From the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot to the Alps in the far north, the Italian grape harvest is well underway.
Producers of sparkling wine began picking both white and red grapes a few weeks ago (sparkling wine grape harvest is always the first to begin because producers need higher acidity and lower sugar levels in their grapes to produce effervescent wines).
And in Piedmont, in northwest Italy, for example, white wine producers began picking grapes like Arneis. The red grape harvest for still red wines (i.e., not sparkling wines) should begin shortly in the south and in coming weeks in Central and Northern Italy.
As for most vintages in Italy, the quality and quantity of harvest varies markedly from region to region.
In the north, there were some issues with hail in late July but most growers are reporting that the weather has effected the yield (in other words, quantity) and not the high quality of the crop they are expecting.
In the south, there have been some problems with heavy rainfall that came in recent weeks. But the affected areas seem to be limited (that’s an image of Negroamaro grapes in Salento, above; they will probably began harvesting those beauties next week).
In Tuscany in Central Italy, the weather has been “bizarre” according to most accounts.
A grower in Montalcino (where Brunello is raised) reported “diurnal shifts in August that ranged from 13° C. at night to 30° C. by midday.” In other words, extreme differences in temperature between day and night and unusually cold evenings in August. “We’d never seen anything like that before,” he said.
But the greater problem for Tuscan growers this season has been the overly robust presence of feral hogs, which were introduced to Tuscany decades ago by hunters. They are now decimating vineyards, in some cases destroying up to 50 percent of the crop according to some reports.
It’s still too early to make an overarching assessment of the harvest.
As one producer put it, “They give you your report card at the end of the semester each year at school. I’m going to wait until harvest is over to get mine.”
We’ll be following the ongoing grape harvest here on the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce blog. Stay tuned for more updates!