Wines

Climate trends

After a mild and rather dry winter, budding came early, and due to a colder than normal early spring we had the first surprise of the vintage: at the end of April, some light snow fell on shoots that were already around 10 cm long. But even more surprising was how the vines reacted to this unexpected stress, slowing down their growth at the beginning but then recovering and overcoming difficulties, reaching the flowering stage with dense and well-developed leaf canopies. Summer arrived in June, with fairly high temperatures and little rainfall, and the vines also adapted to this change by adopting a more conservative growth, but never showing symptoms of water shortage or overheating.

The 2019 vintage turned out to be a patchy and inconsistent year from beginning to end, starting with early growth and ending with a late harvest. Due to an unusual winter that was harsh at the beginning and mild towards the end, budding was quite early, while the initial vegetative growth was slow due to the soil’s scarce water reserves. In the month of May, abundant rainfall and below-average temperatures slowed down growth, cancelling out the initial vegetative advance, and thereby accumulating a delay of about 2 weeks compared with the average season. The beginning of June coincided with the beginning of summer, with clear weather and high temperatures continuing each day until August which was marked by cooler temperatures and some rain that was useful for replenishing the land’s water reserves. This uneven trend continued until the harvest, which turned out to be one of the latest in recent years.

The 2018 Vintage was characterized by a trend that can best be summarized in a single word: calm. The harvest started on 20th September and ended on 5th October. From the outset, nature took its time; due to a harsh winter, the season started with a slight delay compared to the norm, and vegetative growth in spring was slow and steady, thanks to cool temperatures and heavy rainfall in May and June. The hot but never scorching summer and excellent temperature ranges enabled the vines to continue their development in a very balanced manner. This calm trend was subsequently mirrored in the harvest, which was among the longest in recent years. Nature took its time, and we like to be guided by its rhythms, so we adapted by arranging a phased harvest, according to parcels and sometimes even harvesting grapes from the same plot separately, so as to wait for the perfect ripeness of the lovely grapes that this vintage has bestowed on us. The wines have undergone fermentation in the cellar, again with the same calm that typified the entire harvest, which we are certain will also characterize the ageing period. We will wait to taste them, albeit impatiently, but know that by respecting nature’s rhythms we will appreciate them even more.

Difficult vintages are said to reveal the true potential of the best terroirs, and never has this been more true than in the 2017 vintage in Montalcino. The winter was mild and very dry, as was the spring. This led to budding about two weeks earlier than normal. The frost that hit the area in the middle of April caused enormous damage across much of Europe, but thanks to the location of San Polo’s vineyards, with their southern exposure, 450-metre altitude and abundant air circulation, our vines suffered no damage. The summer that followed was marked by elevated temperatures and almost no rainfall, which created difficult conditions for the vines. Again, at this stage, we were able to appreciate the advantages of a particularly well-suited vine growing area, which treated us to daytime breezes and excellent day-night temperature variations, creating conditions that relieved the vines, which showed no symptoms of drought or heat-related stress. The rain that fell between the end of August and the beginning of September, not only restored the land’s water reserves, but it also gave the final ‘go ahead’ for the most important stage in the ripening of Sangiovese, the last month before harvesting.

The winter was not particularly cold, and spring arrived slightly earlier than usual, with temperatures slightly above average, giving the vines’ shoots the opportunity to uniformly develop. The following weeks saw frequent rainfall, which allowed the land to build water reserves, alternating with periods of dry weather, enabling the vines to continue growing without any problems. The damp conditions during flowering led to the formation of bunches that were slightly more sparse than usual and with rather small berries, ideal preconditions for reaching harvest time with perfectly ripe and healthy grapes. However, the feature that will make vintage 2016 particularly memorable is the excellent temperature range that characterized the months of July, August and September, with sunny days and cool, breezy nights. We therefore reached the beginning of October with grapes that exhibited a superb combination of maturity, acidity and aromatic potential, perfect conditions for the production of wines with a distinct personality and a great balance of concentration, elegance and longevity; a perfect reflection of the production philosophy of San Polo.

One of the best vintages in the last twenty years. The entire growing cycle of the vine took place under the best possible conditions. A cold winter with frequent heavy rainfall and low temperatures gave way to a dry spring with slightly above average temperatures , enabling uniform budding and perfect flowering. Showers in the summer months were scarce but fortunately heavy, which made it possible to carry out sustainable and environmentally friendly pest and disease management. Hot, sunny days with excellent day-night temperature variations enabled the bunches to achieve ideal ripening by the end of September: the berries were perfectly healthy and acidity was high, despite elevated sugar concentration.  The harvest of Sangiovese, which was completed by the end of the month, delivered perfectly healthy grapes with a very thick skin, a prerequisite for long macerations and for wines with great ageing potential.

