Wednesday, Oct. 20
We finished picking all the Sangiovese earlier this week. Now we only have a few vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon left. Our plan is to finish all of the picking by next Tuesday.
The weather is not helping us a lot because for the past week we had fairly hot temperatures, very high humidity and frequent showers. Therefore the last Sangiovese picked was already starting to show some botrytis. For this reason we had to do some sorting before the destemming and crushing for the first time this year. To do this, we unloaded the 200-kilogram bins onto a rubber belt 1.5 meters wide and 6 meters long. This belt drops the grapes into the stainless steel container before the crusher. Four people (two per side) sort the grapes on the belt and remove the unhealthy ones.
Even though the percentage of discharged grapes was quite low (less than 10 percent on Monday and around 15 percent on Tuesday and Wedesday), it was quite worth it to sort the lot, considering the excellent quality of the healthy grapes. As a result, the average quality of new wines in the cellar is very high and as of today we don't have any mediocre lots.
The Cabernet grapes still on the vine are very healthy and, because of the loose clusters and thick skins, can resist the difficult weather conditions much better than the Sangiovese. Considering the overall high acidity, the best judgment of quality can be made after malolactic fermentation. But by looking at the colors, perfume and complexity, we are facing an outstanding vintage this year -- with great quantities too!
The best wines so far are probably the Merlot everywhere and the Sangiovese in Greve and Montalcino.
Monday, Oct. 11
Last week we picked Sangiovese from all over, including Greve (Nozzole Chianti Classico and Cabreo Il Borgo), Montalcino (La Fuga Brunello), Montepulciano (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Torcalvano) and Maremma (Porrona IGT).
The results are outstanding. The juices look and taste really great. Usually, during the first few days after filling the tanks we macerate them with "open pump overs," meaning we open the low valve on the tank, let the juice fall into a 300-liter bucket and then pump the liquid into the top of the tank and onto the cap. This technique has the same extraction effects of a regular pump over, but by aerating the juice, especially in the first few days, it helps the yeasts to grow, the colors to extract and avoids reduction.
The perfume and color coming out of the Sangiovese are intense! Lots of fruit and a deep intense red (quite unusual for Sangiovese after only a few days of maceration).
Although the maturation of the skin and sugar levels are right on the spot, this year the average acidities are high and the pH low, therefore a real impression of the structure of the wines can be found after malolactic fermentation.
As of today we still have to pick all of the Cabernet Sauvignon (except for Bolgheri) and just a few vineyards of Sangiovese. The weather is starting to break up a little, but the grapes left on the vine have thick skins and loose clusters that help to prevent botrytis.
We think that we will be finished by the middle of next week.
Monday, Sept. 27
We finished picking all our whites including Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia for Vin Santo.
It takes a long time to pick Malvasia for Vin Santo because we need to cut a piece of cane along with the grape. The stem, where the grape attaches to the cane, forms a "T" so we can use it as a support to hang each single grape on a wire in a cool and ventilated room. This way, the grapes can dehydrate until January, maintaining a good integrity.
Most of our white cuvées are dry or almost dry and by tasting them now we already have a rough idea of the potential. As I anticipated, the quality is excellent, with persistent bouquets and complex aromas, and lots of freshness in the taste, because of above average acidities. The higher acidity will probably require us to run malolactic fermentation on all our whites (usually we do it on only one-third of the production).
For the reds, we picked all of the Merlot, our vineyard of Syrah and just started picking the Cabernet Sauvignon in Bolgheri and the Sangiovese in Montalcino.
All the reds this year seem to be high in sugar and acidity, with good tannins and -- especially in the Merlot -- the grapes have thick skins (exactly the opposite of last year's thin-skinned Merlot).
The bouquets and flavors are very fruity and young, in some cases even slightly green. The thick skins require a more extensive maceration: For the Merlot we alternate pump overs and punch downs in order to get better skin extraction. To avoid the extraction of harsh tannins because of the extended macerations, we also remove all of the seeds that are sitting at the bottom of the tank after the second day of fermentation.
The high content of malic acid will allow us to have a better idea of the balance of the wines only after malolactic fermentation has taken place, but, on the other hand, it will certainly help to keep the wines young and fruity throughout their aging.
