the 2010 harvest will make for harmonious, balanced and elegant wines, endowed with bright, vibrant acidity and measured alcohol content.

As in the past, the Nebbiolo vineyards which received great care, with the best exposure and terroir, will be those achieving the most excellence in wines.

TUSCANY

Tuscany also experienced plentiful rainfall in 2010 and there were relatively few exceptionally hot weeks. The weather of another era has returned.

At PIEVE SANTA RESTITUTA, Montalcino, things could not have gone better, due in part to a little bit of skill but also thanks to chance: we chose the best moments to work in the vineyards; the choice to green harvest on two different occasions delivered results than in more effective previous years, and we predicted the right time to begin the harvest.

Our early (although not definitive) tastings of the recently vinified wine lead my staff and me to believe that we have created the best vintage of Brunello di Montalcino since 1994, the year we acquired Pieve Santa Restituta.

At CA’ MARCANDA, the season began in Bolgheri with a mild winter and average rainfall.

Then, from April until June, the rainfall was frequent and plentiful, so much so that it seemed as though we had returned to the bizarre vintages of another era. In the majority of vineyards, in the flatlands, the drainage of rainwater took place slowly, causing stagnation that made access difficult for mechanical farm tools when anti-parasitic treatments needed to be carried out. There was no lack of anxious moments and genuine concern.

A hot and dry July helped to make up for some of the delay that had been accumulated in vegetative development.

It was during this period that we began to prune and drop fruit at Ca’ Marcanda, a green harvest more severe than in years past. Our intervention was rewarded with quality in an otherwise climatically difficult year.

The rain began to fall again, every so often, from the end of August until the end of September. As a result, we had to harvest (by hand, as always) not just during the work-week but on Saturdays and Sundays as well. A vintage marked by bizarre weather, just as it used to be in another time. We were surprised, however, by the quality of the vintage, excellent for no less than 80% of the harvest. Wines from the 2010 vintage will be lean, balanced, and with excellent acidity and aromatic character.

ITALY

The 2010 vintage in Italy will be remembered among the least productive in terms of quantity and perhaps the most sparse. Overall quality is good, with scattered excellence here and there.

Angelo Gaja
November 5, 2010

GAJA winery, Barbaresco, Piedmont
PIEVE S. RESTITUTA winery, Montalcino, Tuscany
CA’ MARCANDA winery, Bolgheri, Tuscany