Monday, September 26, 2005

We're Back in Business, and Thoughts About the Current Vintage

The view from our new homeWhen I signed off in early June, saying I would be taking some time off because we were moving, I certainly didn't expect the process to take as long as it did; there were renovations here, and we also decided the time had come to sell my late mother's house in Pennsylvania, so we spent the second half of the summer in the US packing it up and getting it ready. With no more moves planned, it's time to get back to work.

The first order of business is a few words on the outlook for the 2005 harvest, which is now underway. Though we did have a couple of weeks of very hot weather in late June/early July, the second half of July was relatively mild, as was August, which also saw quite a bit of rainfall, to the point that the countryside was much greener than usual. Fortunately, the clear days between the storm fronts were quite sunny, with substantial day/night temperature excursions, and therefore the grapes did develop rich aromas, though they didn't ripen as much as they do in hotter, drier vintages.

Because of these conditions, the outlook for 2005's white wines, almost all of which are by now fermenting, is actually good: their bouquets will be rich, and on the palate they will be elegant and crisp, with lively acidities that will allow them to pair quite nicely with foods. They will also age nicely.

The outlook for the reds is more problematical; at the end of August the producers I talked to were optimistic, saying that the grapes on the vines were nice, but that they needed clear weather to ensure optimal ripening and the absence of rot in the vineyards. Unfortunately, we've had quite a bit of rain in the course of September, and the outcome is now in the hands of Mother Nature: if the weather holds steady for the next couple of weeks, those whose vineyards are free of rot and mold will have a good, if not stellar vintage. If, on the other hand, the rains continue, we'll have a repeat of the 2002 vintage, with lean, strident wines.

An important thing to keep in mind, when I evoke the specter of 2002, is that one has to go region by region; the rains of the past couple of weeks have primarily affected the central and northern sections of the Peninsula, while in the south conditions have been drier. Also, the truly late-harvesting varietals, in particular Nebbiolo, could shrug off even more rain now if the weather clears later: in the Valtellina 2002 was a 4-star vintage, thanks to a perfect October.

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