Summary of the Italian wine vintages on a year by year basis, with recommendations of wines to look out for.
This section is updated regularly.
Quick facts: Chianti is from the Tuscany region
Barolo and Barbaresco are from the Piedmont region
This was a good year for growers across most of Italy, who experienced a relatively cool summer which led to slower than normal ripening of grapes and resulting in wines, especially from Tuscany, taking longer to mature. Piedmont experienced a late hot summer, with high temperatures throughout September and this is the region to look out for when choosing a '96.
An amazing vintage, especially for Tuscan wines and wines from Piedmont. In fact, if you can find a Chianti Classico 1997 in a restaurant then you should not be disappointed. Elsewhere, whilst still a good vintage, growers were somewhat eclipsed by the success in Tuscany, where some producers stated that the 1997 was the best vintage in half a century.
Another very good year for Tuscany and Piedmont although some Tuscan producers suffered from poor picking timing during the October rains. Those that picked before or after were rewarded with long living wines but to be sure, pick a Barolo or Barbaresco from Piedmont. The wines are classics and will drink well now or keep for another 10 years or more. Elsewhere, adverse weather conditions made picking difficult and especially in Campania and Basilicata, where the 1998 wines are best avoided.
This was the year of rain for much of Italy, resulting in only average wines from Marches & Abruzzo and credible wines from Piedmont. The two regional exceptions were Tuscany and Campania which enjoyed a warm and sunny growing season and led to excellent vintages in both areas.
Look out for Barolos from 2000 - it was an exceptionally hot vintage throughout much of Italy, too hot for effective grape growing and the only reason Piedmont escaped the worst of the heat was because it is relatively far north. The wines produced are exceptional and will keep for many years. By contrast, Chiantis from this year are not on the same par and whilst the top growers produced credible results, you are likely to find wines at the table now that whilst drinkable, do not have the wow factor.
Yet another successful vintage for Italy's wine makers, with the best wines coming from Camania & Basilicata, where weather conditions were hot and dry for four months until the end of October. Elsewhere, Tuscany did not fare so well, subject to irregular weather conditions. The well known producers still worked their magic to produce great wines, but beware, there are some dogs too. Amarone & Veneto experienced a good run of dry weather and wines from 2001 are good to very good.
In contrast to the 1997 'best for half a century', 2002 could go down as the 'worst for half a century'. Heavy rains across Italy led to most crops being a total washout, with yields significantly down and widespread rot. Piedmont saw plenty of hailstorms which wrecked the Barolo crops, yet the top producers still managed to salvage something worth drinking. In Tuscany, rains in September and October adversely affected the vintage, although there are some good wines still to be had, although drink them up now. Overall, avoid this vintage - it's not worth the risk.
Like elsewhere in Europe, 2003 was one of the hottest on record and this caused problems for growers in Tuscany and Piedmont. By contrast, wines from Marches and Abruzzo are outstanding - keep an eye out for Montepulcianos from this year, that could handle all that heat and more. Amarone and Veneto also enjoyed fantastic growing conditions and the wines are drinking well now but will benefit from a few more years in the cellar.
Wines from Tuscany and Piedmont should be on your hit list for 2004, with classic growing conditions throughout the regions - lovely warm and sunny days, followed by cooler nights and no rush to harvest. Another classic vintage for wines from the Veneto region, with powerful wines produced that will last for a good few years to come. Only areas to avoid would be Campania & Basilicata, which had uneven weather in September and October, leading to undoubtedly average wines.
Another year of heavy rains leading to widespread rot and uneven wines. This in contrast to much of Europe's wine producers that hailed 2005 as one of the best years in recent times. Tuscany and Piedmont producers did OK and again, you can find good wines from the top producers, but it is probably not worth the risk. In the more southern areas, conditions were much much better and resulted in some excellent wines from the Basilicata and Campania regions - these are the ones to look out for from 2005 and will keep well into 2010.