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  Editorial Issue 133, October 2014   
Mala Tempora CurruntMala Tempora Currunt  Contents 
Issue 132, September 2014 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 134, November 2014

Mala Tempora Currunt


 This month I would like to mention Marcus Tullius Cicero - a famous politician and philosopher of Ancient Rome - and one of his most famous quotes. For the sake of truth, the quote is Mala tempora currunt sed peiora parantur, that is “bad times are upon us but the worst has yet to come”. I wanted to omit the final part in order to be wisely optimistic while trusting - of course - the future will not however be that bad. Or, at least, this is what I want to wish us, because - I am sure of this - things will not be that bad for everyone. As we are talking about wine which, commercially speaking, in recent times it is not having a good fate as there are many wineries having a huge number of bottles still unsold and which will be forced to put them on sale, I guess it is better to think positive. Only for this reason, “bad times are upon us” and this is true for producers for sure who do not certainly need new accidents for which it is required to find a solution. On this regard, it is wished they could use this time for making better grapes and wines.


 

 The title is referred to the meteorological conditions of 2014 which in Italy have certainly not helped the fate of grapes in vineyards. Rain, heavy rains, a summer very rich in water, something not happening since a lot of years. Such an atypical season has been cause of many troubles, not only for the ones making wine and cultivate vines, but - generally speaking - to all the food and agriculture production. By traveling in Italy, it was not so difficult - this year - to see vineyards heavily damaged by the effects of downy mildew and powdery mildew, as well as devastated fields of wheat, fruits and olives in remarkable delay of ripeness: the situation is considered at risk for many. Heavy rains and the lack of sunshine, have caused a significant delay in fruit ripeness - including grape - and it is believed harvesting will be postponed of about two weeks. Fifteen days may be considered “not so much”, indeed they represent a remarkable risk. 2014 will therefore be a bad vintage, enologically speaking? Of course, no. Not only for the fact wines of this vintage do not exist yet - therefore it would make no sense to say anything about them - as well as for the fact not all the Italian regions had this particularly bad season.

 As fall is coming - and, maybe, by watching what we had in summer, it arrived with many weeks in advance - things in vineyards of certain regions could get even worse. Grape needs to complete its ripeness cycle, however without sunshine this process is pretty difficult. Moreover, the chance of rains will increase - and a lot - the risk of mold. A “plague” which would cause further damages and added to those already caused by downy mildew and powdery mildew, with the result of compromising harvesting even more. Harvesting that, it is very likely, could give grapes with pretty modest quantity of sugar, therefore making wines with low quantity of alcohol and a pretty high crispness. This is related, of course, to sound grapes which will be possible to harvest. In this not properly positive scenario, many producers have however said the grape they will be successful in “saving” is of good quality.

 There are producers - like to say - who have raised a white flag already, on the contrary, others are even happy for what they harvested in their vineyards, such us Sicilian vintners. There are some who will not be successful in harvesting any grape bunch and others who have said there will not be any 2014 vintage for what they consider to be their best wines or however the most significant ones. This could be considered as an act of honesty and respect towards their clients and - indeed - it is, also in order to safeguard their good name and the quality of certain wines. The ones who will not be successful in harvesting significant grapes - both in quality and quantity terms - will certainly have to find a good solution in order to not compromise the profit for 2014. The easiest solution is to buy grapes from the ones who have some of “acceptable quality” and wish to sell it. Not to mention, it is not so difficult to understand there will be a sort of speculation of prices because of the high demand. Mors tua, vita mea. (Your death, my life)

 On the other hand, the lower temperature - that in certain areas of Italy has never been significantly high - will let grapes to keep certain aromatic characteristics. We will therefore have less alcoholic wines, however more acidic and with good aromas. Like to say, every cloud has a silver lining or, better to say, it is always wise to be happy with what you get. In case we want to be “bad”, we could also say the lack of sugar in grapes can be corrected by adding concentrated must and the excessive acidity can be lowered by simply using legal and licit methods. However, it should be noticed these methods are not used in bad vintages only: they simply represent some possibilities they have in order to correct a wine when needed. In some countries, for example, the lack of sugar can be corrected - and legally - by adding sucrose, the common “table sugar”, something being notoriously forbidden in Italy.

 The situation must not however be considered “tragic”, nevertheless, let's wait until 2014 wines will be poured in glasses before shedding useless tears. Preliminary figures say in Italy we will have a decrease in grape harvesting of about 15%. As a matter of fact, it was since 1950 we did not have such a poor harvesting in Italy and this will yield - according to figures - a production of about 41 millions hectoliters of wine. For the ones loving the endless, although useless, challenge Italy versus France, our country will lose the first rank in the world about wine production and will pass that to France, where it is believed wine production will be of 47 millions hectoliters. Mala tempora currunt: the ones loving this challenge will be sorry to hear that. Central Italy seems to be the only area in Italy where things seems to be better and, they say, it will be even capable of increasing harvesting of 10% more than 2013. No matter how things will be, it will be a successful harvesting, nevertheless for the fact vintners of our country - despite the heavy rains, hails and bad weather - will be capable of giving us great wines. I am sure of this and Marcus Tullius Cicero will not be sorry if I dared to change his quote: mala tempora currunt sed meliora parantur. Bad times are upon us but the best has yet to come. At least in wineries and in glasses: time - I am sure about this - will give us remarkable satisfactions even in this bizarre 2014. Ad maiora! (Towards greater things!)

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 133, October 2014   
Mala Tempora CurruntMala Tempora Currunt  Contents 
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