2016 Harvest Report from Tuscany
During 2016 there wasn’t actually any winter as it has been very mild and very dry, even early spring has been warm with temperatures more usual to the end of May then to April-March.
This has led to a very early development of buds and in mid-April vegetation was much more advanced than in other vintages.
Most of producers usually are incredibly pleased by that, I personally do not find such an early vegetative development very positive. There is a high risk to have grapes close to ripening with high temperatures as for example it has happened in this last part of August and during the first two weeks of September. The grapes are not very resistant to heat stress if they are already at a later point of maturation.
However, this issue was solved in late April whenthe seasons felt mixed up and we had temperatures compared to the end of winter as opposed to the end of end of spring.
Tuscany was also at the risk of some frost damage but luckily we are in a higher area with little humidity and dew, so this has avoided this problem even if at night the temperatures has reached 3-4°C.
Three hailstorms have rather terrified us but luckily they have only reduced the quantity but not the quality since the grapes were not formed, yet. After these we had nearly two months of bad weather from late April to June 10-15. I cannot remember to have experienced a period of cold, rainy weather during that time of the year in any
previous year. This, of course, has not been easy, especially for an organic farm to keep our vineyards clean from downy mildew attacks first and later from powdery mildew. We have made it and at least this weather has rebalanced the early development from the beginning of the year and within the first ½ of June we were back to a normal development, perhaps even a little later.
The summer then has continued with balanced temperatures with a relatively cool August and never too much heat, except from the last 7-10 days which perhaps were a bit too hot for that period and maybe the first weeks of September.
The grapes in early September have had a small delay of 4-5 days compared to the average of mid-September, but certainly for well-exposed areas as our vineyards they have shown an optimal maturation and health. During the second half of September the weather was fantastic with mild temperatures, cool nights and ventilation from north, north-east that has kept away or slowed down a lot the onset of mold, whereas in the more humid areas some botrytis started to form on a couple of grape bunches.
There where just two rain showers, one in mid-September and one at the end of the month. From then on until October 9th the weather was perfect. There was absolutely nothing to complain about regarding the weather in September and early October !!
This climatic condition has enabled us to hand pick the grapes with the proper timing and slowly. All varieties were harvested with perfect ripeness. The fermentations were normal. The skins of the grapes were perfect, of a great quality in fact, resulting in beautiful and fragrant musts.
Color is the great "surprise" and the most striking feature this year. It has been a year that has never presented any heat stress days and the vines have always fully worked with the photosynthesis and this has made grapes with perfectly ripe skin rich in anthocyanins.
The vintage quality is excellent with three winners: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pugnitello. Especially Pugnitello and Cabernet were amazing and probably the best so far. Sangiovese for our San Marcellino is still macerating on November 3rd, as well as Merlot, which perhaps seems to have given the less attractive result from a qualitative point of view. Probably the cold May has damaged the development into fruit and with remarkable sagging has caused imperfect maturation.
We are farmers and it is quite impossible that everything works perfectly well, but luckily there is Cabernet Sauvignon which would give that depth and "juiciness" that Merlot seems to miss for our Geremia 2016.
Now we finally take a bit of our well deserved break.
By Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi, November 2016