Italian Vintage 2013 reports from Piedmont, Tuscany & Sicilia


Autumnal Nebbiolo Grapes - La Morra,   San Lorenzo Piedmont

Autumnal Nebbiolo Grapes – La Mora, San Lorenzo Piedmont

As I write, the larger Langhe estates are still feverishly gathering up the last of the Nebbiolo harvest, the still-warm sun lighting up the stunning autumn colours.

Harking back to the years before global warming started to make its presence felt, ie pre 1995, the 2013 Langhe Nebbiolo harvest has been reassuringly late. It all began with a normal winter, followed by a refreshingly damp, if unusually (and painfully) long, cold spring that reduced the crop naturally while minimising disease. The hot summer which kicked in at the end of June prompted a wave of peronospera/downy mildew among the vines, impeding grape ripening and throwing back the harvest date still further… as did a few localised hail storms.

Could it be that growers are finally jettisoning the systematic early de-leafing of vines, the penny dropping that leaves equal protection (from sun and hail)? The second half of August was much cooler than in 2012 and 2011, stretching out the (Nebbiolo) hang time yet further. September was no warmer, and October started wet, filling up the remaining bunches with juice. ‘Crying’ berries – bunches fit to bursting – signalled the start of the harvest, three weeks later than in recent years. Fortunately, the final week (14th Oct onwards), brought warm sunny days and cool nights – perfect weather for wrapping up the harvest. So a ‘classic’ vintage with plenty of clean pulp fruit, bright acidity, firm tannins and modest alcohol levels.

View Nebbiolo harvest reports from Cascina Fontana, Giuseppe Mascarello, Flli Alessandria, Vuigneti Luigi Oddero, Trediberri, Punset & Bartolo Mascarello

Skipping down to Tuscany, a four-hour drive to the Chianti Classico estate of Bibbiano in Castellina-in-Chianti, Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi reports that the vendemmia (vintage harvest) started this year on September 23rd: a week later than in 2012. It took place in two stages: the first from Sep 23rd to Oct 2nd, which was subject to very changeable weather and we stopped for five days to let the expected sunshine days bring more concentration to the musts.

The second stage resumed on the 7th of October and finished on the 13th. By now the wines of 2013 can be divided in two categories: one is of very perfumed, bouquet wines, very ruby and fruity; the other is of intense and structured tannins and they have more complexity. Not an “annata del secolo” (vintage of the century), but 2013 will show better than expected.

Finally, we tune in to Alberto Aiello Graci at his Passopisciaro cantina halfway up Sicily’s Etna volcano. He reports: “Wet winter, mild, dry, windy spring, with a hot summer arriving from the second week of June, relieved fortunately by cool 15-degree nights. July saw a bit of rain, as did August, with three showers over the 9th and 10th, then again wet on 20th and 21st.

September brought regular if short-lived rain showers. October has been sunny, and around 18 degrees by day, although the humidity has further delayed the harvest until mid-October for some of the red Nerello Mascalese and then 23rd October for the whites.” Alberto’s Barbabecchi vineyard at 1,000 metres will be harvested at the beginning of November! It seems that this vintage will give wines that are not too alcoholic, but fluid and elegant, thanks to clean, juicy fruit, with freshness and energy.