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As the Tuscan Harvest Ends, we Recognize our Staff's Hard Work

Harvest 2008 comes to a close at Brancaia; the celebrations begin.

Posted: Oct 22, 2008 10:00am ET

By Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer

Posted by Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer

Last Sunday, we celebrated the end of harvest 2008 together with our staff from all three estates. Temperatures hit 84°F at our Maremma estate, where we held the celebration. A blue sky and a crystal clear view over the coast all the way out to the isles of Elba and Corsica made for a perfect setting. We were all in high spirits after finishing the heavy work in the vineyards and enjoyed a great day.

After many years, we are a very good team in organizing these kind of events: One employee is good friends with the best butcher in the area and always brings along the essentials for a great barbecue, others bring homemade sausages and the women that day all appear to be competing for "pastry chef of the year"—you cannot imagine all the delicious cakes and desserts on the buffet! Every year my father prepares classic garlic-butter bread and pumpkin soup the day before—the smell of garlic-butter bread and pumpkin soup means: Sit down, it's time to feast!

During my previous blogs, I have always stressed that great wines can only be produced from great grapes, and that one has to adapt all measures in the vineyard to the unpredictable and unstoppable impact of nature. We have to observe nature every day and react with respect for sustainability. So I live on the estate, in the middle of the vineyards, and can walk all the vineyards every week—harvesttime and every day—mostly with my agronomist. I continuously know how our plants are doing and what needs to be done.

But with nearly 173 acres of vineyards in production, I am obviously very dependent on our loyal vineyard staff—each one spends over 500 hours working by hand in each two and a half acres every year until the grapes are delivered to the wine cellar. Every step during this process is a quality control—without this we could never make our wines! All the work has to be carried out correctly and with great care and many times under ghastly conditions—rain for days during spring pruning, dusty heat in the summer and constant physical stress during harvest—and on top of all that, the monotony of carrying out the same work for days, if not weeks. Moreover, keep in mind, that our vineyard staff cannot afford to buy our wines in a wine shop or in a restaurant.

To get to the point: We require our staff to maintain a high standard of quality at work. They cannot, and do not, live in their own homes. They sacrifice a lot. How do we manage this contradiction? It is only possible through continuous teaching, tasting and inviting all staff members to annual working trips to other European cities to inspire them to focus on quality and allow them to see where the wines are finally consumed.

In the end, we care about our people the same way we care about our wines—we don't compromise! That allows me to say that our staff are proud to be team members at Brancaia.

Talk to you next week.

Ziad Keirouz
portland/oregon —  October 27, 2008 10:38am ET
I am glad you made the point that although the grapes are important, hard work and focus on quality is imperative to making great wines. In addition, I believe you echo my sentiment and the sentiment of other winemakers, that we do not do this for the money and neither does our vineyard or winery staff. We do it for the love of it and we are proud to be part of it. A point that is not made enough in publications and at times by certain writers who are critical of the winemakers for various reasons. My 2008 harvest in washington was amazing but a lot of hard work because of the uneven weather and the fact that I was on a panel in New York for the California Wine Experience during the last and most crucial part. Thank God for my Blackerry and text messaging. Thanks for your hard work. I look forward to the wines.

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