2023 HARVEST IN BRUNELLO AND ORCIA
VIOLANTE’S FIRST TIME ALONE TO MANAGE THE HARVEST WHILE I AM IN MALTA. STORY OF A GRAPE HARVEST THAT NO ONE WILL EVER FORGET
By Donatella Cinelli Colombini #winedestination
The most difficult harvest of our lives.
My husband Carlo in hospital in Malta after he fell down the stairs, in our home in Gozo, which took him first to the operating room and then to intensive care. Now he is recovering slowly: he talks, eats and moves his legs and arms but at the beginning it was really hard.
Violante, between one trip and another to Malta, managed the company and the harvest. For the first time alone managing the most important moment of the year and with a big innovation compared to the past: the optical reader for selecting the grapes.
The harvest was excellent in quality and very scarce in quantity. Half the amount of last year.
In addition to the downy mildew, we had 3 small hailstorms and then the assault of the ungulates. The roe deer jumped the fence of the Casato Prime Donne vineyards in Montalcino and the tourists left the gates at the Fattoria del Colle open, inviting the wild boars in for a snack.
2023 will be remembered as the year of downy mildew. An <<announced disaster >> say the German agronomists who had had the same experience before us and who asked to modify the organic regulations so as to have the tools to combat the fearful fungus. A request that Italy and France had opposed by making organic winemakers pay a high price. We hope that the next rainy year will find us more experienced and better equipped.
Downy mildew caused Italy to lose 40% of the harvest and the world production record which, as Lamberto Frescobaldi said <<is a wooden medal>>, because it corresponds to an excess production that fills the cellars with unsold goods. True, but such a scarce harvest is still a disaster for many winemakers in the poorest areas and a question mark for those who believe in sustainable agriculture. It is good for research centres and politicians to get busy immediately without waiting for the next emergency.
THE 2023 CLIMATE IN ITALY AND IN THE TERRITORIES OF BRUNELLO AND ORCIA
After the very arid 2022, the very rainy 2023 arrived. <<Even too much>> say the flood victims of Emilia Romagna. In fact, extreme events such as water bombs have been more frequent than before.
In Montalcino and in the Orcia DOC territories there were rains in winter and especially in spring with a peak in the first half of June when the rainy days became many, and intense, until a real storm with hail arrived on June 18th.
In the summer the heat also had peaks with extreme temperatures in July but the storms continued to block the sun and veraison occurred at the beginning of August, proceeding slowly into ripening.
The analysis of the grapes from all over Montalcino, carried out by the Brunello Consortium, showed perfect values. Those that every producer of long-aging reds dreams of: excellent acidity, PH below 3.3, potential alcohol content of less than 14% and a quantity of extractable polyphenols greater than 500.
HARVEST IN MY VINEYARDS AT CASATO PRIME DONNE AND FATTORIA DEL COLLE
In my vineyards the white grape harvest took place on 4-5 September. On September 11th the new grape sorting table with optical reader arrived. The harvest for the Brunello was done by hand from 18 to 26 September, finally the Foglia Tonda was harvested.
Surprisingly, the Merlot ripened together with the Sangiovese and not early as it always does.
Sagrantino was destroyed by downy mildew.
The vineyards were divided into small portions with the same level of ripeness. First, the ripest grapes were harvested, proceeding to pick each bunch at the best moment. A puzzle that becomes more and more precise year after year. Valérie Lavigne arrived on September 26th in time to give instructions on fermenting and putting the wine in the barrel. For the future Brunello 2023, more 15 hl French oak barrels and fewer tonneaux were purchased because the vintage was “old style” and therefore it was right to focus on “old style” barrels. They will make an elegant, slender Brunello suitable for long aging.
I am happy that my daughter Violante managed the harvest alone. The sadness of being far from my wineries and of seeing the harvest only in the videos that everyone constantly sends me remains.
Thanks to all my team of winemakers and cellar workers who were courageous and tenacious as always and more than ever.