The Castello Banfi Vineyard Estate in Montalcino, Tuscany’s premier vineyard estate, wrapped up its harvest on October 13, nearly 60 days after it began picking its white varietals.
The harvest of Chardonnay, followed by Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, started on August 22. Because of high temperatures, picking took place on an early schedule, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., before the hottest hours of the day. While the quality of the fruit brought to the winery was good, there was a 25% reduction in quantity over 2011 due mainly to a long drought and high summertime temperatures.
Harvest of red varietals began in the third week of September with the early ripening Syrah and Merlot, followed by Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. A return to more seasonally normal weather conditions allowed for a return to normal picking times, and the reds also showed good quality though yields were down by about 20%.
“Despite the hot summer, less extreme weather conditions in late August through September were vital for the ripening of polyphenols in the grapes, yielding structure and color,”said Enrico Viglierchio, General Manager of Castello Banfi. “The wide temperature variations between night and day, along with helpful light rainfall, helped re-establish stability in the grapes, creating ideal conditions for the most important phase of ripening for Sangiovese.”
Family proprietor Cristina Mariani-May pointed out that Castello Banfi’s groundbreaking Sangiovese clonal studies and the 29 different soils types found on the property protect Banfi from the pitfalls of annual variation.
“In a great vintage, it’s easy to make good wine across the board,” she said. “But it is in challenging conditions that our unique advantages allow us to continue making consistently excellent wines. We have the ability to select the best fruit from the best plots and to manage each vineyard individually, row by row and vine by vine. Through years of research and trial, we learned to have the patience, foresight, and courage to wait until that ideal moment when nature tells us to bring in the crop.”
Joe Janish is Director of Public Relations for Banfi Vintners, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and a veteran of the wine industry for over 20 years. He launched one of the first wine blogs back in 1997, the now-defunct “Wine Dictator,” and cut his teeth on his grandfather’s homemade wine. He still keeps a copy of Wine for Dummies nearby for reference.