Tuscany

2015

A cold and rainy winter preceded an irregular spring followed by exceptionally hot, dry summer weather, creating small bunches of Sangiovese, so yields were down across the region – exacerbated by several violent August hailstorms – although concentration levels are very good.

2014

A rainy, mild winter was followed by a cool spring, with one exceptional patch of high temperatures causing early budbreak and quick and generous fruit set. But the growing cycle was protracted due to cool weather and frequent hailstorms in July and August, causing widespread downy mildew. An exceptionally mild and dry September and early October turned a potentially disastrous vintage into a surprisingly good one, but with generally much lighter, earlier-ripening wines than 2013.

2013 

Considered a ‘classic vintage’ due to harvest taking place at the beginning of October. (This used to be the norm but the previous two, much warmer, years brought harvests forward to the beginning of September.) A very cool wet spring delayed budbreak by an average of two weeks. A very wet May that encouraged widespread and continued spraying was followed by a cool June. A picture-perfect July, August and September saved the year, one that resulted in elegant, fresh wines. A promising vintage on the whole, with the wines of Montalcino expected to be exceptional. 

2012 

An unusually mild winter ended with a very cold February with lots of snow that replenished water tables. Spring was more or less regular with a warm and dry June, while temperatures climbed relentlessly during July and August. Just when producers feared a repeat of the scorching 2011, and vines had but all shut down, the rain that fell at the very end of August reignited growth and ripening. In spite of the intense heat, 2012 resulted in medium-bodied, fresh and at times rather light wines, arguably a welcome change from the heavy and sometimes alcoholic 2011s.

2011 

An exceptionally hot vintage with a very irregular weather pattern. A very cold and snowy winter preceded an unusually warm beginning of spring, although budbreak was not much earlier than normal. April was very hot, followed by a cool May. This pattern of alternating cold and hot periods had a ‘stop-go’ effect on the growth of the vines. The middle of August brought record-breaking heat and the grapes seemed prematurely ready, with some producers picking at the end of August to rescue the fruit from the burning sun. September remained extremely warm and 2011 was the year in which the sorting table arrived en masse in Chianti Classico. Many wines are rich, but fortunately still have enough freshness, although it is doubtful that this will remain during prolonged bottle ageing.

2010 

Much cooler than the hot 2009. A very wet winter continuing into a very wet spring was followed by a cool growing cycle. The heat that came in July helped to reduce the delay in ripening that was by then an estimated 15 days behind schedule. Sangiovese was harvested as late as the third week of October and many producers had to do several pickings to obtain regularly ripe grapes in the fermentation tanks. Montalcino, exceptionally, was drier than other parts of Tuscany and the long and slow ripening of the grapes resulted in what is considered an outstanding vintage with true ageing potential for years to come.

2009 

Initially hailed as a great vintage but the wines, rich and at times jammy with high alcohol, have begun to betray the exceptionally hot summer as they develop in bottle. A very wet winter was followed by a regular spring with a very hot May, with temperatures up to 30 ºC, resulting in a swift flowering and fruit set. The vintage looked to be 10 days earlier than normal, until mid May brought 30 solid days of rain. August was extremely hot with day temperatures reaching 40 ºC, although nights were much cooler than in 2003, which helped to preserve the freshness in the grapes. While the 2009s overall showed richness of fruit with good acidity, in many cases a certain jamminess looks likely to affect their ageing ability. 

2008 

A relatively cool year with high diurnal temperature differences resulting in wines generally high in acidity and with firm tannins. The heterogeneity of finished wines suggests that this is a vintage in which the best terroirs shine. This seems to be true of Chianti Classico too, where the 2007s were initially considered greater. However, the best 2008s, especially the truly serious Riservas, should prove to have complexity as well staying power. 

2007 

Tremendous: high alcohol and good acidity with consistent ripening, after a worryingly erratic budburst. Especially good for Chianti and Montalcino, and for Cabernet Sauvignon in Bolgheri. 

2006 

Very promising vintage with a steady, prolonged growing season and well balanced wines.

2005 

Grapes had to be picked before the rain really set in if decent wine was to be made. A notable exception to my five year rule.

2004 

Exceptionally good vintage, central Italy’s equivalent of the perfect growing season that France experienced in 2005.

2003 

Very difficult heatwave conditions were felt in all but the highest vineyards of Chianti Classico. Wines generally pretty unbalanced.

2002 

Exceptionally wet summer resulted in rotten grapes, many of which failed to reach full ripeness. A real annus horribilis.

2001 

Smallish crop thanks to April frosts. June and July were dry but August and especially September were quite wet with rain threatening vine health as harvest time approached.

2000 

Easy, ripe wines from a very hot, dry vintage which, unless vineyards were extremely well-managed, resulted in wines with a certain hollowness, though no shortage of alcohol.

1999 

Quite exceptionally good quality. A vintage not unlike 1997 but with arguably more finesse and less sheer mass. Warm summer led to an early harvest of healthy grapes.

1998 

Irregular vintage after another hot summer which stressed the vines.

1997 

Hot summer and very ripe grapes that produced wines that seemed unusually luscious at the time even if some could do with a little more freshness.

1996 

Very varied year producing soft, early maturing wines that should have been drunk by now.

1995 

Nail-bitingly late harvest saved by an unusually warm, dry October, although acids are still generally high.

1994 

At last a dry but cool harvest: rich and structured and certainly the best since 1990.

1993 

Survived the rains better than Piemonte, concentration held up, but some picked unripe fruit.

1992 

A big crop of rather light wines to drink young.

1991 

Endless harvest rains so the best were no more than pleasant.

1990 

A hot year and low yields, the ingredients for really good wines, especially in Montalcino.

1989 

Distinctly inferior to Piemonte. Light if not watery, so best to avoid.

1988 

Delightfully smooth wines, balanced and ripe from low yields.

1985 

Initially impressive, then worryingly irregular with some Supertuscans unbalanced.