Harvest Report 2014 - Part 2: The Harvest
Harvesting began on the last day of August, continuing through the entire month of September until the very last grapes were picked on October 10th.
With the first varieties picked, we came off to a great start. Both the Chardonnay and the Merlot had benefited from the mild summer and had reached both sugar and phenolic ripeness, while maintaining a fruity freshness, which is not always a possibility in southern Tuscany. For those of you who have tasted Il Marzocco 2013, the 2014 vintage seems quite similar, while the new Merlot features both structure and distinct, elegant, varietal notes.
The grapes for Vin Santo and Occhio di Pernice were picked with the utmost attention, requiring several passages in the vineyards to ensure that only the healthiest, rot-free bunches would be picked. It is a joy to see the drying room once again filled with grapes, considering that last year there were no Vin Santo grapes.
Adding to the positive note, Cabernet Sauvignon is also looking promising. The loose formation of the Cabernet bunches helped this variety avoid possible problems of botrytis in the last rainy days of summer.
So far, so good.
The power of Terroir
Now, the real challenge was Sangiovese, the core of our winery. Being a late ripening variety, the Sangiovese suffered from the lack of sunshine and struggled to reach a satisfactory state of ripening, regardless of our efforts to assist it with additional horn silica treatments and various bunch thinning.
This fortunately did not occur everywhere. 2014 is a year where terroir is fundamental. In fact, an even more intricate grape selection was performed in our best vineyard lots, and the quality achieved here was truly worth the extra effort.
The Sangiovese lots which excelled this year were Poggio Badelle from the Badelle estate, the old vines from the Caprile lot of I Poggetti estate, Banditella, which is the only vineyard of ours located on fluvial sediments, and the vineyard El Grasso.
Finding the courage to wait
In mid-September we were faced with a dilemma: we had to decide whether to pick all our Sangiovese immediately, thus not risking any more rain, or alternatively, thin out even further in the vineyards, hoping that the grapes would reach a better ripening. The latter was the most expensive choice, as it meant both sending many crews on foot into the vineyards, as well as further sacrificing the grape yield. It was the only choice that made sense for us, however, and the results soon showed.
We were able to bring home Sangiovese grapes that had reached a satisfying polyphenolic complexity and balance between tannins, anthocyanins and acidity. The one thing that remained unsatisfactory for some vineyards was the sugar level, but we will elaborate on that issue elsewhere, when we talk about winemaking.
The man and the machine
The majority of our grapes were harvested by machine. Avignonesi used 3 new generation harvesters and our vineyard crew were often working day and night, weekdays and weekends to bring the grapes to the cellar. The busiest period was the last two weeks of September, where we picked mostly Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, bringing in as much as 118 tons of grapes in a single day. Much time was spent on transport, as our vineyards are divided on 10 separate estates which are spread out on quite a large territory.
As we have already mentioned, a first, sanitary selection of the bunches was performed in the vineyards by a crew on foot. Upon arrival to the cellar the grapes, berry by berry, went through a second selection, which was either manual, using a long, vibrating selection table, or electronic, using the Vistalys, an optical selection machine, or sometimes even both. On the busiest of days, three receiving lines worked simultaneously. When you have two hundred hectares of vineyards to pick, time is always of the essence.
After the selection process, the grapes were crushed and the must was pumped to the fermentation tanks in the vinification cellar, which is located just below the grape receiving area. Lodola estate is in fact built on a gravity-flow principle, thus to aid the transport of the wine from crushing to vinification to ageing.
For more information on why we prefer mechanical harvesting to manual harvesting, please read our blog entry from September 22nd. http://www.avignonesi.it/en/stories/2014/romancing-the-grapes-in-love-with-mechanical-harvesters
This is the second vintage we produce and age our wines at the Lodola estate, which we purchased at the end of 2012, and we are satisfied that the organization of the harvest went as smooth as oil this year. It was especially thrilling to see the seamless collaboration between the vineyard and the cellar crew, all working with the same sense of purpose. Also our intern crew of seven young winemakers from all over the world deserve praise.
Cheers to a job well-done!
The entire Avignonesi team, photographed at the harvest party.
Chardonnay: October 31
Trebbiano Toscano: 17-18 September
Malvasia: 3, 17-18, 29-30 September
Grechetto: 17 September
Merlot: 9-10, 14-19 September
Syrah: 16-17 September
Canaiolo: 18 September
Petit Verdot: 22 September
Cabernet Sauvignon: 4, 16, 18, 17-29 September, 1, 10 October
Sangiovese: 5, 9-10, 18-19, 22-24, 27, 30 September, 8-10 October
[A1]Metric or american? I fan american ton it should be 165