Our history making ‘JAMM’ session with the ‘Masters of Pignolo’ is evolving nicely.

With the 2016 harvest concluded, all the preliminary indicators suggest we’re looking at one of ‘THE’ great Pignolo vintages… either on or off the record! Like who knew?

‘Cos it didn’t start out that way!

Considered one of Friuli’s earliest flowering varieties, spring rains caused initial concern amongst Pignolo growers. While a precocious bloomer Pignolo is also one of the regions last to be harvested. Spanning such a long growth cycle, there’s always time for nature to mend its way. Even in July, when high temperatures created water stress issues for those vineyards on higher, less fertile ground, the potential impact was allayed by a series of well-timed rain bursts.

Infact touring the Pignolo vineyards prior to and during the harvest, all the vines were noticeably vibrant.

And not just Pignolo we might add. Friuli has a bounty of riches when it comes to native red grapes – Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino and Tazzelenghe – and all were bedecked in canopy’s of dense leafy greens.

Brimming with vitality, across the hillsides, we encountered beautiful evenly maturing fruit. PIGNOLO is a small, round, relatively thick skinned berry whose diameter rarely exceeds 1cm. We measured it. Quite often they’re very much smaller. Curiously, for such a small fruit, the ‘PIP to PULP’ ratio is stacked heavily in favour of the former, with an average 3 large pips embedded in its delicately sweet pulp. We picked and tasted our fair share and honestly, we’re talking seriously good vibes.

Across the board we’re talking HIGH QUALITY crops.

To make an evaluation, it helps to understand that one doesn’t speak of Pignolo in terms of volume/quantity. It’s simply not a big yielder. If you get an average 700g of fruit per vine, you’re onto a good thing. One winery recounted to us how their average 2016 yield was a mere 360g per plant. Yep. No discussion of ‘green harvesting’ with our pal Pignolo. You gotta take what you get!.

You can trace the home of Pignolo from the terraced hills of Rosazzo, Buttrio and Manzano, to those of Cividale, Cialla and Prepotto then heading south via Spessa and Corno di Rosazzo taking in Dolegnano and Cormons before then heading left to Ruttars and on up to over the hills to Oslavia before winding back down onto the Isonzo plain near Gradisca. In each and every townland, thanks to September’s “Indian Summer”, each and every Pignolo vineyard was blessed with climatic conditions that couldn’t have been finer. Infact the 20 days leading up to and including picking were exceptional. Think about warm days, the gift of a long summer drift, dating the cool nights of impending seasonal change. How to reach maturity! Yeah, the relaxed smiles on the ground were enough to tell you something special was in the Offing.

And so to the harvest itself.

While some producers were surprisingly tempted to ‘get it on early’ from the 3rd week in September, the majority held out for an October date. And for their patience, the additional hang-time rewarded them with the elusive natural ‘maturita fenolica’. To us people that’s – Acidity, Sugars, Tannins and Antocyanins – all singing in 4 part harmony. Sensational stuff!

Actually for Pignolo, whose tannic potency can often overpower when immature, it’s essential to get this balance right. It’s such an idiosyncratic grape, nothing can ever be taken as a given. Even in a good vintage, it can be very unforgiving to those who miss a beat.
But 2016 hasn’t been a good vintage.

It’s been a bloody brilliant vintage with ‘quintals of Pignolo potential’ soaking away as we speak. Will the ’16 stack up against the ’97 Dorigo or Walter Filiputti’s landmark ’99 Abbazia di Rosazzo ? The latter of which the great Veronelli spoke so highly! Or how about some of the more recent vintages that we’ve tasted lately…. ’04, ’05, 06, ’07…. which will easily go another 10 rounds in the cellar. And then there’s the babes from ’09, ’10, ’11 and ’12, many of which are just hitting the shelves now. Known unknowns!! …more about all these in time.

What ever it may become, there’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty….we bore witness to PIGNOLO 2016 as it tapped into a stunning alignment of sun, moon and stars. In such bright terms, it now rests with the winemakers to determine just ‘how dazzling it will be’…

Guidelines indicate release NOT before November 2019.

Meaning the ‘earliest’ samplings should probably hit the tasting table from 2020!

…..yeah, the future may seem ‘Slow Coming’… but heck, for the 2016 it’ll be here in 36,000 hours or so! All the time we need to get acquainted with the creative fruits of BENJAMIN BOOKER !!

PIGNOLO…patience IS a virtue !

‘The Future is Slow Coming’ – Benjamin Booker

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