The moment for the harvest has come, boxes are placed under rows and rows of vines all over the Old World and in every winery happiness mingles with the expectations for the new vintage. Also Barolo, one of the most renowned areas in North Italy, is doing the same. Europe has just gone through a boiling hot summer and many of its production areas have certainly been impacted by the severe heat wave, as media and press reported the long-lasting damage caused to the environment and agriculture.
Such strenuous conditions made us study the 2022 vintage for Barolo: we started from two MGAs (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive) for Barolo DOCG, both facing west and belonging to the Barolo municipality. One, Bricco delle Viole, presents a lightly clayey soil; La Volta shows instead a lightly sandy soil. The two MGAs have been chosen due to the similarity of exposition and altitude (413 and 403 meters above sea level). The composition of soil has been identified based on the map of soils provided by the Piedmont region.
The 2022 growing season of the two MGAs has been compared with the average of the last five previous years (2017-2021) using one of our proprietary indexes, the Saturnalia Evolution Index (see our FAQ section to know more). The SEI expresses the level of chlorophyll and water stress within the vines (see Figure 1). As the chart about the SEI values shows, the 2022 vintage – right from the beginning – has been under conditions of stress which negatively affected the vegetative capacity, especially in areas where the lightly sandy soil was not able to retain enough water during the winter season. The precipitation recorded between October 2021 and March 2022 were 156mm, way below the average (-72%) of the same period within the last 10 years (which settles at 570mm). The poor accumulation of water during the period taken into account has certainly played a considerable role – together with the high temperatures recorded since mid-April – in shaping an unusual and challenging trend for the vines growth of both MGAs.
In addition, as figure 3 suggests, temperatures were frequently above the average in May, June and July. Such persisting hot temperatures in spring and summer are to be combined with the lack of precipitation – which could have provided some recovery for part of the excessive heat. For both clay and sandy soils, the phenological phases developed earlier than the average and vines grew under stressful conditions. Obviously, clay soils – capable of retaining more water – were able to provide a stronger leaf development (although the previous concerns and issues did not disappear completely). The few rainy days in May (from 4 to 6 May and from 18 to 19 May) and the moisture in the air allowed clay soils to store more water and sustain vines growth: indeed, the curve in Figure 1 for a few days aligns with the average values. Looking at the SEI curves for both soils at the moment of the draft of this document (26/08), when the vines are giving their all before the harvest, their consistent collapse seems to suggest that the vines – like marathon runners during their last kilometers – just want to reach the end of the season.
As always, we emphasise that we do not express an evaluation on the quality of the 2022 vintage. But we do believe that our work, which thanks to satellite data elaboration provides crucial information about the growing season, can enrich the information already available to technicians and experts. In turn, with such detailed knowledge easily accessible, it gets much easier to support those who produce, preserve, promote and are going to taste the 2022 vintage of Barolo.
And we do not stop at Barolo: more reports about additional production areas are on their way. Stay tuned for the exclusive information we are extracting from satellites for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo. This was only a sneak peek! Subscribe to our newsletter in order not to miss our next vintage previews: just fill-in the box at the bottom of this page.
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