With the spectre of drought haunting wine regions across Europe this summer, Italian producers have moved to counter suggestions of a difficult 2005 vintage.

‘From Trentino down to Sardinia, the outlook for Italy’s harvest is bright,’ says winemaker consultant Carlo Ferrini. ‘I haven’t seen such perfect climatic conditions and healthy grapes in years.’

‘Quality-wise it is similar to 2004 with 15% lower yields,’ says Fausto Peratoner, MD of Cantina Lavis in Trentino.

Piedmont’s Tenimenti Fontanafredda says this year will produce an excellent vintage, with Nebbiolo giving some promising aromas.

Mattia Vezzola, from Franciacorta’s top Bellavista estate, says 2005 is looking ‘very interesting’ but is waiting to harvest the grapes before making a definitive statement.

‘For now, things look much the same as 2004, except later-running, and back on track with regard to a classic harvest,’ said Carlo Schioppetto in Friuli. ‘We aim to start harvesting on 10 September.’

In Tuscany the vibes are positive despite low water levels. ‘Right now things are looking very good,’ says Enrico Viglierchio, head of Banfi in Montalcino. ‘The quality is excellent and the quantities much the same as 2004.’

Marco Pallanti, of Castello di Ama in Chianti, is not so confident. He is concerned about the summer drought which is not just affecting Tuscany – forecasts for the Veneto predict a 10% drop in yields on 2004. He is also worried about uneven grape ripening after erratic weather conditions in the past two weeks.

‘Some grapes are further ahead than others within the same vineyard,’ he said.

However, Emilio Fasoletti, director of the Consorzio Valpolicella, is more optimistic. ‘We had good rains last week, so we are not worried about the lack of water here in the Veneto.’

In the Marche the province of Ascoli Piceno experienced a heavy but patchy hailstorm last month.

‘Cantina Sociale Colli Ripani lost about 20% of its production and that is fairly representative for Ascoli,’ said Colli Ripani’s winemaker Fabrizio Ciufoli.

Further south, in Puglia,Paolo Cantele says that winter rains filled the water reserves and 2005 is looking like one of the best harvests of the last few years.

In Sicily optimism reigned as Planeta began harvesting the first early ripening grapes on 8/9 August and Donnafugata hosted a night of jazz at its Contessa Entellina estate to celebrate the first night of harvesting Chardonnay on 10 August.

Written by Michèle Shah