As it draws to a close, I’m finally able to sit down and look back on the strenuous vintage 2022.
Another complex (read scary!) year with extreme growing conditions that had many Tuscan producers leaving for their pre-harvest summer holidays, wondering what we would pick, if anything at all! With post covid international travel finally starting to open in February, it was a great pleasure to welcome the international wine trade back to Querciabella, many of whom couldn’t believe the explosion of life and cover crops in our vineyards in Ruffoli.
The Warm Winter Ends With a Snap
Great for Instagram pictures, less for farmers, understandably worried about a late cold snap after budburst. The ample rain over the winter, with temperatures reaching the mid-20s, had caused the plants to wake up far too early from their winter dormancy. So, when a week-long cold front arrived in April, with a complete whiteout in the lower valley, we were very fortunate our high-altitude vineyards didn’t drop below zero (getting down to 0,7 °C) with the green shoots at about 15 cm.
Keep it Cool in the Heat
After favourable flowering conditions and fruit set, we started a hot (read scorching) and dry (read drought-like) summer with extreme record-breaking conditions. When the May daytime temperatures reached the low 30s, we knew we were in for a sweltering summer. Nine days over 35 °C in June were followed by an additional 21 days in July with minimal, sporadic rain!
Maybe our vines got used to the warmth as it was constant throughout the year. Maybe we are blessed our hillside vineyards enjoyed the refreshment of the cooler evenings. Or, maybe, our knowledge of canopy and soil management is improving, with warmer vintages becoming the norm. But the sight of our vines, still green and flourishing despite the drought-like conditions, while the natural oak forests were alarmingly showing autumn colours in July, made us more confident than ever that our plant-based approach is paying off.
“Achieving a top-quality expression amid this year’s tribulations required straightforward, sensible winemaking, and great teamwork.”
—Manfred Ing, Winemaker
As winemakers, we love to speak of fortuitous circumstances that “saved the vintage!”… Well, the 88.6 mm of glorious unseasonal rains over 11 days in August, usually our warmest and driest month, was precisely that: a miracle that enabled the vines to recuperate fully and continue their phenolic ripening laying the platform for a surprisingly spectacular harvest.
Vintage Report 2022
The first Chardonnay came in on the 29th of August, followed by Pinot Bianco over the next two weeks, ending with the last Chardonnay from 600 m a.s.l. on the 13th of September. This two-week harvesting window over a 200 m altitude gap was the perfect indicator that we had to be prudent and particularly precise with harvesting the reds. We started with the Sangiovese from Ruffoli on the 14th of September.
For the next three and a half weeks, we made our way through the picking patiently but steadily, back and forward through our different villages in the Chianti Classico, finishing in our steep terraced Casole vineyards at 640 m a.s.l. in Lamole. Here we picked the last bunches of Sangiovese on the 8th of October.
A Hard Beginning Makes a Great Ending
Sure enough, 2022 was a demanding vintage. Yet, the team at Querciabella has shown incredible skills and focus and managed to preserve a vibrant and expressive fruit profile. Perfect silky tannins that did not need as much time on skins to hit their sweet spots—zero disease pressure thanks to the dry growing conditions.
Small bunches and berries mean that yields are relatively down, but the stunning density of the fruit (typically found in cooler vintages) that the fresh and elegant young wines are showing makes up for all the drama.
Depth and precision are evident throughout the lots, especially the Sangiovese parcels. We are potentially looking at a high-rated vintage. As I say, every year, the best one ever.