Italian Harvest Yields Plummet | Wine Enthusiast
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Italian Harvest Yields Plummet

Winemakers in Tuscany and Piedmont blame the weather for a particularly poor harvest this year, with yields estimated to fall by up to 50 percent in some areas. It’s a vintage that will be remembered as one of the smallest of the post-WWII era

Italy’s farmers’ association Coldiretti and enologists’ group Assoenologi reported yields could be around 25 percent lower than last year overall. Summer droughts in Chianti and other denominations in Tuscany have caused yields to fall by up to 30 percent. Piedmont has done relatively better, with yields expected to drop by around 15 percent from last year.

Coldiretti estimates total 2017 production of around 41.1 million hectoliters, down 13 million hectoliters from 2016. The regions of Lazio and Umbria also have been hard hit with shortfalls of 40 percent. Sicily has seen a 35 percent drop in production.

This Year Has Been Challenging

Winemakers say the past year has been exceptionally challenging. A dry and mild winter prompted early vine shoots that were then hit by late-frost damage in April. Then came a heatwave, so intense locals dubbed “Lucifer.” The heatwave was accompanied by a summer drought. Hailstorms in September were the final assault.

Early summer rain followed by heat also boosted sugar levels in the grapes and prompted an early harvest, with Sicily starting nearly three weeks earlier than usual.

“We can’t definitely talk about a memorable year. That would be like denying reality,” said Riccardo Cotarella, Assoenologi’s president. “It’s too early to make exact forecasts on both the quantity and the quality of this year’s vintage. In terms of quality, we can say it may vary from good to excellent, with better results in those vineyards that have successfully used rescue irrigation,” he added.

Tuscany has been among the hardest-hit regions, with yield drops estimated at up to 40 percent or 50 percent in some areas, said Tulio Marcelli, president of the Tuscan branch of Coldiretti. “That weather was a real anomaly, let’s hope it will never happen again,” he added.

Mario Andrion, the enologist at Castello di Verduno, a Piedmont producer of Barolo and Barbaresco, said that the last few days of harvest brought some relief.

“We started the harvest with Moscato,  and we’ve got very good results. I was a little bit more concerned about the red wines. But I feel much better now that I have both Barbaresco and Barolo safe in the cellars,” he said.