Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi
Vintage 2017 – Record heat and drought
After 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 I was confident that we would have experienced a warm, dry vintage, though of course I was hoping that it wouldn’t be of a such remarkable level as the 2017 has turned out.
With the exception of the timeframe from October 13th to the beginning of November 2016 when we have had heavy rainfalls, basically from November 2016 till today Nov 3rd 2017 we have had no real rain, other than some rainstorm. So we didn’t have those rainy days that allow the soil to recover and the water resources to refill and get to a pretty good level.
Temperatures have also been always above average during the fall 2016, as well as in winter and beginning of spring 2017. We only had 15-18 days of wintertime in January, but the remaining of the winter was still too mild. This has caused an anticipated germination of the vines of about one month!
From late April to May 10th we had, instead, a time span of unusual cold and the frosting has slowed down the growth of the sprouts, thus reducing the advanced development of the vines to about three weeks. However, we noticed that the development was not uniform, because of the cold, and this was reported during May and June, when finally the plants have reach again their balance.
At Rocca di Montegrossi we luckily reported few damages from the frost, thanks to the high, well ventilated and dry position of our vineyards in addition to the many fires that we lit during the night that have mitigated the damaging effects of frost on the vines.
I had much concern for the continued drought associated with the high temperatures – about 3-4 °C above average - that followed the cold days of early May. But happily till July 25th the nights were pretty cool and therefore the vines have held up very well, thanks to the help of a good micro climatic situation and to a continued soil working, to reduce the evaporation and keep more humidity in the soil.
Additionally, I decided to pinch the tops out of the plants just once, instead of the usual two (if not three in some areas) pinching sessions, with the purpose of avoiding any further stress to the plants and also to provide more shade to the grape by leaving the grapevines on the plants instead of cutting them off. Obviously we also didn’t do any defoliation in August. We defoliated only a few, facing-east vineyards in mid September.
After July 25th the temperature was high during the night, too, and the vines have started to suffer a little bit. The rainfalls were scarce and near zero. This is the first vintage I remember by heart the amount of millimetres of rain that have fallen: 6 ml in the beginning of August, 11 ml on August 10th and 1.5 ml on August 19th. A meagre amount but it has allowed the vines to survive. Indeed the vines were still in an excellent condition till 21st-22nd August, with almost no damage of withering or burning.
I was truly satisfied considering what I was told about the situation in other areas. But the last wave of heat that has lasted till September 1st , with high temperatures also during the night, has “exhausted” the vines and we started to spot some damage on the grape, happily not a big amount.
On average about 5% of the grape was showing raisined grape on the most exposed side of the bunch. It was so sad to see this situation, despite we had been fighting like lions to avoid it. Anyways, like already said, it was rather limited.
With the only exception of the Malvasia grape for the Vin Santo, that was harvested the last days of August, I didn’t rush to harvest.
The damaged grape was by then already damaged and no rains could “revive” it, but all the remaining grape could still benefit from the forthcoming rains that have come, finally, from September 1st as well as from other rainfalls that have followed during the first fifteen days of September, with cool temperatures even lower than average.
This has allowed the grape to rebalance with regards of volume and sugars, as well as for the acidity. At the same time, to let mature the tannins, I didn’t want to harvest straight away, but I decided to wait for the grape to recover its march to maturation.
I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.
Apart from the Rosato that was harvested from September 4th to 15th, we started the “real” harvest on September 14th with a first amount of Merlot and then from September 21st and 22nd, followed by the Sangiovese for the Chianti Classico flagship. At the end of the month the Sangiovese for the San Marcellino, and on October 2nd the Pugnitello.
The harvest was concluded on October 10th with the harvest of the second part of Pugnitello and the Cabernet. So, we have harvested during a pretty standard timeframe, maybe just slightly anticipated.
I think that this decision was well taken and the result was very good. I can’t consider this to be the best harvest ever, but certainly it is a pretty high quality. This high quality is for all varietals with no exception. Just the quantity is a little lower, though, even if there’s been no dramatic loss but just a - 4,4% than 2016.
Therefore, considering the climatic trend of the vintage I can only be grateful for the final result that we have achieved. I am also thankful to all my team in the vineyards and the agronomists, Stefano Dini and Dario Ceccatelli, with whom we always discuss and exchange opinions to hopefully reach the right balance.
All this has produced a wine that Attilio Pagli has several times commented with an enthusiastic satisfaction and for me this isalready a remarkable sign