The 2011 harvest presented itself as one of the strangest in the last 25 years: Why was this so?
A winter with significant rainfall and abundant snowfall permitted the land to accumulate a reserve of water for the coming months. April and May were unusually warm and dry months. This caused the vegetative cycle of the vines to begin two weeks sooner than normal and to continue so until flowering. The summer then proceeded in a more normal fashion until the middle of July with temperatures from 25°-29° and occasional temperatures of 32° and 33°. The second half of the month was characterized by cooler temperatures, 22°-25°, and occasional rain. These cooler temperatures caused a shock to the vines and a slowing of their growth.
Just when we all believed that the summer was over, temperatures in August slowly began to rise until they reached 35°-37° during the day and a very warm 22° at night. This brought about an uneven ripening process of the grapes. Each vineyard, and even zones within given vineyards, reacted differently.
We began the harvest on the 31st of August and it continued until the end of September, with our best vineyards being harvested at that time. It was necessary to harvest vineyard by vineyard, even parcel by parcel, based on the characteristics of the soil, the different clones and rootstocks and plant’s age. It was important to recognize that the data accumulated through the years was of little help in 2011 while experience and knowledge of these years was more important than ever.
Generally speaking, and having spoken to a number of friends producing wine in the area, the quality of the vintage was determined by the manner in which the vineyards reacted to the unusual climactic conditions. Varietals also played a vital role in the quality of the vintage. Sangiovese was certainly better suited to such conditions while Merlot, for example, matured too quickly and has resulted in wines with high alcohol levels with little complexity.
One sees this year, above all, and in a positive sense, the importance of the soil being prepared well and a careful choice of rootstocks suited to specific sites.
In the end it was an extremely complex year. While it certainly will not be a bad year, it will not, at the same time, be a great one. Yet, for me, it was a challenge and will continue to be so in the coming months as the wines develop.