Was it possible to make a “great” wine in Italy’s “punishingly hot and dry” 2017 vintage?

Above, right: Gianni Maccari, winemaker and grower at Ridolfi in Montalcino, with his vineyard management team.

“From 1st January to 31st May [2017]” wrote my friend Laura Gray, a grower and winemaker in Montalcino, “we had just 126 ml of rainfall (for comparison in 2015 we received 292 mm… The summer was punishingly hot and dry, the only positive being that these conditions also mean zero issues or intervention for mildew. Deciduous trees lost their leaves months ahead of time; oaks were orange-tipped, cereal crops harvested early and the land was parched.”

For observers of the Italian wine trade, it’s hard to forget about the immense challenges of the 2017 vegetative cycle, especially in Tuscany where a devastating late-spring frost was followed by — to use Laura’s word — a “punishingly hot and dry” summer.

As the 2017 Brunello begins to make its way through the U.S. market, I’ve already tasted a couple of wines that have really impressed me with their finesse and freshness — not what many where expecting.

One of those wines was the 2017 Brunello di Montalcino made by Gianni Maccari at Ridolfi. Gianni, in my view, is one of the most exciting winemakers on the ground there right now. And the wines I’ve tasted, back to the 2015 vintage, have been nothing short of stunning, the 2017 included.

Gianni’s wines are imported to the U.S. by my client Ethica Wines. Today, on their blog, I published my translation of his notes on the 2017 vintage and the techniques he used to mitigate the severe weather conditions.

Check it out here.

Gianni’s notes remind me of what another Montalcino great, Piero Talenti, purportedly once said: There are no “bad” vintages. There are just vintages when we make less wine.

This just in: I just got word from my friend Raffaella Guidi Federzoni, a Montalcino insider, that the special New York edition of Benvenuto Brunello is going to take place February 23-24 (although with limited participants). I can’t find an official registration link or any info on the event. But it is supposedly happening.

Photo via the Ridolfi Facebook.

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