The harvest of 2022 has been named a vintage beyond expectations by the Italian producers themselves. The reports from Alto Adige in the north to Sicily in the south all say the same things, i.e. that the climate crisis has not affected the quality of the grapes too much. However, we are now in an era where we have to get used to extreme weather conditions and learn how to navigate them.

At Fattoria di Montemaggio, the harvest is still going on and we are going to look closer at the conditions and results so far. We will also make a comparison with the last few vintages.

Harvest of 2022: A Sigh of Relief

As the Florentine newspaper La Nazione writes, the Chianti Classico producers can breathe a sigh of relief when most of the grapes have now been harvested. This is valid for all of Italy, as mentioned above. The outlook was indeed dire due to hail and months of extreme heat, but then in the middle of August, the rain finally came. This allowed the grapes to conclude the maturation process and guaranteed a higher level of quality. Many producers have anticipated the harvest to get the right balance between acidity and sugar and avoid too high alcohol levels. In fact, Ilaria Anichini, the Estate Manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio, says that they had to harvest the Sangiovese destined for rosé wine early to avoid a high alcohol percentage.

The Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, writes that Assoenologi, Ismea, and Unione Italiana Vini (The Italian federation of Wine) estimate that the production in 2022 will be around 50 million hectoliters of wine. Furthermore, the research carried out and applied practically to make the vines more resilient has helped to maintain the quality together with the much-needed rain at the end of the summer. The only worry is for wines made with late harvested grapes or grapes that dry on the plant, as the climate is not favorable for such measures.

In a period of global uncertainty, the harvest of 2022 managed to pull through with good-quantity and -quality grapes promising another satisfying year for Italian wine.


Thoughts on the Harvest of 2022 at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The climate crisis means a future of “droughts, heat, and fire” for wine, stresses David Williams in the article Droughts, heat and fire: the future of wine in the climate crisis in The Guardian. Williams continues to argue that weather conditions that seemed exaggerated and extreme 10 years ago are today considered rather normal. Vintners across the globe are now used to having to deal with spring frost, hail, heat, wildfires, tropical-like rainstorms, and much more. In relation to this, there is an increasing worry in the wine industry that climate change will alter the “defining flavors” of many wines. The specific terroir and sense of place will change. However, this might not be all negative. In vineyards at higher altitudes, climate change has often had a positive impact.

In the wine sector, one often talks about a good or bad vintage. However, Ilaria Anichini says she prefers to talk about an easy versus a difficult year. She argues that 2022 is not a bad year, rather the quality is very good but it has certainly not been an easy year. This is the result of farming in extreme weather conditions with insanely high temperatures and drought followed by sudden precipitations and cold. Ilaria underlines that we need to get used to these kinds of climate conditions and adapt ourselves to them.’

sorting of grapes-montemaggio-harvest

Sangiovese this year…

All the grapes harvested so far have been healthy and of good quality. Just a few days ago the Sangiovese was not ready for harvest, the tannins were not optimal, but just recently they started picking (the 5th of October) of it. Ilaria stresses that the rain in August and September has been beneficial for the grapes to not get juice with too much sugar which translates into high alcohol levels. This is an issue that wine producers did not have in the past when instead it was challenging to arrive at 12% alcohol. Now, 14% is already almost a normality.

Sangiovese generally likes to suffer and, therefore, is usually harvested in layers along the vineyard hill where the best grapes then are picked at the top of the hill. Due to the excessive heat and drought his year, it has been completely the opposite, namely that the best Sangiovese grapes were picked at the lower part of the vineyard where more humidity remained.

Three Harvests in Comparison

2020 was, as we know, marked by the start of the pandemic. It was a very dark and gloomy year not only due to the severe lockdown periods that were tough psychologically but also because of the temporary (almost) downturn of the global economy. There was a reduction in yield decided by the EU, the Italian government, and the Consortium of Chianti Classico to balance the lack of sales and the wine remaining in the cellars during 2020. However, it was a great year with grapes of very good quality. The weather conditions were favorable, and the vegetative cycle and the maturation of the grapes were balanced leading to excellent quality. The only issue was the problem with powdery mildew. (Read more in The Quality of the Harvest 2020 Gives Hope.)

The weather conditions in 2021 were also balanced and satisfactory but the quantity was lower than in general in Italy. This was not the case at Fattoria di Montemaggio where both quality and quantity were optimal. They were neither affected by the spring frost that destroyed many vineyards in central Italy and in France that year. The diurnal range during the summer and the good weather up until the 20th of October resulted in ideal maturation conditions for Sangiovese. In fact, Ilaria called it the best vintage for quite some time. (Read more in How Beautiful Grapes Bring Happiness To Our Winery.)

As we can see, the weather conditions were very good in both 2020 and 2021, resulting in good vintages. Especially 2021 was an extraordinary vintage, according to Ilaria Anichini. 2022 has had much more challenging weather conditions where the issues with climate change have made themselves heard. Still, it has been possible to harvest grapes of good quality thanks to rains coming at the right moment in August and September. The common denominator here is that the grape quality has been good, or even excellent, during the three vintages.

Written by Katarina Andersson.

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