Chianti Classico Estates Hit by Hailstorm
By Michèle Shah
A violent thunderstorm ripped through northwest Chianti Classico on Aug. 31, damaging some of the best vineyards of well-known wine producers such as Antinori, Castello di Verrazzano, Castello di Vicchiomaggio and Vignamaggio. Most of the damage was near the towns of Mercatale Val di Pesa and Greve in Italy's Chianti region.
Antinori was the worst hit by the storm, with extensive damage done to its Santa Cristina estate, south of Mercatale Val di Pesa. Santa Cristina encompasses 200 acres of Sangiovese vines out of the company's total of 2,500 acres of vineyards in Tuscany. The estate grows the grapes used in Antinori's "super Tuscan" wines, Tignanello and Solaia.
"The hail caught the lower part of the property, wiping out 50 acres of Sangiovese grapes, which are used to make our Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva," said Renzo Cotarella, general manager of Antinori.
"It was unfortunate, but it could have been a lot worse. We were lucky that the Tignanello and Solaia grapes were spared from the hailstorm, which also missed the Antinori estates Peppoli and Badia a Passignano, which are in the same area," said Cotarella.
"The problem with hail is that where it hits, it usually ruins everything. Our damage is equivalent to about 20,000 cases of wine, which will be covered by insurance," Cotarella added.
Vicchiomaggio, Verrazzano and Vignamaggio, all within a few miles of each other, also suffered some damage, prompting them to move their harvests up by a week.
"The countryside looked as if it had been hit by a bomb," said Luigi Cappellini, owner of Verrazzano. "We were planning to harvest anyway, but some of our Merlot and white varieties were caught, so we brought forward the harvest by about a week. All we lost was a bit of quantity."
John Matta, owner of Vicciomaggio, also brought forward his harvest, which started on Sept. 2. "The storm was a burst of sheer violence, but it was contained to a very limited area," he said. "We were only partly hit, and we managed to recover most of the grapes by harvesting immediately. We don't see it as a problem. It's just one of those natural calamities that one has to factor into the equation of farming."
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