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Despite the bizarre summer, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is getting ready for a healthy harvest

Summer 2014 will go down in history as one of the rainiest and coolest: you don’t need to be a weather specialist to make a statement like this. But like every summer, it’s coming to an end and in San Gimignano people are starting to talk about the harvest. The first grapes to be harvested will be Vernaccia di San Gimignano, about halfway through September, followed by the red grapes, at the end of the month and at the beginning of October.
It is still a little too soon to talk about the red grapes but we can start making a few forecasts about the white Vernaccia as we are just over a fortnight away from the harvest. Two weeks that are essential to complete the ripening process of grapes which are currently good and healthy: the amount of sunshine will make the difference to the evolution of the sugar contents and the aromatic components. Cool weather is favourable for white grapes which, particularly at our latitudes, suffer when it is too hot, and the rain hasn’t caused excessive damage so anything is possible.
To get a complete picture, it is best to start from the seasonal trend in the San Gimignano area, where there was a mild, rainy winter, with no intense frosts or snowfall. This was followed by a quite warm spring, characterised by above-average temperatures, with constant rainfall. This situation brought the vegetative phase of the plants forward, with the first buds appearing at the beginning of April, 10-15 days earlier than usual. However, these new buds developed very slowly, reaching a length of 10 cm only at the beginning of May, when temperatures were relatively low and the rains were heavy.
This weather situation caused the winegrowers a lot of hard work in the vineyards to keep the most common vine pests under control, with higher than average intervention continuing throughout the season.
The vines flowered well and abundantly, starting quite early, at the end of May. Setting was early and good too, despite the alternating climatic trend that characterised the month of June, with days with high (above average) temperatures alternating with short periods of sometimes heavy rain.
Summer started off with good and more stable weather and then continued like June, with alternating phases of sun, wind and rain, fortunately not too intense in the San Gimignano area. Veraison also began earlier than usual.
We are now at the end of August: the grapes are plentiful, about 5% more than the production for 2013, but within the average for the last five years, which allows us to presume a similar increase in the production of Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine. The grapes in the highest, most ventilated vineyards are in excellent health, with one or two more problems for those at lower altitudes and in more humid areas, which have required more attention by the winegrowers, with leaf removal operations.
The sugar content of the grapes is still quite low, but if the weather remains good, they should ripen perfectly within the space of fifteen days, reaching the ideal level to guarantee the right alcohol content in the wine, just below that of last year.
Despite the bizarre summer, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is getting ready for a healthy harvest.