That’s an image captured this week in Montalcino where the grower completed harvest last Friday.
To the layperson, it may just seem like a picturesque Tuscan vineyard. But to the trained eye, it’s a truly bizarre image, the type that belongs to the “never seen anything like it” category, as one Montalcino farmer put it. The vines should be beginning to shut down now, the natural progression of the vines’ yearly rhythm. Instead, the vines are actually producing more vegetation (the opposite of what typically happens after harvest, wrote the author of the image).
Many Italian growers have remained silent on social media about the immense challenges they face with the 2017 harvest. But privately, I’ve been receiving emails from across the Italic peninsula recounting the pervasive effects of one of the strangest vegetative cycles in recent memory.
“It’s been a Blade Runner vintage,” wrote my friend and client Stefano Cinelli Colombini, who runs his family’s historic farm in Montalcino. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” (He’s referring to the legendary “Tears in Rain” monologue from the movie.)
Stefano’s been one of the few winemakers I know who has openly chronicled this unparalleled and uniquely odd vintage (and I’ve been translating his notes regularly for the winery’s blog).
There’s a famous adage in Italian viticultural apocrypha: there are no bad vintages, there are just vintages where we make less wine. Stefano’s still optimistic about the Brunello his vineyards will deliver this year, even though the yields are extremely low.
Between the early onset of spring and then the disastrous late spring frosts, between the crushing heat of the summer and the late end-of-days rainfall (not to mention that hailstorms that plagued many parts of Italy), one thing is for certain: no one will forget the otherwise unimaginable 2017 vintage.