As we draw closer to the end of summer, the Italian wine industry begins one of its busiest periods. After months spent tending the vine, producers are finally gearing up for the harvest. It’s not coming quite yet. But very soon, producers all over the country will start to reap what they’ve sewn and hopefully end up with crops of grapes that go into creating the next great examples of Italian wine that will find their way into the Xtrawine collection.
But every Italian wine harvest is different.
No two harvests are the same because producers have to account for everything that came during the growing season. Changes in climate from one year to the other can affect the quality of the grapes producer, as can many other issues. As a result, it’s always interesting to see what the industry predicts for the upcoming harvest because it gives us an idea of what we may see coming from the Italian wines that will soon find their way into shops.
So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
In this article, we explore the 2022 Italian wine harvest and what producers are expecting to come up against.
The Harvest Has Already Begun
Though many producers begin their harvests towards the autumn, some areas of Italy are already well underway. We’ve seen sporadic areas of Sicily harvesting their grapes. But right now, the largest territory that has kicked off its harvest is Franciacorta.
Of course, many Italian wine lovers know this region for producing one of the country’s best sparkling wines.
These early starters may give us an idea of what to expect from the rest of the country’s harvest. Speaking to Wine News, the manager of the Franciacorta Consortium’s Research and Development team, Flavio Serina, clarifies how the weather has a defined impact on the harvest:
“2022 is a definitely unique year. It began with ideal conditions, an excellent production load, and state of health, but the hot and dry weather trend, especially in the months of June and July, is putting vineyards and winemakers to the test.”
“The rainfall during the last week in July has mitigated the water stress situation, creating conditions for a notably early harvest, which still has very interesting characteristics.”
This mention of hot and dry weather during the summer months clues us into an issue that has affected 2022 vintages all over Italy. However, Serina’s comments also highlight just how much quick weather changes can have on a harvest, as he points out that rain towards the end of July has accelerated harvesting and created the possibility of wines with some interacting characteristics.
The Hot and Dry Challenge
The summer heatwave has a huge impact on the 2022 wine harvest. Nowhere has that been more prominently felt than in Tuscany, which is one of the country’s most important wine territories. Known for its wine and olive oil, Tuscany has dealt with blazing temperatures creating droughts. The complete lack of rainfall the territory has experienced means that even grapes that thrive in hot and dry temperatures are struggling to reach their full potential.
It’s not just the summer that has caused challenges. The spring was also hotter and dryer than expected, as Frantoio Grevepese Cooperative president Filippo Legnaioli explains:
“Climatic issues had a decisive influence. We had a very dry spring with practically no rainfall from March to today and this happened at a crucial time during the transition from flower to fruit.”
Though Legnaioli works in the olive oil industry, his comments are reflective of the issues affecting Italian wine producers in Tuscany too.
Take Chianti as an example.
Arguably Tuscany’s most famous wine, Chianti production typically begins in September when the grapes are ready to harvest. But the hot and dry conditions experienced in Tuscany have led to grapes ripening earlier than they normally would. Furthermore, yields are likely to be lower in 2022 than they normally are, as Sergio Cingarelli of the Chianti Classico Consortium puts it:
“We have smaller grapes, and we expect the number of grapes to be lower than the average of the last few years, probably in line with last year’s.”
The Shortfall Across Europe
Cingarelli’s mention of lower yields isn’t a Tuscany problem.
It’s a Europe-wide problem.
Challenging weather conditions throughout Europe have led to producers across Italy, Spain, and France all predicting lower yields than they’ve experienced in more recent years. Current estimates place production at about 117 million hectolitres, which is a steep 18% decline in the production numbers for 2021.
And it’s not just the heat that has caused these problems.
While some areas of Italy experienced unseasonal warm periods during the spring of 2022, others found themselves dealing with frosts. These frosts affected northern Italy, though the French industry dealt with the brunt of them. Yields are expected to be reduced by up to 30% in the regions that had spring frosts.
The Quality Redeemer
All of this makes it sound like 2022 is going to be a bad year for the Italian wine harvest. Many producers have lower yields than expected, which will obviously have a commercial effect. After all, lower yields mean fewer bottles of wine, which leads to lower sales.
But it’s not all bad news.
In fact, many would argue that these lower yields are a good thing for what many point to as the most important aspect of wine – its quality.
Lower yields mean that only the hardiest and most resilient grapes survive the difficult conditions. Those grapes that do pull through are of a higher quality than the grapes that may have been produced were yields much higher.
In short, less volume leads to more quality.
And that’s ultimately what the 2022 Italian wine harvest appears to be promising to consumers. While we may see fewer bottles of wine reaching store shelves, the quality of the vintages is likely going to be higher than they were in 2021.
Of course, the harvest is still underway and the proof will be in the pudding. But it looks like 2022 will be a good year for quality, even if there have been challenges elsewhere. Keep an eye on the Xtrawine collection as we update it regularly to ensure you always have access to the best Italian wines.