The producers of Associazione Deditus, the brand that identifies a certain way of “being” Barolo: tradition, family and property vineyards, have come together in a virtual meeting, with the intervention of Giorgio Dell’Orefice, vice senior editor at Sole 24 Ore, to talk about their respective 2020 harvests, offering a realistic and optimistic outlook towards the future, despite the horrible year and difficult prospects.
The 2020 vintage will be impossible to forget, wherein nature and the vine itself have been a source of inspiration and surprising strength. The vineyard has not given up, nor has it stopped; rather, it showed how extraordinary results can be obtained even in the most difficult situations.
«I would like this harvest to represent a move to regain normalcy and consolidate positivity, with the certainty of a peaceful future for all those who seriously and generously live in the world of wine». Says Gianni Gagliardo, president of Associazione Deditus, sharing the association's unanimous thoughts upon opening the webinar dedicated to the grape harvest and future market prospects.
THE HARVEST FROM THE VINEYARD TO THE CELLAR, BETWEEN EXCELLENT AROMAS AND YIELDS
«A surprising harvest». This is how Luigi Scavino of Azienda Agricola Azelia summarizes the harvest from an agronomic and managerial point of view, despite the obvious difficulties in terms of manpower and implementation of safety protocols.
Nebbiolo is a variety suitable for climate change and, in fact, it has responded very well especially during the fluctuating final phase of maturation. Luigi Scavino and Luca Sandrone of Sandrone Luciano winery thus agree that «the cycle of the vine started early and then resisted the high temperatures of August, and manifested that typical Nebbiolo reaction when the cool nights arrived from mid-September onwards, which favored a perfect phenolic maturity of the grapes, preserving their aromas.»
The early spring brought with it an early bud break, followed by cooler temperatures in the months of May and June and much warmer in August but with a good temperature range. The quality of the grapes harvested is excellent. The fruits are healthy, with high sugar content and the right phenolic maturity.
«Those who have been able to wait for the right moment of harvest have not lost the potential, that is, the complexity that Nebbiolo grapes bring with them, bringing amazing fruits to the cellar» continues Luca Sandrone.
An unnecessary selection in the vineyard and in the cellar, given the very beautiful bunches after thinning. «This has made everything easier even in the cellar with linear fermentation processes after crushing and de-stemming» says Gianluca Torrengo, oenologist at Prunotto winery, emphasizing how «a scent of rose, typical of Nebbiolo, which manifests in very few vintages, has accompanied the grapes, from the whites to the reds, and Nebbiolo in particular, since their arrival in the cellar».
«Nature has been kind to the harvest and brought with it a perfect combination of quality and quantity, although we were ready to give up quantity this year» comments Pio Boffa from Pio Cesare. Nebbiolo grapes with red droplets like it had not been seen in years, a sign that we have been able to wait patiently and this has certainly and unanimously rewarded us all in terms of production quality.
A resilient Barolo
The satisfaction from the vineyards, the most precious asset of these vigneron families, is undeniable, as is the economic uncertainty that the market crisis continues to bring with it with the closure of the Horeca channel in Italy and abroad and a decline in export volumes.
«Without leaving out off-trade, we have strongly relied on the Horeca channel only to see it suddenly close off in Italy, in the US, in Asia, in Australia, stresses Pio Boffa. Markets in Canada and Northern Europe held up better, but then serious problems have arisen, and it’s clear that one does not simply move from one channel to another, especially with an important wine like Barolo. Direct and online sales certainly help but these are not the solution to compensate for the losses; we must be honest and realistic, also communicating this “suffering” to the consumer».
A great vintage certainly means having more than one string to one’s bow, like 2020 will be and how 2016, which has shown great resilience, has been. In this regard, Emanuele Baldi, marketing director of Prunotto, highlights how «it was thought that Barolo 2016 would be finished in six months, but then the circumstances slowed down purchases in Italy and abroad. It is true, however, that Barolo consumers and collectors around the world continue to have high incomes, despite the economic difficulties, and, therefore, I am sure that the 2016 bottles will not remain in the cellar. But I have some concern for 2021 and for the 2017 harvest that will be launched on the market without the media attention that the 2016 harvest had» continues Baldi.
There have been very different situations and reactions abroad. In particular, the monopolies (Switzerland, Norway, Canada) reacted well and gave very strong responses. Other markets, such as England and the USA for example, have registered significant losses in volumes not only for 2020 but with repercussions also for 2021.
Barolo, especially when it comes to historic wineries such as the members of Deditus, is undoubtedly the wine that reacted best precisely because of the great success and interest that it has drawn and continues to have.
There are also positive case histories such as the one brought by Matteo Sardagna, head of the historic Poderi Luigi Einaudi: «we were able to capitalize on a series of contacts and work done in the past years, also positioning our wine in many “wine clubs” in the world, and on numerous collectors through wine shops. In our case, we have even grown compared to the same period in 2019».
PROMOTION AND ENHANCEMENT
As for promotions, Alberto Cordero of Cordero di Montezemolo emphasizes on its complexity and the need to address it at a global socio-economic level. «It is a broad and complex subject: thinking how we did until a few months ago, today makes little sense. There’s the issue on mobility and travel, which is global, then there’s another on events, fairs and dinners that cannot be organized. There are issues that go far beyond the world of wine and it is useless to think of having money available for promotion: in a more general reasoning, one should think about spending public money to support safe travel, support those who work , and, consequently, earn, the people who can probably even spend on a good bottle of wine at the restaurant.»
Avoiding wasting resources and investing in channels that can ensure more direct contact with the consumer, online, at wine shops, knowing that much more cannot be done.
« It is a moment wherein, more than anything else, until the markets take off again, what we have to do is to resist, avoiding wasting resources and enhancing our uniqueness». This is the message of Poderi Gianni Gagliardo winery. «A path, that of the enhancement of the territory, which must absolutely be pursued and which also passes through the subject of the Crus that are and will remain of extreme value, a primary tool for the enhancement of Barolo, which has this unique quality that characterizes it.»
A FUTURE FILLED WITH NEW CHALLENGES
We must look towards the future with confidence and an innovative spirit. Stefano Chiarlo, from the Michele Chiarlo winery, sends out this message. «I was surprised, this summer, to see so many tourists in Langa, especially Italians and foreigners from countries that were not used to be present, like Dutch and Belgians looking for slow and immersive experiences in nature.
Therefore, we must consider the digital sphere in order to find ourselves ready, thinking about 2022, when we will probably be really out of this crisis. So, I hope for us to have that spirit for restart and growth, the desire to work and enjoy the good and the beautiful things that life offers us, like how it has been in the post-war period, which I find truly actual now more than ever, considering the stories of my father, Michele Chiarlo”.
The hope is that, after this moment of great crisis, there can be a greater sense of responsibility, expressed in an attitude of steadfast intuitiveness, wisdom, the ability to look beyond, reinventing oneself and accepting new challenges. All this will be possible or, certainly be easier, by being able to count on a synergic team play, as it is in the spirit of Associazione Deditus.