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2017 strained our winemakers to the limit. This was one of the driest year of the latest decades. The first months of the year were variable with some rains only at the end of February and March.
Then, some late frosts occurred, but from May onwards rainfalls were very low. Chianti areas registered only few storms in late spring. Apart from these low rainfalls, temperatures too were always above the seasonal average and, in some periods, especially in July and August, reached high heat spikes.
Only the first days of September some rains occurred, not generous, but sufficient to stop that heat that has been straining vines and grapes since long time. These late rains were still useful to complete the grape ripening process in the best possible way.
In order to face this unusual weather condition, it has never been essential as it was this year to focus on vineyard management. Thanks to care, precision and diligence of our winemakers in the winemaking process, we could make healthy and quality grapes.
The quantities of produced grapes in the Gallo Nero terroir were affected – as it happened in all the rest of the country – by this unusual seasonal trend and the extreme heat.
The figures related to production reports in 2017 in Chianti Classico (HI. 206,000) confirm a 27% of production decrease, marking thus the lowest level of production of the last 40 years.
Despite the significant decrease in produced quality, the 2017 wines are pleasantly surprising since their first tastings in terms of quality. Yet the colour gives wonderful impressions because in general it conveys very interesting, lively and deep intensity and shades. The nose impact is enjoyable too for being intense, varied with important fruity notes.
Tannins are generally mature and smooth in the mouth. Overall, this proves to be a very enjoyable vintage that, despite the initial scepticism, made quality wines that worth also waiting for their future evolution.
Overall production: hl 281,000
Seasonal trend: the 2016 vintage profile was standard, without any health problems in vineyards. The only noteworthy event was the low rainfalls registered at the end of July when veraison was going on, but the water stress was overcome by rainfalls at the end of August and beginning of September.
The balance was also supported by the heat regularity without extreme spikes in the last month, and this helped grapes ripening with no overripe or cooked fruit. The excellent summer saw low rainfalls and high temperatures in July and August, but above all the great night temperature shifts allowed to expect wines of high levels of aromatic profiles and excellent acidity. More than other, this is a vintage that highlights the features of Sangiovese: extract values, anthocyanis, polyphenols and unique and concentrated varietal aromas.
Overall production: 300,000 hl
Seasonal trend: the 2015 vintage in Chianti Classico is excellent if considering the exemplary quality of grapes and the regular climatic trend. Winter was mitigated with some cold days with temperatures below zero. Springtime was very mild with medium-high temperatures that allows a regular vegetative budding. Summer months were generally excellent with low rainfalls and high temperatures in July and August, balanced by good night temperature shifts.
All the phenological phases (budding, flowering, ripening and veraison) were perfect. It is a high-quality level vintage that, more than others, highlights the features of Sangiovese: extract values, anthocyanis, polyphenols and unique and concentrated varietal aromas.
Overall production: 293,000 hl
Seasonal trend: 2014 saw strong temperature shifts and abundant rainfalls with short but copious rains and windy days with temperatures below the seasonal average. This strained winemakers a lot, but those who decided to divide the work into more phases and to focus more on vineyards during the vegetative ripening process could get excellent quality wines.
Technical and winemaking efforts carried out in the months before harvest were able to reach quality standards out of a 2014, a very particular vintage. Many wineries had to invest on workforce and working hours to control extreme humidity through thinning and drying and disinfecting risk areas (low-level vineyards). In fact, at the end of summer, winemakers from centre-northern Italy were facing one of the most difficult vintage in history. No exception for Chianti Classico, where climatic conditions favoured the parasite attack in some areas.
The first grape samples of the area, picked up at the end of August, resulted not completely veraisoned with high acidity. However, the favourable climatic conditions in September and the first mid of October, with summer temperatures and cool nights, allows grapes to a gradual but complete ripening. This, in middle of October, made it possible to harvest grapes (especially Sangiovese) able to make elegant and balanced wines with high levels of aromas and acidity, perfect to their next ageing.
