Italian Grape Harvest 2006 – Best Quality in Decades
From Cuneo to Trieste and south to Trapani, the 2006 Harvest in Italy has produced the best quality of grapes in decades. According to some, the best quality ever. Quantity is up only between 5-10%, depending on the area. This is unusual because the climatic conditions that create a great grape also create an abundant harvest, 50-60% above normal. I believe the limited production is due to self-discipline by the growers. In fact Gianpaolo Paglia of Poggio Argentiera wrote about how the producers thinned the vines in August.
Terry of Mondo Sapore discusses mass marketing and the innate health benefits of wine, and Italian Wine Guy experiences A Universe of Joy walking in the vineyards. There is something about the vineyards and the harvest. It empowers us, makes us feel invincible and at the same time evidences how unimportant we are. The harvest gives us hope and embraces us and makes us feel secure. It brings us close to mother earth and reminds us to be good stewards of our talents, for all things are fleeting. We are simply a blink of the eye in the time of things and somehow the harvest reminds us that no matter how important we feel we are, we cannot control or change the most important element to our existence, the harvest. Yes we may think that investment banking, President of the US, CEO of GE are the most important things man can do, but I suggest, what would these people do without the harvest? Perhaps they would eat some Artificially Hydrogenated Petrol?
Good wine is natural product. The quality changes from year to year due to the sun, the rain, and the wind. Many industrial producers have attempted to eliminate the ups and downs of the quality of the harvest by oxygenating, filtration, industrial yeasts, adding flavored wood chips, adding sugar and pumping the fermentation process. I see these wines like McDonalds Hamburgers, consistently bad at a low price, across the nation. You do not expect a great hamburger but you know you can go to a McDonalds anywhere in the US and it will be the same bad experience.
I feel that Italian producers are generally avoiding the industrialization of winemaking although the new wave of Designer Wines is definitely a step in the direction of other wine producers in the US, Australia and even France. The 2005 sales data proves that quality wins over quantity as Italy is once again the #1 exporter of wines to the US with 30% of all imports and growth of 9% over 2004 values. But I digress, back to the 2006 grape harvest.
The Italian 2006 Wine production may be the best quality in the last 100 years and may be the best for the next century. It is possible that future years may have a great harvest like this year but, the continuing pressure to industrialize the winemaking process may not allow those future harvests to produce their potential. This may be the year to stock your cellars with the wines you want to have in the future for a special occasion. A chance to taste the Bacco's nectar, as only the Gods can. This is the year to find the wines that will be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in 50 years. Nature is fickle and times change, unique wines do not happen every day and this year is the year that all levels of wine will produce their best.
The Russian Federation seems to understand that this is an important year. A group of 7 top level individuals have been touring the various regions over the month of October, meeting meticulously with the winemaking cooperatives even in the smallest of areas. The national agencies are all whispering about this year’s quality. The excess wine, usually destined for ethanol production, will not be distilled this year. Gambero Rosso, the primary guide to quality of food and wine, is already taking a position on this year’s wine, even before the Must is prepared.
Save your money, do your research and remember, 2006 on the bottle of Italian wine means something.
A special thank you Poggio Argentiera and Massa Marittima for the photographs.
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