2018 Vintage: never say never

After a challenging rainy spring, conditions improved significantly during the summer, culminating in almost perfect weather during the harvest – between middle of September and beginning of October.
Our 2018 reds do not appear to be extraordinarily powerful but they display deep colours together with intense and unique aromatics. On the palate they are incredibly fresh, vibrant, and are endowed with refined and silky tannins. The whites show moderate acidities and intense fragrance: peach, apricot with hints of white flower and spearmint.

In recent years mother nature seems moody and willing to put us on a roller coaster of changing vintage patterns. After the drought of 2017, that perfectly fits the idea of global warming, 2018 turned out the almost exact opposite, one of the rainiest years in the last decade, saved “in extremis” by a glorious autumn of sunny weather during harvest.

After a few years that made us forget what winter looks like, 2018 brought back normal conditions with a sufficient number of days with temperatures below 0°C to put the vines to well-deserved winter rest. The coast of Maremma even enjoyed a rare number of days with snow. After the exceptionally dry 2017, abundant rain allowed to fill the water tables again.

March was almost entirely dominated by record amounts of rain, more than four times the seasonal average, leading to a delayed budbreak the second week of April. Immediately after a period of exceptionally warm and dry weather led to explosive shoot growth in the vineyard, requiring our entire workforce to keep up timely with the operations. In May though rain was back again in unprecedented quantity and frequency. While bringing temperatures back to the norm, it built up a high level of disease pressure, especially for downy mildew, which put the nerves of vine growers to the test for the rest of the growing season. Only through perfect organization and capacity to enter the vineyard for spraying in the few days without rain was it possible to get control of the disease keeping canopies and grapes healthy. Podere San Cristoforo’s soil management with frequent green covers between the rows proved once again hugely beneficial, not only by keeping vine vigour in check, but also helping to absorb excess water in the soil, allowing us to enter in the vineyards quickly after the rain.
Although budbreak had been late, the climatical conditions and the rapid shoot growth made the vines recover the delay and anticipate flowering by one full week. While lower than in May, rainfall remained higher than average all through June, keeping mildew active and aggressive.
July only barely gave us a rest with dry and hot weather. Veraison arrived quickly around the 22-25 July, before the vines had stopped growing. While colour changed very quickly in a few days, we observed great heterogeneity within the clusters with a significant number of pink, or even downright green berries.

August got almost as hot as 2017, but slightly rainier than average, with some significant storms around the 15 August. Sugars and acidity evolved at a slow pace, while – due to the high water status in the soils – berry sizes increased. September saw beautiful and warm weather without rain. Temperatures where high for the season but cool nights allowed the vines to recover and preserve their flavours and acidity. Morning mist, only rarely observed in Maremma, was frequent in 2018, giving a decidedly autumn feel to the harvest. In order to keep the grapes healthy and help them take advantage of the ventilation we operated leaf removal earlier than usual.

More than in any other vintage we observed a different ripening pattern of the different terroirs of the estate, leading to a careful decision about the right harvest time. Harvest kicked off in mid-September with the Vermentino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Sangiovese was picked up the third week of September, while Petit Verdot was harvested between the end of September and beginning of October.
In the cellar as always we decided to go through short macerations with soft and moderately frequent pump overs, to avoid extracting overly harsh and rustic tannins and deciding how to operate on each single lot according to our daily tastings.

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