Harvest 2012. Not another 2003.

by Laura Gray on August 12, 2012

Baking Montalcino

It has been hot. Mind-numbingly hot. And dry. Tuscany is arid and straw-yellow.

Temperatures have been between 35 and 40°C (104°F) almost all July and the first ten days of August shows no respite.

The temptation to compare 2012 with 2003 is there for all of us but there are two big differences; water reserves and diurnal shift.

In 2003 the weather was excellent during the winter prior to the vegetative development. Good rainfalls resulted in a plentiful accumulation of water in the soil levels for the vine root systems. August was terrifically hot and harvest 2003 was early, starting in Montalcino at the end of the first ten days of September (we picked on 26 September and 2 October). The summer heat affected the quantity of grapes, reducing yields by an average of 5% .Wines from this vintage are often higher than usual in alcohol (due to sugar levels), and show mature fruit and high levels of polyphenols.

Winter 2012 was a dry winter and February’s snows made no real impact on the acquifers. By March we had had between 40-60% less rainfall than the seasonal average and budbreak was early. It hasn’t really rained since April. The risk of stress idrico is very real this year and the emergency irrigation debate continues since at the moment irrigation is still forbidden as part of the DOCG legislation.

2003 was undoubtedly hotter, made worse by the absence of thermal excursion between day and night temperatures. During the nights of August 2003 we de-camped to the terrace to toss and turn there in the pathetic attempt to cool down whereas last night there was easily a 15°C drop between day and night and I was closing shutters in the heure bleue and pulling sheets over my sleeping children.

This is definitely an improvement since the diurnal shift gives the grapes a chance to find balance between ripe sugars (due to become alcohol in the wine) and fresh acidity.

Right now the vines and other plants are shutting down their vegetative activity. Grapes are small. Yields will be low – there’s official talk of a 10% reduction in
Tuscany. Harvest will be late. But it’s early days to pronounce on quality since the next weeks are crucial.

So keep your fingers crossed for us here in Montalcino, the jury is still out on 2012.

Veraison 2012 in Montalcino - Sangiovese responding to terroir

Veraison 2012 in Montalcino - Sangiovese responding to terroir

Oh yes, and please save us from the hot winds of August 2011.. and the hail that devastated Piemonte last week.. and all the untold weather damage that could still happen.

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