The wines of 2014 vintage have a non-conventional personality showing a very intense colour thanks to good anthocyan extraction and the evident hallmark of Sangiovese that conveys structure and harmony to wines for the high level of polyphenols. Despite all the difficulties encountered during the various phases before harvest, the production of Chianti Classico 2014 was good also in terms of quantity, above the average of the latest years.
Overall production: 258,000 hl
Seasonal trend: 2013, from the only meteorological point of view, registered a high level of rainfalls during the first three months of the year with temperatures often below the seasonal average. After a real winter that this year registered temperatures near zero in Chianti, spring came late and caused a late flowering.
The real heat came at middle of July and hastened the grape ripening process that continued regularly during the summer when it registerd the typical seasonal temperatures and a perfect September that highlighted the temperature shifts already occurred at summer and allowed a very balanced ripening of the grapes.
Technical and winemaking efforts carried out in the months before harvest were able to reach quality standards. After the first samples of Sangiovese grapes, the real heart of Chianti Classico, that already showed a good level of sugar and acidity, now that everything is done, we can confirm that in the Gallo Nero areas the grape quality is above the average with excellent polyphenol maturity levels in perfect balance with the acidity structure of the grapes.
As it often happens in very hot and dry vintages, these parameters, along with the sugar concentration of musts that is not extremely high, allowed the winemaking process to enhance all the grape potentials. The alcohol and then the malolactic fermentations showed unexpected starts and regular developments without any problem. This proved the grapes were healthy and the balance of their main noble components was optimal.
The wines of Chianti Classico 2013 are very balanced in aromas and mouth structure, and above all tastes are well measured: polyphenols, extract, tannins, glycerine are balanced and harmonious. No element dominates the others, also thanks to alcohol levels that are not extreme and developed according to the seasonal climatic trend.
Overall production: 233,000 hl
Seasonal trend: 2012 will be remembered in the Gallo Nero area for the great worry at the end of summer when, after months of drought, they think a very hard vintage was about to come. Luckily, already at the end of August, after a season of low levels of water and one of the hottest summers of the last years in Chianti, rainfalls came back and led to get enough water to promise a good vintage of Chianti Classico despite this unusual season.
Off course, the climatic trend registered up to end of August influenced the grape quality then gone to the cellar. The production of 2012 is around 235,000 hl with a quantity decrease of about 16% than last year, but the quality of this vintage is surprisingly rising month after month.
Seasonal trend. The beginning of the year started with a normal seasonal trend: cold and snow in January and February, and a mild and rainy spring, especially in April. After the rainfalls of beginning of May, water disappeared not only in the Gallo Nero area but throughout the whole country and, at the same time, temperatures rose. July and August brought, along with different phenomena with more or less epic names, boiling temperatures.
These conditions, associated to poor water supplies of the ground, partially slowed down the grape ripening process but it never stopped. Rainfalls at beginning of September luckily relaunched the natural development of the grapes and, along with the general decrease of average temperatures and the greater night temperature shifts occurred also in the hottest months in Chianti, favoured the recovery of a situation that seemed very difficult especially for the latest varieties like Sangiovese.
The harvest focused on Sangiovese. It will be just the most important grape variety of Chianti Classico to make this new vintage standing out: in fact, Sangiovese, thanks to its greater ability to adapt to hard temperature conditions, survived the climatic imbalance of this season.
The positive effects of September allowed an excellent development of ripening process of the grapes that were harvested when it is normally due in the Chianti Classico area, between the end of September and beginning of October. Grapes came to the cellar in perfect health conditions thanks to high temperatures and the lack of humidity that prevented the vine diseases to arise (mildew, powdery mildew).
This allows a proper and sudden development of fermentation that brought a medium-sized alcohol level (around 14 maximum). The wines of Chianti Classico 2012 are very balanced with an exceptional balance between alcohol, acidity and polyphenols that convey smooth wines made of excellent grapes and a good and not extreme alcoholic content.