2017 Pre-Harvest Review

The Harvest in Friuli Venezia Giulia is kicking off in earnest this week.

And according to our trusty local tec-xperts, the indicators are positive for another Quality harvest in Italy’s far northeastern corner. Following on from the good fortunes of #V15 & #V16 vintages,
does this mean in Friuli we’re talking THREE Q marks in a row?
For most it may be an overall ‘YAY’, but for others it’s more of a ‘NAY’.

Here’s the WHY!

In their annual ASSOENOLOGI FVG Pre-Harvest Review, delivered 24/08 at the Tenuta Ca Vescovo in historic Aquileia, president Rodolfo Rizzi and his assembled team of specialists (oenologists, agronomists & meteorologists) presented the beats, both ups and downs of the vintage so far. Weather peaks & troughs have featured right across the European vineyard this year and needless to say, Friuli wasn’t spared its own share of the misery. According to regional meteorologist, Marco Virgilio, there were 3 noteworthy events:

*April 19-21 FROST: In Friuli, low lying vineyards were most effected but even in hills, where micro-climates are often positive game changers, some cellars surprisingly found themselves chilled to the bone.
*June – HAILSHOWERS: In particular the end of June was marked by a series of fierce hail showers that shredded unlucky vineyards in their path. Some of the most unfortunate wineries to feel natures blunt edge were located east of Udine in the hills around Buttrio.
*August 10 – WIND: Extremely high winds brought destruction, downing trees causing structural damage a plenty. It appears those vineyards using higher trained cultivation systems, like Sylvoz, suffered the most damage.

Weather, as well we know, is indiscriminate.

The combined effect of these #3 events, together with the wave of above average temperatures, is estimated to have cost Friuli’s winemakers 15% of their 2017 crop (circa 13 million litres of jus!). Ouch! As punches go, this is on the proverbial belt line. But as Marco Virgilio was quick to underline, any of these kind of individual events can happen at any time, with little advance warning. The local frosts of 1997 and 2008 were cited as cases in point.

Climate, on the other hand, is the more pressing issue that needs to be reckoned with. What local meterologists find marked about #V17 in Friuli is the ‘significantly higher than average temperatures’. Apart from January, which came within the expected min/max bands, every other month since then has exhibited higher than average max temperatures, as much as 3-4 C above the norm. Min temperatures remaining in line with expectation. Remembering the 26 C we felt traveling around the vineyards at the end of March, this temperature pattern is what makes #V17 so noteworthy. Reduced river flows and drying river beds, due to the lack of winter rain and snow, are increasingly evident too! Rather than being incidental, the experts now have the data in hand to demonstrate these patterns are trending. We’ve duly noted.

In terms of agronomy and general vineyard health, apart from the aforementioned events, prevailing conditions throughout the vintage (sun, heat and rainfall) ensured that mildew’s (downy & powdery) and other fungal dis-ease couldn’t gain traction among the vines. In what is considered Italy’s wettest region, the relative absence of peronospora & oidium is always a positive. But growers were reminded by agronomists Claudio Fabbro, Giovanni Bigot & Gabriele Marche that everyone needs to be up to speed for those humid conditions when temperatures topping 35C and rain prevail together. For this, special mention was given to Friuli’s new cloud-based vineyard monitoring service. According to Bigot, this has already begun to greatly assist winemakers with real-time updates of vineyard analysis from right across the region. Considering Friuli’s growing movement away from chemical interventions toward more environmentally-friendly sustainable growth initiatives, access to real-time data is and will be increasingly important for all concerned. In terms of our own field-tripping this past week, we happily found vines, grapes and winemakers all to be in fine health.

Returning to the weather, well as of today, the forecast is currently indicating warm relatively stable weather for the next two weeks. Indeed the weathermen say the average ‘max’ daily temperature is expected to sit just below 30 C until 8/9 September !! Evening temperatures will begin dropping to expected seasonally cooler levels. With excursions of this nature, at this time, it favours the delivery of healthy mature fruit. So you could say Friuli is approaching the ideal harvest window.

Time to knock on wood!.

Whites are up first, most likely to start later in the week 29/30/31 August. While for the Reds, there’s no rush just yet….current suggestion is for the end of September, early October. Pazienza is the name of the game.

Overall agreement….

Qualitatively speaking…. Friuli #V17 is treading a similar path to 2015 and so promises a healthy and ‘relatively happy’ harvest for the 85% of the crop that remains.

To Friuli and all northern hemisphere harvesters everywhere, let’s get it started !

Here’s to a memorable crush.



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