The 2021 Harvest at Masseto: A Fruitful Conclusion to a Vintage of Extremes

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The extraordinary reaction of the vines to climate change and the resilience of great terroir

Axel Heinz, Masseto Estate Director and Gaia Cinnirella, Masseto Winemaker

“The characteristics of the vines enabled the climatic extremes to be cushioned and channeled, creating conditions that were limiting yet without an excessive stress for the plants. Fine wines derive from these beginnings.” - Axel Heinz, Estate Director

Masseto, Italy’s most collectable wine estate, is pleased to share the estate’s impressions of the 2021 harvest in Bolgheri, which has now concluded. Every harvest marks a new chapter that elicits new expertise in knowing how to best interpret the vines and their extraordinary ability to react to nature. The 2021 vintage was rather difficult, with extreme conditions throughout the year as evidence of the climate change that now characterizes the seasonal development.

At Masseto, strength lies in the ability of the vines to react, helped by what Estate Director Axel Heinz calls the “resilience of a great terroir”: “The characteristics of the vines enabled the climatic extremes to be cushioned and channeled, creating conditions that were limiting yet without an excessive stress for the plants. Fine wines derive from these beginnings.”

The hallmark traits of Masseto – soil and microclimate – proved fundamental in these critical conditions. The blue clay, unique to Masseto, was crucial, capable of accumulating water reserves in the depths of the soil and only releasing the amount of water needed to avoid the excessive stress of the vines and overcome the summer dryness. The microclimate, with sea breezes and mild temperatures, provided shelter from the spring frost, while in the summer it ensured the ventilation required to withstand the heat.

The best way to understand this complex vintage is the relationship between human beings and terroir. The synergy between the soil type and the area, in addition to the constant vineyard management and attention to detail, enabled the year’s potential pitfalls to be turned into extraordinary strengths.

The harvest, which went without rain from start to finish, began on August 30, with the youngest vines and higher, more precocious parcels in Masseto Alto. The Merlot was harvested on five different occasions until mid-September, while the Cabernet Franc was gathered between September 15 and 28.

Initial impressions would point to a very stylish vintage. As soon as the wines (which are currently showing great potential) have been racked, which is about to finish, they will be moved into barriques for a lengthy period of aging. The road ahead is long, but Axel Heinz explains his initial impressions: “The dry season concentrated the grapes, which yielded intense wines with great potential. The colors are particularly intense, like the aromas characterized by fully ripened black fruit. In the mouth we find the unmistakable balance between richness and firmness that distinguishes Masseto. The wines develop a rich and concentrated palate, with dense and velvety tannins, as the result of careful and soft extraction, underpinned by striking acidity that is reminiscent of some of the best vintages such as 2006, 2010 and 2016.”

All these expectations will take two years to reach their conclusion, when the wine will have finished aging and become ready for bottling. The established practice at Masseto means that cellar intervention is limited to a bare minimum so that the wines find their natural balance between fullness and harmony, which displays their sense of belonging to a terroir with an unmistakable identity. Masseto, as Axel Heinz describes it, is “truly a magical place where nature makes the most important decisions.”

News about the 2021 vintage
2021 brought news to the winery with the arrival of Gaia Cinnirella, who, beginning with this harvest, became the Winemaker at Masseto under the supervision of Axel Heinz. Gaia, formerly Assistant Technical Director and Vineyard Manager at Biondi-Santi from 2018 to 2021, is enthusiastic about contributing to the oenological development and stability of a winery like Masseto: “After work placements at leading wineries like Allegrini and Tenuta San Guido, I was able to hone my passion first at Istine and then at Biondi-Santi. Now I’m proud to be part of this incredible team and I’m excited to contribute towards making uniquely characterful wines. It’s a dream for those, like me, who love their work and see every experience as an opportunity to grow. The extremely stimulating and ever-evolving environment will be a challenge for me, while always looking to the future in the way that a wine like Masseto requires.”

About Masseto –
Masseto is the name of a contemporary legend: one wine, one vineyard, one estate. The potential of the slope where the Masseto vineyard is now situated, along the Tuscan coast, was glimpsed at the beginning of the 1980s, when the first vines were planted, against all predictions, advice and tradition. The insight proved spot on. The blue clay, sea breezes and the exceptional refraction of the light guaranteed by the Mediterranean Sea all contribute to the intriguing blend of power, elegance and complexity that distinguishes the estate wine. Masseto has enjoyed international acclaim since its first vintage in 1986.

Since the 2017 vintage, Masseto has been accompanied by the “second wine” Massetino. Both begin their journey on the Masseto hill in 11 densely-planted hectares and evolve from prized grapes to coveted bottles of wine that refine in the estate’s cellar, which was designed by architectural firm Zito Mori and inaugurated in April 2019. Every autumn, both wines are distributed around the world through Place de Bordeaux. The Masseto estate is part of the group controlled by the Frescobaldi family.

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Erin Healy
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