Posted by Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer
The weather in Tuscany is absolutely perfect for the time being–during the day, we enjoy highs of 86 degrees F, and at night the temperatures decrease to below 68 degrees F. This is not only very pleasant for a good night of sleep but, more importantly, supports an optimal ripening process in the grapes, especially of the polyphenols—the compounds that give color and flavor, including anthocyanins and tannins. Moreover, it prevents a loss of acidity, which is particularly crucial in the Maremma, the hottest area in Tuscany.
The color intensity of the Sangiovese berries we've harvested and destemmed so far is impressive—normally we only see intensity like this after two to three days of fermentation.
The workload in the Maremma has also grown rather intensive. Whereas last week we had 18 pickers, we now have a team of 27 harvesting the grapes by hand. In the cellar, we also have increased the staff, from three to five people. The harvest of the Merlot should be completed by today, and we started picking the Sangiovese on Monday.
The fermentation vats are filling up one by one—we ferment each variety by itself and even separate the single vineyards. All the vats are conical steel tanks. The shape generates more contact between the must and the grape skins, while reducing contact between the must and the air. A couple of years ago, we replaced pumping over during fermentation with punchdowns using modern pestles. We gently use the pestles three to five times per day per vat. It's very time-intensive but assures the best results.
I mentioned our experimental white wine project in my last blog entry. It has become "everybody's darling" with the staff at the Chianti Classico winery, despite the tiny production of 500 liters (about 55 cases worth). It's the only juice in the Chianti cellar for the moment and everybody is excited to see how it turns out. It is something completely new to all of us.
In Chianti Classico, we are all set up to start harvesting the first Merlot vineyards. But we are still waiting patiently until the grapes are perfectly ripe. Especially for Merlot, the ideal picking timeframe is very small–it would be a mistake to miss the small time slot but also a shame not to remain cool, which demands a lot of strong nerves. I think we will get going this Thursday. I'll keep you posted!
Martin Kronenberg — September 4, 2008 12:18pm ET
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