The weather is still on our side and the grapes are still healthy.
Tuesday, Sept. 21
First of all and, most importantly, I became a father for the third time!
Getting back to the harvest: We had two days of rain with thunderstorms last week, but fortunately we did not suffer any damage from this bad weather, even in Montalcino where a hailstorm went by. We were luckily out of its reach. After the rain, a few days of dry wind helped to eliminate humidity and therefore the risk of skin deterioration.
Today, we finished picking all the Chardonnay. The crop was outstanding this year and compared with the last four vintages, we have more aromas, a slightly higher acidity level (averaging 5.5 grams/liter instead of 5.0) and 15 percent more yield.
With the Merlot, we finished picking in our new Maremma Estate (Vigne a Porrona) and are just about halfway through in Bolgheri (Campo al Mare). This variety looks great this year; it has a thick skin that requires a little more maceration during fermentation. Considering that this year the fruit is very healthy, we are extracting fresh aromas with notes of cherry and, unlike last year, there are no notes of overripeness. Total acidities are slightly higher than usual (averaging 5.2 grams per liter).
Tomorrow we will start picking our Syrah (we have only one vineyard in Maremma and this year is our first vintage).
Sangiovese is still maturing. The closest to be picked, strange enough, is in Montalcino, which we usually pick last. For all the Sangiovese, we are looking at uniformity and healthy grapes with good acidity levels and thick skins.
Everything looks fantastic right now, and the weather forecasts are encouraging.
Tuesday, Sept. 14
Lots happening this week. As of today we've picked two-thirds of the Chardonnay in the area of Greve/Panzano, precisely all the fruit for "Nozzole Le Bruniche" and a small amount of the grapes for Cabreo la Pietra. We also started picking Sauvignon Blanc at our estate in Friuli (Novacuzzo). Yesterday, we began pulling our Merlot in Bolgheri (Campo al Mare). Saturday, we harvested part of our Merlot of the Maremma Estate (Vigne a Porrona)
For all other reds, except for Sangiovese, we will start mid next week.
So far the grapes look great, healthy and the Chardonnay juices are very perfumed and fresh, with good acidity. It's still to soon to know about the reds, but the fruit is extremely healthy and uniform in maturation.
This year, due to the weather, the maturation course is very regular, unlike the past four years, when because of a hot growing season (in 2000 and 2003), or a hot growing season with excessive rain during August and September (2002), we had to adopt several techniques in order to avoid over-ripening and excessive concentration with low acidity.
It's early to say, but if the weather helps us, we have the chance to accomplish an outstanding harvest!
Tuesday, Sept. 7
So far I can tell that the vintage is looking great because we had a very mild and uniform growing season with lots of sunshine and a well-distributed amount of rain. There is absolutely no stress on the vines, the fruit is looking good and the maturation is slightly delayed. We are planning to start picking the first whites by late next week.
We have begun preparing for the event since early this summer. Two weeks ago, right after our vacation, we started to clean the stainless steel tanks, using a high-pressure sprayer and a mixture of water and soda for the first rinse and then water with citric acid. We do the same for all the hoses, pumps and cellar equipment. Right now we are transferring some wines in order to prepare the first empty barrels. That is usually for our Chardonnay (Cabreo La Pietra), which ferments in oak and will probably be picked early next week. Tomorrow we will start to pick the Chardonnay for "Le Bruniche" coming from a vineyard in Nozzole at Passo Dei Pecorai, and one near Panzano.
By Thursday or Friday, we might start with the Merlot in our new vineyard in Maremma (Vigne a Porrona). By early next week our Merlot in Bolgheri should be ready for picking.
I am very happy so far because the quality of the fruit is outstanding: healthy, uniform, tasty skins, good sugars and acidity levels and plenty of quantity.
Speaking of quantity: In the past three harvests, we've had ridiculously low quantities. In 2001 a spring frost cut 30 percent of our potential production; in 2002, in order to maintain good quality, we had to do a massive sorting of the grapes (over 40 percent was left on the vines and an extra 10 percent was eliminated before crushing); and in 2003 a spring hail in the area of Greve reduced our production by almost 70 percent.
So I'm knocking on wood and hoping that the season will proceed with good weather, which it has so far.