Log In / Join Now

Picking is Under Way in Piedmont

Whites have been crushed; Nebbiolo harvest just starting in Barbaresco

Posted: Sep 23, 2009 12:00pm ET

By Gaia Gaja

It is my great pleasure to update you on the 2009 vintage in Piedmont and Tuscany, reporting on the harvests at our family's three properties: Gaja Winery in Barbaresco, Ca' Marcanda in Bolgheri and Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino.

Piedmont: The Langhe

This year is on track to be an extraordinary vintage, although the last part of the race—the most important part—has yet to be run. The climate in the 2009 growing season was particularly promising. We had abundant snowfalls from November to March, more than we've had in years. March and April were very rainy, and the almost daily rain continued into the beginning of June. (The heavy rains caused some landslides on the narrow streets of the Langhe, and you can still see places where the sides collapsed.) Unfortunately, we also had some hail at the beginning of June, but it affected very few vineyards.

Both the snow and rain have been very important in allowing our fields to recover from the drought that little by little has increased in the area. The groundwater and deeper layers of the soil are now being restored.

Thanks to the abundance of water, the vegetation began growing rapidly during the first warm, sunny days in May. Around May 20, the vines started flowering.

From mid-June on, the rains finally stopped and the days were sunny, so the grapes had all the perfect growing conditions: warmth, sun and reserves of water. At the end of June, the berries started to change color, and the ripening process sped up.

As we moved into the August heat, growth slowed and the ripening process continued. September began with very cool nights (59° F / 15° C) and warm, sunny days.

Now that we have entered the harvest season, our winery's courtyard is filled with the sweet perfume of fermenting Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The harvest of the white grapes began on Sept. 7 and finished on Sept. 11. The weather during the harvest has been excellent. We have been harvesting only in the mornings, when the temperature has barely reached 68° F (20° C).

In my next post, I will give you details of the Nebbiolo harvest that is just starting.

Tuscany: Bolgheri

The Bolgheri area is a thin stretch of flat land, bordered by the sea to the west and tree-covered mountains to the east. Bolgheri is characterized by constant winds that flow through a perfect corridor. These winds are useful all year long because they move the clouds, keep the temperature down during the summer, and dry the grapes in autumn, protecting the integrity of the berries.

The climatic conditions are quite different in Bolgheri compared to Piedmont, but the trends this season have been similar. The 2009 growing season in Bolgheri saw an abundantly rainy winter that continued throughout the spring. Rains were so constant that we wondered if we would ever get our good weather back. Finally, April started with warmer days and continued with strong sun and dry days. The grapes at Ca' Marcanda look healthy, but the berries are smaller than usual.

I will soon have news about the harvest in Montalcino and updates on the Langhe and Bolgheri. Here's hoping for good news!

Peter Cargasacchi
Sta. Rita Hills —  September 24, 2009 12:16pm ET
In our region we are facing the potential for a very wet spring this next year, perhaps similar to what you saw in Piemonte last spring. We are entering an "El Nino" phase and our main weather maker, the "jet stream" typically shifts south from the Pacific Northwest and takes aim directing storms at California. We need the rain, but as my Nonna said, la sola cosa che si puo predire del tempo, e che non si puo predire! (Sorry, my Italian is a little rusty.)

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.