A couple of weeks ago, we wrote an article that examined what we might expect from the Italian wine harvest in 2021. We pointed out that various economic and climate factors will likely result in a lower harvest than we’ve seen from the last few years.
Now, the harvest has been going on for over a month.
And we can confirm that those early predictions were correct. The 2021 Italian wine harvest is producing a lower yield than we’ve seen in more recent years. However, we also pointed out that higher quality may result from these lower yields. And if early indications are anything to go by, those predictions may be true as well. In fact, several Italian winemakers are going so far as to talk about how they can’t wait to make their 2021 vintages because they believe they’ll be the best they’ve created in quite some time.
So, now that we’re a few weeks removed from the predictions, we figured it would be a good idea to see what’s actually happening on the ground as the harvest is ongoing. This is the news we’re hearing from various Italian wine regions.
One of Italy’s most famous wine regions, Piedmont ran into a few early hiccups with its harvest. Sweeping rainstorms struck just as the harvest of Nebbiolo was about to begin, with 25mm of water falling. Thankfully, the storm was short-term and only delayed picking by about a day. Some even think the rain served a helpful purpose, giving the vines a last-minute shot of nutrition and energy before the grapes were picked.
Now that picking is underway, the general expectations for the 2021 vintage are high. Gianni Gagliardo winery owner Stefano Gagliardo has this to say:
“Our expectations for the vintage are definitely high, as far as quality. But we need a couple of more weeks to get everything at home as the ripeness is happening slower than expected which again, is great for the complexity of the wines.”
So, look for the 2021 vintage of Piedmont wines to be more complex and deeper than we have seen in recent years.
If Italy has a “big two” winemaking regions then Piedmont would be one and Tuscany would be the other. But the question now is whether Tuscany is seeing the same level of good fortune as Piedmont.
The biggest problem Tuscany’s producers had during the past year was a three-month drought that led to a notable shortfall in yields. However, much like we’re seeing in other regions, producers are quietly optimistic that these low yields will lead to some stellar vintages. Though some winemakers have seen decreases of about 10-15%.
Winemaker Gianlorenzo Neri generally mirrors the sentiment of the entire region when saying the following about his grapes:
“Very high quality of the grapes, intense colours, optimal acidity, and bright aromas.”
So, it’s looking like Chianti fans have a lot to look forward to when the 2021 vintages hit stores in a couple of years. While the wines may not be abundant, it seems like the quality is going to be extremely high.
Producers had a mixed bag of results in terms of the effect of climate on yields in Veneto. In Soave, producers noted that they experienced about a 10% decrease in yield thanks to the hot summer and low rainfall. This led to accelerated ripening, though early reports suggest that the grapes are still of a high quality.
In the Valpolicella zone, the conditions that were so difficult in Soave didn’t really affect producers. As Alessandro Castellani of Ca’ La Bionda points out:
“There were no extreme temperatures in the summer, while rainfall was well-timed. From the end of August and until the end of September we had 10 degrees of temperature variations between day and night which allowed the grapes to ripen perfectly at the phenolic level.”
He points out that he didn’t find a single grape affected by the grape disease botrytis, which he takes to be a great sign of the overall health of the vintage. He believes his 2021 vintage will be a great one, with it possibly being one of his best. It’s a sentiment that many of the zone’s producers share.
Again, enthusiasm seems to be the overriding emotion for Sicilian producers with the 2021 vintage.
Again, producers saw a decrease in quantity, with some reporting as much as 15%. However, quality is at a high that it hasn’t reached for quite some time, especially for producers in the Etna region. And even with the quantity shortfall, you can still expect to see plenty of Sicilian wines on shelves carrying the 2021 vintage.
The home of Verdicchio wines has experienced the same types of results as those in the other regions we’ve covered. As Andrea Felici of the eponymous winery puts it:
“Summer was warm and very dry, and was characterized by continuous high temperatures, while at the end of August, the arrival of some rain showers brought with them an important temperature day-night shift.
In short, we have great quality but with low quantity [around 15 percent less than the previous vintage].”
Again, we see the same pattern. Though quantity is lower than it has been in recent years, quality has gone through the roof.
The Final Word
We already know that you’ve noticed the pattern that seems to have defined the 2021 harvest. Difficult climate conditions led to a marked decrease in production volumes in almost every major Italian region. And while we’ve only covered a handful of those regions here, this pattern extends almost across the entire country.
However, we’re also seeing a lot of winemakers feeling very enthusiastic about the quality of their wines. Lower yields mean that the grapes that are produced are both stronger and have received more nutrition than those that didn’t make the cut. The general consensus is that we may be in for something special when it comes to the 2021 vintage and quality. Of course, while we wait for those wines to become commercially available, you can always find more quality Italian wines in the Xtrawine store.
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