In the vineyards with Avignonesi - A Firsthand Look into Vintage 2015 in Montepulciano


Interview with Alessio - A Firsthand Look into our Vintage for 2015


As we are getting into the heart of the 2015 growing season, we thought it would be interesting to give you a sneak-peak into the vintage for 2015, and there is no one who can do that better than our chief agronomist, Alessio Gorini.


We sat down for an interview with Alessio on what challenges he has met in the vineyards, the effects of biodynamics, and on how 2015 might just become our best vintage yet.


Born in Pistoia, Alessio has worked and studied in some of the most important wine regions of the world, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc and especially in New Zealand, where he has developed a very personal vision of what biodynamic viticulture entails.


He defines himself as “foot-soldier of the vine”, and believes that an agronomist is only as good as his ability to observe nature: how the vines react under different growing conditions, how they respond to weather changes, the air one breathes in the vineyards. This is about knowing your terroir. Alessio joined Avignonesi in early 2014.


What are the major differences between this year and last year?

Last year was a very wet and rainy year, so the vines were never stressed by the hot, sunny climate that usually characterizes the Tuscan summer. This lead to an overgrowth of canopy and water in the grapes. In fact, the main challenge of 2014 was having the sugar content of the grapes in some of the vineyards become high enough to have a satisfactory alcohol level in the wines. The bunches were big, but we spent a lot of extra time to carefully go through the vineyards and only select the best bunches.

This year, we have had a hot start of the summer and very little rain.  So far it looks like it could become a very high-quality vintage. There was no need for a green harvest in the vineyards, as we have just the right amount of bunches. The Sangiovese bunches aren’t too big and there isn’t too many of them. Right now we also have a good balance between the leaves and the bunches and since the vines got an early start and grew up very fast, we will probably be harvesting about a week earlier than last year. That will also diminish the threat of an Autumn rain storm ruining the grapes.  

How was the start of the growing season?

Budburst was interesting this year because as soon as it started in the spring, the temperature dropped. This caused buds to develop unevenly, and a few vineyards were a little behind. Luckily, with the heat we have had in May and June, all the buds have caught up and are now looking very consistent.


What are the challenges we face in the vineyards this year? What are we doing about it?

This year we had a very busy start of the season. As soon as there was budburst, everything started developing so fast. Every day presented something new to do and our entire vineyard team was kept busy for weeks.

Due to the sunny climate of the last 2 months we have had very little problems with mildew. There was no powdery mildew and only a small amount of downy mildew, which we were able to treat easily with nettle tea, propolis, copper, and sulfur.


How is biodynamics helping us?

Biodynamics has been very useful this year, especially for enhancing the fertilization effects of  our green manure. Once we tilled our cover crops into the soil in early Spring, we sprayed the vineyards with the preparation 500P (horn manure), which provided a lot of great nutrients for the soil and increased its general quality. This helps balance the water absorption capacity of the soil and strengthens the root system of the vines. Especially for vineyards where we have been using the preparations for a long time, we can really see the difference in the soil and we are very happy with the quality. It’s all a matter of balance.


What treatments are we doing? How are they working?

As already mentioned we have used the biodynamic preparation 500P once in Spring and once in Fall. Additionally, we have used the preparation 501 (horn silica) twice so far. 501 is a catalyst for sunlight, and last year, which was cloudy and rainy, we used this preparation much more to help the vines absorb as much sun as possible. This year we have lots of warmth and sunshine, so we stopped the 501 treatments in mid June. We also used Valerian to soothe the vines that were affected by the hail storms we have unfortunately been experiencing.


Speaking of hail storms, how have they affected our vineyards?

We were hit by one hail storm early May which fell on some of our best vineyards for Sangiovese and Merlot. Obviously hail storms are not what you want, but on a positive note the damage was done early, so we only lost in quantity, not in quality.


And finally, what is your overall feeling for the vintage?

Let me first say that we still have a good 2 months of ripening before the harvest, so everything I say now is clearly hypothetical. No one can foresee what will happen during the month of August. What I CAN confirm is that our vines are looking very healthy. They are under just enough hydric stress to create ripe and succulent grapes while the underground still contains enough water for them to not suffer too much. The heat is helping the grapes to ripen very nicely and there is no major threat of disease in sight. Knock on wood, but it looks like it's going to be a very good year for Avignonesi!


Cheers to that!