The temperatures in December were relatively high for the season in Naoussa. But throughout January and February the average thermal readings were climatological normal.
Spring was uncharacteristic on two counts compared to prior vintages. March was cold, which prolonged the duration of budburst although it commenced on the same calendar days as in preceding years. Further, the weather during the two consecutive months of April and May was marked by intense drought and a wide diurnal temperature range (differences between day and night temperatures) in the vineyard. This led to a one-week delay in the flowering of all grape varieties.
Graph 1. The mean air temperature (°C) in Naoussa in 2021 relative to the mean temperatures for 2004-2020 for the months of January to October
A hailstorm on June 12 caused damage to parts of our vineyard, suffering losses of 25% to 5%.
In general, July and August were two hot months with extended, affecting periods of intense heat and dry spells. However, on the positive site, this was conducive to an accelerated pace of veraison in the beginning of August.
After all this, September turned smiles on our faces because it resembled autumn as usual, having warm days (32°C) and really cool evenings (16°C). To everyone’s relieve, veraison got completed in time with a good chance for the grapes to reach excellent phenolic ripeness.
October saw some rainfall at first but it did not diminish the already excellent quality of the Xinomavro grapes that were still left to be picked.
This year’s harvest in Yiannakohori, Naoussa started on August 30 for Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon and ended on September 17. Interestingly, the different varieties were not harvested separately one after another. Picking rotated back and forth between them as needed. The Xinomavro harvest began on September 21 and ended on October 10.
If one had to sum up the vintage in one sentence, it would be that 2021 is a different year compared to the former five vintage years. The dominant tread ist he great uniformity and rich phenolic wealth of the grapes combined with satisfactory crop yields.
From a viticultural aspect the grapes were disease-free thanks to the dry and intensely hot summer. The pressure was on all of us to manage the water reserves appropriately in order to preserve all the positive qualities of the vintage.
Graph 2. The precipitation (mm) in Naoussa in 2021 relative to the mean levels for 2004-2020 for the months of January to October
Cabernet Sauvignon: 10
This year’s winter in Amyndeon was relatively warm and rainy without much snowfall.
March and April were frigid, with severe cold spells. Especially the frost in April caused some damage to the buds though not significantly.
These conditions delayed budburst by five to seven days. May was relatively warm and dry, which stressed the plants and triggered uneven budding and a further delay in the onset of flowering.
During the flowering stage in June the conditions were rainy, which resulted in poor fruitsetbut also in less dense clusters. By implication this caused better ventilation, which in turn contributed positively to a reduction in disease infestation, whereas the berries would not swell excessively thanks to the conditions that ensued.
The hot and arid summer intensified from the end of July till the middle of August. The August heat wave was unprecedented for the region when the quicksilver did not drop below 20°C at night.
Initially, these conditions phenologically accelerated the plants but the heat wave postponed the onset of ripening by 5 days to one week later than usual. The low nocturnal temperatures after August 15 accelerated veraison of the varieties already at this phase and the ripening of the earlier ones. Furthermore, crop yields of early-ripening varieties were reduced, especially for those in non-irrigated, young vineyards up to 7 years old.
Graph 3. The mean air temperature (°C) in Amyndeon in 2021 relative to the mean temperatures for 2003-2020 for the months of January to October
The harvest began on August 25 with small amounts of Chardonnay and continued with Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer. Most volumes of the early grape varieties were harvested after September 3.
The ripening of the first-picked grapes took place under dry and warm conditions that initially were going to reduce the acidity level.
This was however mitigated by the riper grapes harvested later in September. By then the grapes were fragrant and balanced: especially the Chardonnay, Traminer and Malagousia varieties were starring – not that Sauvignon Blanc was lagging behind.
The red varieties Merlot and Syrah, on the other hand, seemed to have been favored by the dryness and heat of summer, leaving the grapes healthy, aromatic and rich in phenolic compounds.
The weather remained good throughout most of September but a prevailing dry spell delayed the ripening of Roditis and Xinomavro.
A bout of rain at the end of September hastened the ripening and signalled the start of the harvest. Assyrtiko was also harvested from the end of September till early October, the usual time for the region. It showed resistance to this year’s drought and heat and was high in acidity.
The heavy rains from October 6 onwards belated the harvest however without any particular problems for grape health thanks to the dry and warm weather of the earlier period. The grapes could absorb water, which is some cases was needed, without the appearance of rot. By and large, the rains made it difficult for the grapes to accumulate the required amount of sugars yet in the end they reached the desired degree of sweetness.
Roditis is moderately aromatic with relatively low acidity. Xinomavro for still rosé and sparkling rosé is fragrant with good acidity. Xinomavro for Kali Riza has less intensity and alcohol than other years but is quite aromatic.
Sauvignon Blanc: 9
In Goumenissa, the winter was relatively normal with the usual frost and few rains. Budburst began on April 10, coinciding with the seasonal frosts, which didn’t cause any damage to the buds. Two heavy rainfalls between June 5 and 10 helped the vines cope to a certain extent with the very hot summer conditions. The downpours were in fact followed by intense and prolonged dry spells starting from the end of June lasting almost two whole months without any precipitation. Only 28mm of rainfall was recorded by the cooperative’s meteorological station for this duration.
Problems occurred in non-irrigated vineyards. The strong water stress of the summer months caused by the arid and hot weather led to balanced acidity in the white wine varieties and great extractability of anthocyanins in the red-skinned ones.
September advanced uneventfully with normal temperatures and no rainfall. This helped to smoothly finish the vintage of the red varieties. A wave of showers during the course of early October did not significantly affect the harvesting of Xinomavro and Negoska, which permitted to complete this year’s vintage. Crops yields were down 10-15% compared to 2020.
Cabernet Sauvignon: 9
Sauvignon Blanc: 9