Harvest – vintage – processing the grapes

This year’s prospects
September 2016
The hot weather of 2015, much appreciated by all South Tyrolean winemakers, was followed in 2016 by a somewhat wetter and cooler spring and summer: good conditions for fresh, acid-toned white wines. For the red varieties, which take longer to mature on the vine, a dry late summer is hoped for with cool to colder nights, which is of particular importance for the Blauburgunder (Pinot Nero). The year 2016 was characterised by a particularly mild winter, which on occasion raised concerns that the vines would not have sufficient time to rest and would start to bud unusually early. But the weather then turned cooler, with more precipitation: budding still occurred early, but a little later than previously feared. In summer the weather was noticeably more unstable with very frequent heavy rainfall in July and August. The months from June to August were not particularly warm and were relatively damp. Powdery and downy mildew caused major problems for the winegrowers, while the spotted-wing drosophila was also particularly noticeable on the Vernatsch (Schiava) grapes.
“What will this year’s harvest be like?” We ask two celebrated South Tyrolean winemakers.

Markus Prackwieser is one of the rising generation of young South Tyrolean winemakers, who runs his parents’ Gumphof farm in Völs. The Gumphof and indeed the whole of the southern Eisack Valley is climatically blessed by winds from the south, including the “Ora” that blows northwards from Lake Garda in the afternoon, while the nights are generally rather cool. The Gumphof is therefore an ideal location for the Sauvignon and especially Weissburgunder (Pinot Bianco) grapes. “I am very much reminded of the rather difficult year of 2014. For me, a long vegetation phase is extraordinarily important for the grapes, so we have to hope for favourable weather in September and October. Because, while a warm summer is also important for winegrowers, the most important phase is the period just before the harvest! Thanks to the advantageous wind conditions at the Gumphof and in the upper Eisack Valley, the grapes are so far in good condition. I expect this will be a good year for white wines – for the red ones, as I said, we have to hope for warm days before the harvest before we can say any more, however.”

Since 2005 Wolfgang Tratter from Mölten has been the cellar master at the St. Pauls wine co-operative. After his years of study he returned from Switzerland as an unknown quantity: only in the winegrowing circles at South Tyrol’s Laimburg Agricultural Research Centre could murmurs be heard that he had probably been one of the best in his class. “After the unpredictable summer weather we can probably look forward to exciting, very fresh and fruity white wines. I personally am a big fan of sparkling wines and, if I recall 2014, a comparable year, I believe I can say that we will be making perfect, acid-rich basic wines that will encourage fantastic sparkling wine production using the classic bottle-fermentation process. Perhaps the red wines will be a little less full-bodied, but also a little more elegant than in the warm year of 2015. This will be particularly noticeable for the Blauburgunder wines, which in the last years have seen increasing attention in the international wine world. Cool nights in the early autumn in South Tyrol will ensure that the Blauburgunder grapes are particularly aromatic with fine tannins.”
The Vinum Hotel wine bulletin for October:

The törggelen season – how have the must and the new wine altered over the decades? The autumn tradition of “törggelen” (the word comes from the traditional wine press known in South Tyrol as a “Torggl”) has existed here for centuries. As soon as the chestnuts are ripe and the sweet must begins to ferment or is freshly produced as new wine (the so-called “Nuie”), there is a rush of activity in the wine shops throughout South Tyrol’s winemaking valleys. The classic wine month of October will see old and new “törggelen” habits being presented.