Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The 2007 Harvest Has Begun!

Yes, already -- this has been a very strange year, with the mildest winter and spring since people began taking records more than a century ago: No snow, few frosts, and day-time temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (10-20 C) for much of the time. It was so mild that the vegetative cycle began quite early, especially in the north, where the vines emerged from dormancy at least a month ahead of schedule.

Since then the cycle has followed its normal path, and now the vines in much of the north have reached the stage they usually reach at the end of August: The white grapes are ripe, as are the preconscious reds, and people are either actively harvesting or getting ready to do so; yesterday's TV news showed footage of people in the Oltrepo Pavese clipping bunches of grapes.

Interestingly enough, some parts of the south are less far along than the north, perhaps because the southern varietals took the milder than normal conditions in stride and followed a more typical growing cycle.

The quality of the harvest?
People are quite optimistic: Though we did have a couple of torrid weeks early on, in May, and a couple of very hot weeks in July, this has been a less extreme summer, with brilliantly clear hot days, cool nighttime temperatures, and sufficient rainfall to prevent drought stress.

Getting down to what I can report personally, Central Tuscany, which does get hot -- Florence consistently registers some of the hottest summer temperatures in Italy -- has had daytime temperatures in the mid-high 30s (low-mid 90s F), and night time temperatures in the low 20s (low 70s F).

Ideal conditions for ripening, but not overripening, while the good temperature excursions will produce good bouquets. The bunches I see on the vines as I drive home look ripe, and if conditions continue I expect to see harvesters here too soon.

Bottom line: If the weather holds, 2007 should be rather nice. We won't know for sure until the grapes are in the cellar, but have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Olive Oil Fraud
Moving in a very different direction, this week's New Yorker has an in-depth look at the Italian olive oil industry, which has long been bedeviled by fraud. It's not nice reading, but these are good things to know.

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