Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 101, November 2011   
2011 is a Great Vintage. No One Can Doubt About This!2011 is a Great Vintage. No One Can Doubt About This!  Contents 
Issue 100, October 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 102, December 2011

2011 is a Great Vintage. No One Can Doubt About This!


 We Italians do live in a special Country. Almost magic. At least, according to a viticultural and wine making point of view. It may happen everything in vineyards, a hurricane, torrid and hot summer season, wind sweeping leaves away, snow freezing vines, the quality of grapes is always safe from any adversity. They are always of high quality, getting better and better each passing year. Not even to mention, the prediction of every year gives us the dream of heavenly wines, excellent, of impeccable quality, always rated with the best scores. We are very lucky - we wine lovers - to live in such a special Country capable of not being affected by the course of time and seasons. Every year the large vineyard of our Country is capable of making - everywhere and no matter what, even in the most remote place of the boot - wines of exceptional quality: our vines are bionic, always capable of magnificent performances, mindless of what is going on around them.


 

 For example, let's consider 2011. At least in Italy, summer has been extremely torrid, very hot, something not happening since many years. Vintners had many troubles in order to fight the heat that, literally, was burning grapes, at least according to the initial comments from many vintners; some noticed the quantity of harvested grapes would have been lower than past years. Notwithstanding the extraordinary result - a real proud for Italian enology - for having surpassed France in the production of quantity of wine. Of course, we expect the next year everyone will complain for the fact we did not surpass France in this prestigious and fundamental wine making competition, in which the only important aspect is quantity with no consideration for quality. After all, when you do not have anything better, everyone is happy with what you have and with what you can. Of course, I am not saying Italian wine is of poor quality: indeed, quality of Italian wine is very high, with remarkable cases of true excellence. And it is on this aspect we should focus on, not on competitions about quantity.

 If there are many to talk about a diminishing of grape production - and therefore of wine - there are others who say that, despite of the lower harvested quantity, the quality of grapes is of the highest quality, remarkable and excellent quality. In other words, those who were afraid of not being reassured also in this year, can sleep tight and have sweet dreams: 2011 will give us, once again, exceptional wines of the highest quality. No one has mentioned the fatidic “harvesting of the century” yet, however it is very likely this will happen again for this vintage too. We are so used to that and it is impossible to live without the idea of having ahead of us, on time and reassuring, a vintage of the century. We produced a lower quantity of grape, but what we harvested in our vineyards is of high, very high quality. Who could dare to doubt about this? According to the preliminary data issued by Italian wine makers association, the production of grapes in Italy is lower than 15% in regard of 2010.

 According to the data issued by Assoenologi (Italian Wine Makers Association), the production of wine expected for 2011 will be of about 40.3 hectoliters, among the lowest in the past 60 years. Despite the high quality of 2011 wines - or at least, they say so - the lowering of production in vineyards is causing some troubles which will not make producers happy nor consumers. The lower harvested quantity has in fact caused a raise of grape prices, a raise that - in some cases - was of about 35%. This raise of prices is not associated to the quality of grapes, indeed by the lower available quantity of raw matter as a consequence of a high demanding. If the raw matter - the grape - has a higher cost, it is likely the final product, the wine, will be sold at higher prices. Saved the case in which producers decide to renounce to part of profits, something that, in these not truly good times according to an economic point of view, represents a remarkable commercial risk.

 There is no doubt the unusual course of 2011 - which resulted in a relevant anticipation of vine's biological phases - forced producers to make hard choices, in particular for red grapes. Technological ripeness of grapes, that is the one determined by measuring the quantity of sugar and acid contained in the berry, suggested to proceed with harvesting, phenological ripeness, that is the one determining the highest quantity of extractable polyphenols, suggested it was better to wait. It is commonly known, in the process of grape ripening, with time the quantity of sugar tends to increase, while the quantity of acid substances tends to diminish. The decision of harvesting is also determined by this balance: to get the right quantity of sugar without a substantial loss of acidity. In red grapes is also taken in consideration the variable of polyphenols, which must be harvested at the right time and according to technological ripeness.

 In many cases, in order not to risk a substantial loss of acidity, producers have decided not to wait for phenological ripeness and have started harvesting, in order to have a technological ripe fruit although with a lower quantity of tannins. The risk was, as it can be easily said, the drying of grapes while waiting for phenological ripeness. With this presupposition, red wines - in certain cases - will not be capable of giving their best, saved the cases in which they will correct this during production with proper and legal remedies. Also the climate factor will certainly influence quality, finesse and longevity of wine. And, in this sense, 2003 - which was not a mild vintage - has widely proven, just like other similar years, the effects of a torrid summer season. I have no intention to judge or telling predictions about 2011: I think it would not make much sense to judge what you do not know. My position is always the same, despite the many praiseworthy comments and the unmistakable predictions: I am here and waiting with a glass and a corkscrew at hand. It is the only prediction which really counts. At least to me.

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 101, November 2011   
2011 is a Great Vintage. No One Can Doubt About This!2011 is a Great Vintage. No One Can Doubt About This!  Contents 
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