60cm Snow in Abruzzo

Francesco Valentini holds forth

An unusually large snowfall on Monday and Tuesday of last week has destroyed vines in the vineyards of Abruzzo. Reports of the amount of damage vary, but in one case may be as high as 50%, the problem exacerbated by the tall pergola vine training typical of the region.


The snow itself did not come by surprise; local weather stations had forecast it to begin on Monday. It was it’s quantity, coupled with strong winds of up to 160km/hour, however, that caused major damage to the vines. Angelo Ruzzi, Sales Export Manager at Azienda Zaccagnini, explained: “The quantity of snow which fell on unpruned tall pergola trained vines was the problem. They supported it, and eventually broke. We have only lost up to 10% of our vines. Some were less lucky”


The 1983 vintage of Francesco Valentini’s celebrated Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (yes, the much maligned Trebbiano) may be the best Italian white I have ever tasted, but his vineyard was hit the worst, with up to 50% of the vines damaged by the snow. He viewed this from a different perspective: “The issue is not the amount of damage to my vines or any others, it is climate change. We have had up to 60cm of snow falling in November, coupled with winds of up to 140km/hour; this isn’t normal. In Italy we talk about Berlusconi, but no-one writes about these serious issues. We will recover from the damage, but the climate will continue to change, unchecked.”


Tonino Verna, President of both Cantina Tollo, the region’s largest cooperative, and of the Consorzio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, put some perspective on it: “Out of 35,000Ha planted to members of the Consorzio, about 2000Ha have been affected. At Cantina Tollo, out of the 3,500Ha of our members, only about 50Ha have been affected. Yes, there has been damage to vines, especially in the hills, but not catastrophic, as some are suggesting.”


This year has been harsh on the European vineyard, with devastating thunderstorms in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace; this is the latest instalment. Perhaps Francesco Valentini is right, and we can look forward to more of the same next year.