Harvest 2013 in Montalcino: progress report

by Laura Gray on September 11, 2013

I saw an old friend for the first time in ages, and naturally I asked her how she was. In typical Montalcino fashion she replied “Of course I’m well, look at the weather! L’uva dice come sto bene” by which she meant, my grapes are loving this September and if they’re happy, so am I. And in fact Montalcino is full of jolly vintners at the moment. Long may it last.

Grey skies at Il Palazzone2013 for the first 6 months of the growing season was – how can I put it? – inclement? complicated? unkind? We had the cool and wet extended spring (see here for my maggembre slideshow). Things began to right themselves with progressive heat in June and the first half of July culminating in some searingly hot days of caldo africano in the second half of July and early August, interrupted by the odd refreshing storm. All in all, things were beginning to look up for harvest 2013.

And then September came and it seems as if this is the month that will redeem the vintage. Various luminaries are expressing cautious confidence (and smothering their surprise) that actually it may be alright after all. (see here for the official prognosis from the Brunello Consortium in Italian or here for the opinion of Riccardo Cotarella, head of the Associazione Enologi also in Italian). 2013 is a very different beast to the last three vintages which were characterised by torrid heat and arid climate. The most cited comparison for 2013 is 1979. Remember this nugget of information for showing off at dinner parties in 2018 when opening the 2013 Brunello.

It seems clear that this year the grapes are between 10 days and 2 weeks later than normal in their development and that harvest will be postponed accordingly. In Montalcino some of the lower estates may start towards the end of September but here at the Due Porte we are looking at after 10th October. This is a welcome return to traditional pick-times.

The main feature of this month has been fantastic day/night temperature shifts, which are wonderful for increasing aromatics, keeping acidity high and alcohol within the realms of the reasonable. Last week we had day night temperatures separated by 20°C (maximum 33°C / 91°F, minimum 13°C / 55°F) and in the coming days we expect the night temperatures to go down even further (10°C / 50°F) and the maximum daytime temperatures around 27°/80°F).

Dropping fruitLast week we dropped some fruit (video here) and stripped the leaves below the fruit-line so that the grapes we hope to pick next month are perilously exposed to the elements and receiving all the strength of the vine. On the morning of Monday 9th I awoke to a horrific storm at around 5 am. The rain was so hard it sounded like the roar of the ocean and I lay in bed twitchily, dreading the ticker ticker sound of hail. Luckily it did not come and the 30mm of water that fell in just 10 minutes has caused no damage. In fact, for the olives, it was perfect to have some water. Normally the thermal excursion would have them already changing colour but this year their development is later too. 2013 is un anno di carico for the olives and the trees are heavy with them.

Fingers crossed.

September sun2

With thanks to Massimo Achilli, our agronomer.

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