Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The vineyard is closed, 2012 in review

2 October, 2012
The last harvest is in, the last wine has completed fermenting and we have only to press the Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cab. Sauv. and Montepulciano to finish our work in the winery.  I need to write down the story of '12 before I forget it as it is not a memory to be saved or savored.
February a meter of snow fell on PS Winery in 2 passes, each of which blocked my exit for a week.  It turns out to have been a blessing as we needed the water for the coming summer.  Our clay soil soaked it up after a dry 2011.
Springtime was pretty normal with budding at the normal time and abundant rainfall.  Unfortunately, just after Easter, we experienced a flash frost in the Pecorino vineyard and lost about 40% of these beautiful buds which cut our production by a similar amount.  
Above, the frost damage
Weather was beautiful in May and June, with just a touch of downy mildew arriving in those months, but not enough to impact yield.  The last rain we received was June 27th.
From the 27th on, a series of anti-cyclones started arriving from Africa with temperatures in the 90's and low 100's every day for just under 5 weeks.  All the vines suffered, although the grapes hung in there and were not adversely affected except for a bit of dehydration. This was finally relieved the last weekend of July when we experienced 2 days of diluvial rain, which caused some fairly serious erosion in the Pecorino vineyard, but saved the day for the vines which were about to experience another series of those anti-cyclones for the next 4 weeks.  
View of the B and B and the vineyard below.
 The Merlot and Pecorino and Incrocio Bruni 54, our early maturing grapes were harvested the last week of harvest, nearly 3 weeks before normal.  One of the reasons we harvested so soon was to avoid having wines with alcohol levels near 16% as happened in the hot, dry year of 2011.  Also the rising  pH and lowering of the total acidity of the grapes affected our decision.  The tannins in the Merlot were not green and the juice seemed balanced, so while I would have preferred to wait for the Merlot harvest, it just wasn't possible.  All the grapes from these 3 varieties were in perfect condition.  The Pecorino with its low yield was harvested with the other white and a field blend was made with about 85-90% Pecorino and the rest, the Bruni 54.  This was left 7 hours on the skins before pressing and right now is a wonderfully aromatic wine.  The Merlot underwent our usual long maceration, had a fermentation which lasted about a week and is now pressed (as is the Cab. Franc).  After these 2 harvests, we finally got some normal/heavy rains and were able to postpone a bit the harvest of the subsequent reds.  Starting with the Cab. Franc, we moved on to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and then finished the season the last week of September with a 9/24 harvest of the Petit Verdot and the Montepulciano on Thursday and Friday of that week.  The only grapes with any problems were the Syrah with about 3% Bortrytis infestation and the Montepulciano with less than 1% Bortrytis. Seriously affected clusters have been culled and are now fertilizing their respective plants.  Having seen how fast the mold can spread after its arrival and with rain in the forecast for multiple days the following week, we decided to harvest the final grapes, the Montepulciano, a bit early.  90% of the grapes or perhaps a bit more were fully mature, but there were a few stragglers which could have used another week on the vine, but we were forced to decide to move the harvest up to counter the Bortrytis risk.
Due to low nitrogen levels in the grapes, we had 2 blocked fermentations, the Syrah and the 2nd day's Montepulciano harvest.  Both were recognized within 6 hours and quickly re-started with re-inoculation of the must and they then completed their fermentation rapidly.  All reds are currently undergoing extended maceration with plans to press the Cab. Sauv. and Syrah this Thursday.  Yields were quite nice for all but the Pecorino with 2.5X our previous yields for the P.V. and C.F., a slightly higher yield for the Cab. Sauvignon and Montepulciano and about the same yield as previous years for the Syrah and Merlot.  Finally, those poor Petit Verdot and Cab. Franc plants are maturing!
Harvesting in 20Kg containers allows the grapes to arrive at the de-stemmer (below) intact and in great shape

Pumpovers begin shortly after fermentation starts to bind color compounds, feed the yeast and avoid any bad aromas which might try to slip in

Above photos:  harvesting, de-stemming and crushing and pumpovers fill up my work schedule this time of year. 
As to quality of the grapes, the dry hot year allowed me to use 2 fewer treatments with our copper and sulfur ( the only things we can use in organic farming), with almost all grapes coming in perfectly healthy.  I love the aromas in the Pecorino/Bruni blend and can't wait to try it when it is ready.  The Merlot and the other reds are tannic monsters right now, but all are clean (no defects), deeply colored and powerful.  Whether wines from these hot years like 2011 and 2012 will have the same life span and complexity as 2010 remains to be seen.  What could have been a disastrous drought year has turned out well, so we are pretty content and excited to see how these wines develop.  The best part for me was getting 2000 liters of both the Cab. Franc and Petit Verdot, which means there will be some for ME this year!  Stay tuned and come visit PS Winery when you are in the southern Marche.  


Richard Badalamente said...

I've been following the effects of global warming for some time and fear that more and more abnormally hot years will follow 2011 and 2012. Is there any research going on in Italy that you know of to find/adapt grape varieties to hotter weather?

Dwight said...

It costs so much to plant anew, we really don't have any choice but to stay the course. We will have to adapt to the new climate if this continues, but 2 years hopefully doesn't signify a lasting trend. d