A 'potentially exceptional' vintage - Carson Demmond shares the latest from the Piedmont 2016 harvest...
Piedmont 2016 Harvest Report
The early consensus throughout the Piedmont region is that 2016 stands to be a very promising – and potentially exceptional – vintage. Producers in all zones have been very happy with the outcome of the harvest season, reporting a crop that’s high in both quality and quantity, with sugar concentration to rival the richness of 2015 but with greater structure and livelier acidity.
While most recall a 2015 harvest that was early (following an unusually warm summer) and rushed (due to the threat of rainfall), this year’s was classically timed and relatively stress-free.
‘The weather during harvest was fantastic,’ says Andrea Sottimano, Neive-based Barbaresco vintner.
“We were able to take our time and wait for ripening in every single variety.”
That made for a longer harvest period than in previous vintages, with some producers picking the last of their Nebbiolo as late as the last week of October, benefitting from the great phenolic ripeness prompted by August rains.
‘The grape skins are the best I’ve seen in many years, much like they were in 2010,’ Sottimano says.
Bumper Barolo crop
Chiara Boschis of E. Pira & Figli in Barolo cites another reason for the longer-than-average harvest: there was simply more fruit to pick.
‘Since we are organic, we typically produce 30 to 40 percent less than the quantity allowed by law,’ she says. ‘This year, we only did 15 percent less.’
The only Barolo commune to not benefit from the bumper crop was La Morra, due to losses from hail. Quality, however, does not seem to have been compromised at all.
Just over the Tanaro River in Roero, Stefano Ferrio of Cascina Ca’Rossa reports having to buy new tanks mid-harvest to accommodate the abundant fruit. ‘We’ve never seen anything like it,’ he says.
And it’s already proving a great year for whites there, the Arneis having finished its alcoholic fermentation. Tank samples across the board were brisk and juicy, with a saltiness recalling the area’s shell-laced soils.
Further north in Alto Piemonte, the harvest results were consistent with those in Langhe in terms of both quality and quantity, although some parcels in Lessona and Bramaterra suffered losses from frost and others from the late-May hail.
The more humid zones experienced some problems with downy mildew, and, as Cristiano Garella notes, ‘it’s a vintage that showed very well who was able to best work their vineyards.’ Canopy management and timing for treatments were crucial. For those who succeeded at both, the wines will have the stuffing of 2015 ‘but with better balance and fresher aromas,’ Garella says.