Work in the Vineyard and the Winery
The steps leading to the production of a wine are simple but well defined and they start from the ground. A terrain is made up of rock (minerals) and soil (microbes and organic substance): two different but equally important components. The vine probes the ground and absorbs the minerals in it thanks to the fungi and bacteria which live in the soil. So that the vine can absorb the minerals in the ground through its roots, the soil must be alive and not made sterile by the application of weed killers, chemical fertilisers and massive use of pesticides and fungicides. The vitality and fertility of the soil must remain high to guarantee that intimate relationship between plant and ground.
That is why I decided not to use weed killers or chemical fertilisers but chose copper and sulphur to control powdery and downy mildew. I occasionally use humus and compost where it is needed. In line with biodynamic farming practice, I spread horn manure with compost preparations (500P) over the ground in autumn and spring to increase microbial life in the soil and stimulate root development and penetration into the ground.
I do not till the ground, but leave the vineyards covered with grass. When the plant is pruned in winter it should not be left overloaded with buds. I have no fixed rule on the number of buds, but decide how many to leave on the basis of each plant’s vigour. These are normally 10 on the youngest Guyot-trained vines to about 20 on the oldest trained with double canopy. I promptly remove all double buds in spring so that the leaves are better ventilated. New growth is tied regularly to the supports. I do a single topping by hand in the summer, deciding on the amount to cut off according to shoot growth.
Before flowering starts I spray the foliage with silica horn (501), made from powdered quartz. This stimulates a more upright growth of the plant thereby ensuring a good flow of light to optimise photosynthesis. The fruit ripens on the vine thanks to the stimuli from the earth (mineral) and from the sky (sun). I harvest when the grape is sweet but still crunchy. Not too ripe because I want to maintain what is for me the important and correct amount of acidity.
When you harvest healthy grapes that are at just the right point of ripeness, knowing that you have respected the life of the vineyard, you also find the courage to let the must turn into wine without any external help. It is really essential to let every tank proceed with its fermentation process without any help from activators and exogenous yeasts. By doing this various micro-organisms can work in the must: first those from the grape itself followed by those of the winery. Only in this way can we guarantee the formation of genuine aromas and flavours tied to the soil and the vine. I like to call this the actual “wine-making” stage – the most important. It would be truly difficult if not actually impossible to obtain a territorial wine without letting spontaneous fermentation occur. This first and highly important fermentation process will have a strong effect even on a semi-sparkling or sparkling wine which undergoes secondary fermentation. Removing material from the must with excessive decantation, altering its nutritional values and in particular inoculating it with a population of exogenous yeast makes the resulting wine poorer, unrefined, banal and with no territorial characteristics.
CThere are, however, certain procedures that I definitely follow.
I control the fermentation temperature.
I use sulphur dioxide in the must after pressing, at the first racking before the long winter rest and at the bottling stage for the Charmat method or disgorging for the Classic method.
In order to give my wine its territorial characteristics I consider it equally important to leave it to age on the fine lees for six months until spring. It is during this period that the wine becomes well balanced helped by the yeast. The wine would be impoverished if it were to be clarified or filtered as soon as fermentation stops.
Spring is the season when everything wakes up and the wine could undergo another change. It is the moment for the second racking, which I do at the same time as the protein clarification (if necessary).
Secondary fermentation involves sugaring the wine and inoculating it with exogenous neutral organic yeasts that will ferment without problems in an increasingly alcoholic environment under pressure.
Micro-filtration before bottling is only carried out for the Charmat method.
I do not consider myself a fanatical naturalist who leaves everything completely to nature or to chance.
I just wish to guide the natural process, interfering as little as possible and only when I deem it necessary to ensure that the clarity, fineness, pleasurable nature and flavour of the wine are maintained without altering its natural balance.