An unusually warm winter encouraged early budding with a consequent high risk of frost damage. During spring, rain and relatively high temperatures seemed to provide ideal conditions for the proliferation of the spores that cause downy mildew. Rainfall continued until the beginning of September. The lack of light slowed the ripening process, cancelling out, day by day, the phenological properties accumulated during the month of May. Excellent exposure and constant breezes enabled the grapes to reach harvest time in good health and with ideal ripeness, giving rise to wines with distinct personality and elegance.

The number of clusters was ideal and not excessive. A cool, wet spring delayed flowering by a few days, thus delaying the expected harvest period by at least one week. An ideal summer that was hot but never scorching allowed veraison to proceed evenly and quickly. The bunches were sparse and well positioned and there was no need for thinning except in some areas of more vigorous than average growth. September began with abundant rainfall which cooled down the vineyards and replenished water reserves, thus enabling the Sangiovese grapes to achieve full ripeness. The beginning of the harvest, in the last few days of September, took place in ideal conditions. Fresh, almost cold nights allowed the grapes to reach the cellar at low temperatures, while the warm, sunny days enabled the later-ripening vineyards to ripen fully. This vintage was a bit ‘old style’, with a decidedly late-harvest compared to the norm in recent years. Even the wines are reminiscent of a more traditional style: acidity, finesse and elegance are the characteristics that this vintage will be remembered for, which is also perfectly suited to prolonged ageing.

After quite a harsh winter that also saw some heavy snowfall – advantageous for the accumulation of underground water reserves – the spring was relatively warm, in accordance with seasonal norms. The beginning of the growing season occurred around 10th - 20th April, in line with the average in the area. The summer was very hot with little rainfall, so in some cases the vineyards were pushed to the limit in terms of the proper development of the growing phase. The rainfall in late summer and early September restored the vines’ balance and created the best conditions for the most important phase of ripening for Sangiovese. The grapes developed excellent properties, both from a health point of view and from the point of view of their analytical characteristics. The weather during September was good and very balanced: rainfall brought cool temperatures – especially at night – while the days were warm and sunny thereby fostering ideal ripening of the grapes.

Vintage 2011 had a slow start with a cool spring and frequent showers. The lower than average temperatures for the time of year continued until July and up until that point the vintage could easily have been considered a cool one. However, from mid-August through to the beginning of September, high pressure over the African continent brought temperatures well above 38°C (100°F). Fortunately, at San Polo the vines were able to access sufficient water reserves to avoid stress. These conditions were completely different to the intense hot weather of 2003 and the overall cool weather in 2002: this vintage is more similar to vintage 2000, which started in a similar way, with generally lower temperatures followed by a short but intense increase in temperature during August.

In vintage 2010, the first phase of growth was accompanied by frequent rainfall, which continued until mid-June, with spring temperatures that were slightly below average. The next phase, starting from the last 10 days of June was very dry and hot. Rain then held off until the beginning of September. During September, daytime temperatures were stable while the nights were rather cool, providing the very favourable gap between day and night temperatures needed to foster ideal ripening. The various phases of vegetative development were rather late and slow, but steady and continuous and, from the last week of August onwards, the ripening of the grapes evolved perfectly. The wines produced in this vintage exhibit extraordinary characteristics for Sangiovese, in terms of both nose and palate, as well as composition. In addition to an excellent alcohol content, total polyphenols, anthocyanins and extracts are very high and rarely found in this grape varietal.

Vintage 2009 was characterized by quite distinct phases. In the spring, during the early vegetative development of the vines, considerable rainfall allowed for an accumulation of water reserves to be used to relieve the rather hot and dry summer months. September was mild, with very satisfactory variations in daytime and night-time temperatures.
Ripening progressed in a uniform fashion, producing prime quality grapes. Alcohol levels were rather high with optimal degrees of total acidity and extracts. The polyphenol content was substantial and qualitatively well balanced.

The 2008 harvest was carried out in ideal weather conditions. After a rather wet but not particularly cold winter, spring was quite normal, both in terms of temperatures and rainfall. Intervals of rain continued until mid-June, while higher temperatures in June and July alternated with cooler temperatures and further showers.