Vinexus: VINTAGE ITALIA 2021 update (Sept 2021)

The first official figures are out from the various Italian official bodies (Assoenologi, Ismea e Unione Italiana Vini), with estimates on the 2021 harvest. Usually, these are quite accurate despite the harvest being in full swing.


A general picture for the 2021 Italian vintage is difficult to outline due to extremes of weather conditions that have varied considerably at a national, regional and local level. For some this was an excellent harvest, for others extremely challenging. Late frosts had a profound effect in some areas, especially in the centre north, and the extreme summer temperatures and lack of precipitation were particularly felt in the south, the north much less so. Furthermore, the effects of local storms and especially hail, has made generalizations very difficult to make. In terms of volumes, Italy’s production in 2021 has not suffered too greatly compared to some other European countries, but nevertheless was down 9% compared to 2020: between 43.7 mhl[1] and 43.3 mhl[2]. According to the OIV’s[3] estimates, Italy is in first place ahead of France and Spain in terms of quantities.


As far as the growing season was concerned, winter was generally mild with abundant rainfall levels. Spring allowed for regular vine development until April when, during the nights of 7th, 8th and 15th severe frosts struck, especially in the north but also in large parts of Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria and the Adriatic coastline. A warm June was followed by July hailstorms and very dry conditions throughout the country but particularly in the south. Clearly, drought was problematic although the experience of Italian vineyard managers over the past 20 years has helped mitigate its effects somewhat. The classic areas of production in Piemonte and Toscana are difficult to assess at the moment, but we can already say that Tuscany has been challenging to say the least. Producers in Valpolicella and Friuli, on the other hand, are already applauding an excellent vintage.


Major growing regions:      (source: Assoenologi)


Piemonte -10% 2.43 mhl (million hectolitres)

After a cold and snowy winter, a mild spring followed. The April frosts had a profound effect but this differed sharply from valley to valley and grower to grower. A cool, dry May was followed by a warm June, limiting any disease pressure. Hail was a particular problem in the Roero and Alto Piemonte areas.


Trentino Alto Adige -10% 1.17 mhl

The effects of the extremes of weather phenomenon have had less effect here than expected in part due to the delays in the vineyard cycle, (late budding and flowering etc). However, the Trentino area was particularly affected by hail. Alto Adige fared much better, with great optimism for an excellent vintage.


Veneto -7% 10.8 mhl

The spring frosts affected various parts of the Veneto, but along with the summer hailstorms it is difficult to generalise as the situation varied from grower to grower. Pinot Grigio has been most affected by the extreme weather whilst Glera seems to be of optimum quality. Valpolicella is reporting an excellent vintage, qualitatively speaking.


Friuli -7% 1.72 mhl

Despite the challenges from extreme weather which particularly affected the west of the region through frost, drought and hail, there is optimism in Friuli for very good quality, especially around the east of the region.


Toscana -25% 1.65 mhl

A rainy winter filled the aquifers but the late spring frosts caused extensive damage in the lower areas of the region, especially to Sangiovese. After a benevolent May, the summer was hot and dry with extreme temperatures and dry conditions in August causing problems of hydric stress and heat damage to the vines. This will be a complex and challenging vintage for most.


Umbria -18% 0.31 mhl

The spring frosts caused widespread damage among early budding varieties. Trebbiano and Sagrantino less so.  The summer was hot and dry further complicating the vegetative cycle. A cooler, wetter September and October may mitigate the situation for Sagrantino.


Marche -13% 0.78 mhl

Despite ample rainfall during winter, spring was much drier and cooler than the norm. Frosts were keenly felt here too, although hillside vineyards were largely unscathed. This region was particularly dry going into the summer heat which exacerbated the problem. The quality will be good where irrigation was used but quantities will vary from grower to grower.


Abruzzo -18% 2.88 mhl

After a wet winter and warm spring, the cold snap arrived in late April but with little serious effects. The summer heat of June, July and August did cause problems of drought and severe water stress, especially on hillside vineyards.


Campania +5% 0.75 mhl

The April cold snap which followed a mild and rainy winter and spring, caused few problems. In fact, this was a very favourable vintage, despite the summer heat and dryness, due to the rains that occurred in late July, giving welcome relief.


Puglia -5% 8.5 mhl

This vintage will be shaped by the drought conditions that persisted throughout the summer, but in a heterogenous way, depending on the growers’ capacity to intervene with irrigation.


Basilicata -10% 0.065 mhl

An ideal growing season with abundant June rains and good day and night temperature fluctuations, mitigating any effects of the heat.


Calabria +10% 0.106 mhl

A very regular growing season, despite the heat, due to good access to water reserves.


Sicilia +9% 3.99 mhl

A regular vintage here too, the winter providing abundant water reserves. A dry spring with cool temperatures was followed by an early summer of usual warmth. August witnessed extremes of heat which broke records. Vineyards clearly experienced hydric stress and heat damage. Towards the end of August temperatures lowered to the norm. The west of Sicily has managed better than other parts where there will be good levels of production and quality. We shall have to wait to judge the slopes of Etna.


Sardegna +20% 0.436 mhl

A rainy winter filled the aquifers but unfortunately, the spring frosts were particularly felt, especially for Vermentino. A dry and hot summer followed, which favoured an absence of disease and good quality where irrigation was possible, especially for the reds (Cannonau and Carignano).


Nick Bielak MW, 2021

[1] million hectolitres

[2] Assoenologi

[3] Organisation Internationale de la vigne et du vin