The grape harvest in some Italian regions has begun. With the peak of solar activity in 2012, the general expectation was geared toward a warm, ripe and early harvesting vintage. What we can say now is…very little. It is still too early to make predictions on the quality of the vintage.
This summer holiday season has been so excessively hot and dry. In the majority of Italian wine regions there have NOT been problems with diseases, with the exception of a few downy mildew attacks during the first half of June. The constant wind and high temperatures have also significantly lowered the risk of fungal disease for grapes.
The problem? Poor or absent rainfall (especially in central and southern Italy) is still putting at risk the quality of this vintage for those vineyards that grow in dry soils and shallow terrains. We already notice very low levels of malic acid. Only good soil management and a not-too-invasive pruning practice can maintain good nutritional status of the clusters and thus allow for a linear and safe fermentation.
Contrary to common belief, excessive sunshine and hot-dry weather does not result in ‘bigger’ wines from overripe grapes. To the contrary, the plant will go into shutdown due to hydric stress and the clusters will NOT reach ripeness. Photosynthesis will interrupt. It may appear that fruit ripens due to increases in Brix, but that is often a result of simple dehydration, not actual import of sugar.
Flavors in the fruit tend to develop in the last few weeks, so late growing-season stress also affects flavor development. This may result in mono-dimensional, low acid, non- agable and flabby wines for the most part of the 2012 Italian vintage (exceptions made for great producers).
Another 2003? Looks likely…and we can all blame it on the Mayan sun. My advice ? Be picky when you buy your 2012’s.