Summer rain has left winemakers across northern Italy facing difficult conditions for the 2014 harvest, but while many still remain optimistic there are higher hopes further south in the country.

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Peter McCombie MW hosts a Chianti Classico tasting at Decanter’s Simply Italian – Great Wines even in London.

Italy is heading for its smallest wine grape harvest since 1950, with total production from the 2014 vintage forecast at 41m hectolitres, according to the country’s Coldiretti farmers’ union.

Non-stop rain through much of August has hampered grape ripening and is likely to lead to higher wastage in the vineyards.

But, it remains early days and several winemakers who attended Decanter’s Simply Italian – Great Wines trade and consumer tasting in London this week warned that the vintage might not be as bad as some fear.

‘It’s a strange vintage this year,’ said Andrea Lonardi, operations director of Bertani Domains, which groups together several wineries including Puiatti in Friuli-Venezia Giulia – where harvest is already underway – as well as Tenimenti Angelini in Montalcino and San Leonino in Castellina in Chianti.

‘In the north, it’s going to be difficult because we’ve had a lot of rain and the temperature has been lower than usual.’
Lonardi said Bertani has already decided it won’t produce its high-end Amarone Classico from the 2014 vintage, due to unstable weather conditions. The group prefers to use traditional methods of drying grapes outside on bamboo.

However, some regions are likely to fare better than others. In much of central and southern Tuscany, weather has been more stable.

‘It’s never going to be an exceptional vintage but we’ve had no rain for 15 days so, if that continues, it could be quite a good harvest,’ Leonardi said.

At this early stage, Sicily has staked an early claim to be the winner of the 2014 vintage. ‘It’s been exceptional there. It’s been cooler than usual, which should give the wines more finesse and not too much power,’ Leonardi said.

In Piedmont, Paolo Gagliardo, of Gianni Gagliardo winery, said the estate won’t begin the Nebbiolo harvest until the end of the month, meaning time is still on producers’ side.

‘It’s been the most cold and rainy summer for 100 years, but actually some people have been talking too much and too early,’ he said. ‘It’s been getting warmer [recently] and the grapes are growing well and absorbing the water.’

Written by Chris Mercer