A series of violent storms with high winds moved through the Italian wine region of Gattinara in Piedmont this past week, pelting vineyards with hail and inflicting damage to the vines and young grape clusters in some parcels.
The June 29 weather brought hail stones the size of hazelnuts for about 5 minutes, vintners report, shredding leaves and breaking grape skins. "In Gattinara there was a violent storm, which unfortunately adds to the strong storm of the previous week," said Alessia Travaglini, export manager of her family's estate, the largest producer in the appellation. "The hail and the strong wind destroyed, in a few minutes, almost everything, leaving behind little or nothing in some areas."
Hail is usually very local in its impact, but storms have been increasing in intensity in recent years, which scientists believe is due to climate change. The devastation is particularly acute when the nascent grape clusters are not strong enough to withstand adverse conditions.
Lorella Zoppis, co-proprietor at Antoniolo, noted there hadn't been the type of destruction seen since 1971. "Unfortunately, almost every year now there are hail episodes," she told Wine Spectator. "Usually the damage is limited and to some single areas, with the hail hitting in strips. In this case it has hit almost everything in the territory of Gattinara, part of Bramaterra, Coste della Sesia and part of Ghemme."
Despite the immediate negative impact on the vineyards, it requires a few weeks to determine how the vines will rebound and what the actual losses may be. Nonetheless, it seems that for some wineries, there will be no single-vineyard Gattinara from the 2021 harvest.
At Nervi Conterno, the historic estate acquired by Roberto Conterno in 2018, the "estimate is an average loss around 80 percent, even though as of today it is difficult to tell," Conterno said.
"As far as Antoniolo is concerned, all the most important vineyards have been hit hard," said Zoppis. "To date, we believe that the 2021 production will be limited to rosato, Coste della Sesia Nebbiolo and Gattinara riserva, with limited quantities. From what we can understand, we will certainly not have crus, unless the vineyards perform real miracles in the months to come."
Travaglini's vineyards are spread around the appellation, a saving grace given the difficult conditions. "We are one of the most fortunate wineries because we differentiate our production by owning vineyards on all the hills of Gattinara," said Travaglini. "Unfortunately, the damage in some areas is equal to 90 or 100 percent, but in some areas, where we have some of our most important crus, the damage was minor, and luckily part of the cluster can be saved."
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