Wine Harvest Report 2016: Tuscany Enjoys a Promising Year

Summer was hot, but September brought relief, producing good results from Chianti to Montalcino to Maremma
Wine Harvest Report 2016: Tuscany Enjoys a Promising Year
Harvesting Sangiovese grapes in the Sant'Alfonso vineyard in Chianti Classico. (Courtesy Rocca delle Macie)
Nov 10, 2016

Across Tuscany, vintners are quite happy with the 2016 harvest. Many say quality matched 2015, but add that 2016 is different in style. This year's growing season was less uniform, and the grape skins were thinner and more pliable than last year's. Thus, the 2016 wines are more aromatic and deeper in color, but less structured, according to Alberto Passeri, the manager at La Gerla in Montalcino.

If there is a downside to the 2016 harvest, it was the lower quantity for many wineries, roughly 15 to 20 percent less than a typical crop, some producers told Wine Spectator. Others harvested an average crop.

The growing season began with cool, wet weather. The flowering was generally good, but cooler than normal temperatures affected fertility in some cases, reducing yields slightly. In July, the weather turned hot and dry, with one rainfall mid-August relieving the stress on the vines. Picking for Merlot started at the end of August, and the dry weather prevented the skins from ripening perfectly.

The late-ripening Sangiovese, however, took advantage of 2 inches of rain mid-September, followed by beautiful weather with good swings in temperature between day and night.

Montepulciano saw a little more rain than Montalcino or Chianti Classico during September, creating some disease pressure. And a forecast for more rain during the second week of October forced many to harvest. "Toward the end of maturation [the first week of October], we had more rain scares in the forecasts so we may have picked a couple of vineyards a day or two earlier than optimal phenolic ripeness," said Antonio Zaccheo Jr., co-owner of Carpineto. "But the rest of the vineyards we brought in had very nice profiles and very good flavors. The whites are really exceptional across the board, from Vermentino to Grechetto." Zaccheo was more optimistic about the quality of the Sangiovese at Carpineto's Montalcino estate.

Renzo Cotarella, CEO of Antinori, harvests in several Tuscan regions, giving him an overview of the entire area. He noted that Chianti Classico was incredible. "The quality there is unbelievable. I've never seen a vintage like this," he said. Similar reports from Rocca delle Macie in Castellina and Rocca di Montegrossi in Gaiole confirm the promising potential, despite some hail in May that affected vineyards in parts of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga.

Axel Heinz, winemaker for Ornellaia and Masseto in Bolgheri, likens 2016 to 2006 and 2008. On the Tuscan coast, a warmer than average winter was followed by normal temperatures in May and June. Summer was hot and dry, with rain mid-August and lower temperatures afterward. Warm days and cool nights during September and rain during harvest forced the decision to pick, but Heinz was pleased with the quality of all the grapes, especially the Cabernet Franc.

"After a number of years cooler than usual during harvest, we were wondering what the next Mediterranean harvest would look like," Heinz told Wine Spectator. "2016 was the answer, with the profile of a cooler year like 2006 and 2008, but the vines coped much better with the extreme weather conditions because they are older."

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