Harvest this year has been a small ray of sunshine in an otherwise fairly dark and gloomy year. This, in the sense that the quality seems to have been very good, if not excellent, from the north to the south in Italy. Covid has had its grip over Italy and the entire world for the most part of this year. Due to lockdown in the spring, many sales channels dried up and wineries found themselves with the cellars full of stock. New sales channels had to be explored fairly quickly, e-commerce and digital marketing became of the essence.
More About the Harvest 2020
As mentioned above, it was a great year when it comes to quality while the yield overall was lower. The total production is set to 46,6 million hectoliters which are only 2% less than in 2019. However, the yield is said to have been considerably lower in the central and southern parts of Italy. The Sole 24 Ore reports, for example, that there was a reduction in yield with 21% in Tuscany, 20% in Sicily, and 10% in Lazio.
As a result of the economical difficulties for the wine sector due to the Covid pandemic, many consortiums (for example, the consortiums of Valpolicella, Soave, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Brunello di Montalcino, and Chianti) indeed implemented a decision or at least a recommendation of reducing the yield for this year’s harvest. It was a way to prevent a drop in wine prices and to find a solution to the lack of space in the wine cellars. When the sales dropped drastically for many due to Covid, the wineries found themselves with too much wine on their hands that they did not manage to sell.
The Chianti Classico Consortium gave a recommendation to their members to reduce the yield on a voluntary basis. The recommendation was in line with the ministerial suggestion to reduce the yield by 15% based on the average yield during the last five harvests. It was a measure taken to help wineries generate more current assets and in addition to state aid allocated to the sector.
(Read about the harvest 2019 in the article Harvest 2019 – A Promising Year For Sangiovese At Montemaggio.)
Harvest at Fattoria di Montemaggio
Let us now look closer at the 2020 vintage and the harvest at Fattoria di Montemaggio. We have asked Ilaria Anichini, the Estate Manager, some questions about the harvest.
1. The harvest is over for this very particular 2020. Can you tell us a bit about your general impression of the grape quality, weather conditions, positive and challenging factors, etc.?
Ilaria: It was a great year with grapes of very good quality. This was, on the other hand, due to good weather conditions and, on the other hand, because of the reduced yield.
Even though the spring was a bit delayed, the weather conditions were favorable with a balanced and dry summer and a good diurnal temperature range. At the end of August and the beginning of September, it rained just at the right time. It all resulted in a balanced vegetative cycle and maturation of the grapes which in turn led to excellent quality.
The reduction in yield depended, in turn, on different factors such as our own decision to reduce the production, the following decision from the EU and the consortium to reduce it even more, and the issue with powdery mildew.
The low yield meant that the maturation was very much speeded up and even the Sangiovese was ripe already at the beginning of October. Normally, it would not be ready for harvest until the second half of October.
2. This year there was a recommendation from Consortium/Government to reduce the yield due to Covid. How did that affect you at Fattoria di Montemaggio?
Ilaria: Yes, the Chianti Classico Consortium together with the Italian government suggested a reduction of the yield in order to protect the quality and prevent the prices of the Chianti Classico wines from going down. The restaurants were closed due to the lockdown and the Horeca sector was not functioning, therefore, the quantity of wine not sold was considerable and would have been even higher with a normal yield.
At Montemaggio, Valeria and I discussed this issue already early in the spring and we came to the conclusion that we would need to reduce the yield ourselves to avoid lowering our prices or remain with a lot of wine in the cellar. I think it was the right decision because it helps to guarantee the quality and it might help to get subsidies from the EU. It is a difficult moment where we need to take the necessary measures.
3. There seems to have been a general problem this year with powdery mildew for vine growers. Did you have problems with this at Fattoria di Montemaggio? If yes, in what way?
Ilaria: Yes, we saw more powdery mildew this year. I have worked at Fattoria di Montemaggio for 15 years and it is only during the last 2 years that I have seen an increase in this disease. The main reason can be due to climate change leading to colder springs in the last years. Powdery mildew is generally treated with sulfur in organic viticulture which is efficient in warmer temperatures, but it just does not work with the cooler weather in springtime any longer. It can also be that the mildew has become resistant to the sulfur. We are also located at a high altitude which can be another contributing factor.
We are now experimenting by using essential oils from citrus fruits to dry out the fungus. Let’s hope!
Watch more in the video below.
4. Carrying out the harvest work with Covid restrictions certainly made the harvest period a bit more difficult. Can you tell us about how you managed the harvest workers in line with Covid regulations? Any challenges?
Ilaria: We were really lucky, we did not have any particular difficulties during harvest except for needing to measure the temperature every day. The good thing about being in the countryside is that there is lots of space and you do not need to stay close together. The only particularity was that we could not have lunch all together, rather we had to be spread out over a larger area.
5. What lies in the future for Fattoria di Montemaggio? Your predictions/hopes for the future.
Ilaria: This is for sure one of the worst periods our generation has ever been through. I think it is important to keep going and to make new projects. We have seen a change in our way of working during the last months and the change will probably continue. This awful virus has shown us that things quickly can change drastically and our work habits need to take a new direction. At Fattoria di Montemaggio, Valeria has done a great job with pushing our website and social media activities further. We have tried to make people feel closer to us even if virtually and to make it easier to get our wines to their homes. We need to change our mindset for the future.
Written by Katarina Andersson.