Warm, warmer, perfect
The winter was once again exceptionally mild and dry, with the year 2015 starting early and rather unspectacularly. Compared to previous years the appearance of the vine shoots was average to early. The first vegetation could already be seen in the vineyards by late April.
The pronounced dryness of the early summer did not adversely affect the vines much, with growth progressing slowly and steadily, but caution was in order. The first heat thunderstorm was witnessed on 6 May. Fortunately the entire winegrowing area was spared from hail. The weather remained relatively volatile in May, and on 20 May there was a late onset of winter with snow in the mountains and rain in the vineyards. The lower temperatures slowed the growth of the vines, only for it to pick up again towards the middle of June.
Cumulus clouds in the sky repeatedly caused us concern, but we were extremely lucky and not one vine was hit by hail, while precipitation was also moderate with the vine leaves drying quickly, so there were practically no infections. Thus, luckily for us winemakers, 2015 was not a good year for peronospora or oidium.
July 2015 in South Tyrol was for the most part the hottest July in meteorological history. It was also the warmest month since records began. The vines slowed their growth, adapting to the weather conditions by switching to “Save” mode. Growth of the shoots slowed and the grapes took priority in terms of nutrient supply – and optimum state of affairs.
Peak temperatures reached 38°C, nor were the nights much cooler, causing a metabolic stoppage in the vines. The lead on previous years dwindled day by day.
Nevertheless, by the beginning of August the early varieties had produced glassy berries for the white wines, with colour developing in the reds.
The meteorological summer of 2015 (June to August) was, in the weather history of South Tyrol, the second-hottest summer since records began. Temperatures were 2-2.5° above the long-term average for the years 1981-2010. Three extreme heatwaves (early and mid-July and early August) saw a number of weather records tumble. In Bolzano, 22 days were measured with temperatures of over 35°. But the summer brought not just high temperatures but also drought: as the vine is not a rice plant, however, even the old vines had little trouble in absorbing this stress.
Just at the beginning of the harvest, on 1 September, the weather broke. The atmospheric conditions and cool nights of the first weeks of September fostered a very aromatic ripening of the grapes. The early varieties such as Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio too enjoyed ideal conditions for veritable, fruity and fleshy wines with ripe acids and fine fruity aromas. The berries were splendid to behold, golden-yellow and in particularly rude health.
Better was to come: no fewer than two cold fronts passed over the land from mid-September, bringing with them cool nights, occasionally dropping to single-digit temperatures. The medium-late and late varieties in particular benefited, above all the Vernatsch from around Lake Kaltern, with unprecedented must weights and perfectly ripe berries. The Lagrein, Merlot and Cabernet grapes all enjoyed perfect ripening on the vine this year: the young wines are accordingly deep red and especially rich in content: soft and full, with a variety of fruit aromas.
Thanks to the Golden Autumn, we still have a small plot in the vineyard with Gewürztraminer so we can also produce an appropriately elegant sweet wine for this outstanding year.
After the bone-dry summer, autumn brought us the sort of high-quality harvest that we only see once every 5-10 years.
With plenty of fruit, intense, exotic and with a very precise character and density of flavour, the wines of 2015 will tell the story of this excellent year.
--Gerhard Sanin, Winemaker