Harvest 2017: Italy
Late April frosts, high summer temperatures and a prolonged heatwave have significantly damaged volumes across Italy this year.
Quality is good, particularly in the North West, but shortages are prevalent in Prosecco, Chianti, Brunello, the South and islands. Some areas might experience a consequent increase in pricing.
“The 2017 vintage will be about 25% smaller than the current average Italian harvest, and the smallest for 60 years,” says Bibendum buyer for Italy Matt Smith. “The drought made the harvest a race to finish, and generally the harvest progressed about two weeks earlier than normal.”
Here's a roundup from our producers across Italy:
A mild start to the year followed by spring frosts caused problems for vineyards across Alto Adige. “2017 brought some serious natural challenges,” says winemaker Alois Clemens Lageder. “We saw a slight drop in yield but the quality of the wines is looking very promising so far. The early grape harvest indicates fresh, precise, distinctive and lively wines.”
The Friuli Venezia Giulia region registered a loss of about 30% of its grapes due to this year’s spring frosts. La Roncaia saw a 20% reduction, but this lowered quantity is characterised by outstanding quality. The whites are looking well balanced, with a good structure, while the reds are showing good body, texture and a strong aromatic intensity thanks to successful appassimento ageing.
Bibendum buyer for Italy Matt Smith explains that while the DOC vineyards, densely planted on plains, were hit hard by spring frost, while the hillside DOCG vineyards of Valdobbiadene weren’t affected. The overall volume for Prosecco is down 15%.
Valpolicella Classico escaped the worst of the spring frosts, as well as some hail storms in the area mid-summer. A warm, dry summer necessitated irrigation for Nicolis and harvest began early. The cold spring and the hot summer combined mean that their overall crop is down below average, but the quality is looking very good.
“For us, 2017 was a good, but not excellent, vintage overall,” says owner Alessandra Tessari. “The summer was particularly hot and dry, which meant the grapes ripened early and we had to bring the harvest forward. We weren’t affected by the frosts that devastated hectares of vineyards in the surrounding plains and many areas of Italy at the end of April. This was thanks to the typically-mild climate in the high hills. Then came a scorching dry summer, forcing us to resort to emergency irrigation early on, which was optimised by the use of water from our recently-built artesian well.
“The grape quality is good: the grapes at the harvest were perfectly healthy with good sugar concentration, although acidity levels were not particularly outstanding. Quantities have decreased slightly.”
“The 2017 vintage will be remembered for its hot climate, and particularly sparse rainfall,” says winemaker Luca Currado. Long awaited rainfall and a wide diurnal range in September means the wines are showing well, with good acidity. Due to the adverse weather earlier in the season however, yields are down.
“We have wines showing great promise, considering the fears of the beginning of summer, confirming once more how well-suited and well-equipped the hills of the Langhe are for vine growing,” says Luca.
“This has been an unusual season, due to difficult and uncommon climate conditions in many Italian regions,” says winemaker and owner Celita Ravaioli.
“The late frost in April hit the white grapes particularly hard. Summer has been really hot, with little rains: these conditions led to one of the earliest recorded harvests in the last six years. We’ve seen an average 30% decrease of the production in the whole area. On the other hand, the quality is at its greatest level: red wines will be concentrated, rich, and smooth, with a great potential for ageing.
“In Nespoli, what’s made the difference has been the presence of old vines and fresh soils, and the day-night temperature range that characterises our valley. This sequence of hot and dry vintages is teaching us that soil and water management will be crucial in future years.”
High summer temperatures and a long drought made 2017 a difficult harvest for Bisceglia. Yields are down by 30-40%.
“In these situations, the roots of vines penetrate deep in volcanic soil and reach the aquifers, which attract water and minerals,” says owner Michele Bisceglia. “For these vines, extreme heat and lack of water mean they only produce lush and high-sugar berries. Although this year we obtained a scarce quantity, the quality is excellent for the red wine.”
Masseria Li Veli
Harvest at Masseria Li Veli was characterised by a decrease in quantity and a remarkable increase in quality this year.
Cold spring days, an extremely hot summer, and drought, combined with the moderate cold in the winter months, made ripening very difficult. The mild winter lead to early blooming and ripening. Compared to last year, 2017 production has dropped by about 20%, but the grapes picked were in excellent condition
“The 2017 harvest was one of the worst in terms of quantity, but among the best in terms of quality,” says owner Francesco Scala. “This was due to a very hot and dry climate, as is habitual in our area, with much less rain than usual.”
Cantina del Vermentino
Sardinia experienced extreme weather conditions this year: the North Eastern slopes were hit by a severe April frost, which is very unusual for the island and significantly decreased yields. This was followed by a very dry, hot summer. Overall the expected drop in total production this year is 30%, both for the white Vermentino and red Cannonau.
The quality of the grapes is good despite these conditions, and the wine is looking powerful and elegant.
Sicily experienced a very hot and dry summer, with a prolonged heatwave throughout July and August.
“2017 was one of the strangest harvests of the last few decades”, says winemaker Giuseppe Clementi. “From the end of July we had to urgently review the whole harvest plan; picking grapes during the night was essential not just in order to keep the quality of the grapes but also to be able to work in the vineyards.
“We were able to reach a good to excellent quality harvest thanks to the hillside positioning of the vineyards, and rapid organisation of the harvest. Yields are down on average by 30% compared with last year.
“Our white wines are showing an intense, fruity note with good freshness. The reds are particularly rich with evident varietal notes. Maturation both in the cellar and in the bottle will be even more important this year in order to preserve and enhance quality.”