After talking about grapesin general, let's move on to the important topic of harvesting: how does the harvest of your red grapes take place? Do you use machinery, or do you opt for the manual method?
Just as for white grapes, the harvesting of red grapes here at Tenute d’Italia is also strictly manual. It is true that mechanized harvesting allows operations to be carried out faster, limiting the risks of delay in the event of sudden bad weather and thus respecting the perfect moment of fruit ripening in a more precise way, but in our opinion, manual harvesting remains absolutely the best choice. Thanks to the experience of our team of harvesters we are in fact able to make an important selection at the time of harvest, bringing to the cellars – thus starting the vinification - only the best grapes, perfectly ripened and without defect.
And after that?
As soon as the grapes are harvested, they are loaded onto special wagons and transported to the winery, where theybegin the vinification process.
So far, the procedure is exactly the same as that followed for white grapes. At what point do the two processing techniques differ?
First of all, in our specific case, while it is possible to use the terms "procedure used for white (or red) grapes" and "white (or red) vinification" as perfect synonyms, we must remember that this equation doesn’t always hold true, since the two winemaking techniques can be applied to any type of grape, regardless of colour.
Having established this necessary premise, the crossroads that distinguish the two procedures is met precisely when the grapes arrive at the winery. The white grapes, as you will remember, are placed in the press, while a different tool is used for the black grapes, the so-called crusher-destemmer.This machinery separates the stalks - therefore the green part of the bunch - from the berries, which are then pressed to release the must.
So the press is not used in red wine making?
Yes, it is used, but only at a later stage. After passing through the crusher-de-stemmer, all the product obtained - composed then of must and marc - is transferred to special tanks in which maceration and alcoholic fermentation take place.
We are back in the company of production manager Ivan Lentini to continue our journey to discover the main winemaking techniques used at the Tenute d’Italia winery. After having discovered the main steps that make up the so-called white vinification procedure, here we are again, ready to review the red vinification procedure.
Hi Ivan! Nice to see you again. Let's begin our story starting, as usual, from the raw material, that is, from the grapes. What are the varieties grown in your vineyards, that is, those processed in your cellars?
Hi everyone. First of all I want to say that it is a pleasure to continue this interview: I hope that the readers have enjoyed the first part of our journey, and that they have been able to discover some interesting details about winemaking. In fact, I believe that this topic is really important for a full appreciation of the finished wine, and thus enriching one's experience as a consumer. On this premise, we come to our new topic: in the vineyards of Tenute d’Italia, red grapes undoubtedly represent the greater percentage of our crop, and we have several varieties.
The first we should mention is certainly Sangiovese: this is in fact the most typical grape variety of our territory, and one which, like most of the Romagna producers, we are particularly fond of!
Alongside Sangiovese there are also some international vines, which can also boast a great tradition in Romagna: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Barbera.
To complete the review we must add Malbo Gentile and Ancellotta: these are also two native varieties, therefore typical of our areas, which due to their characteristics are mainly used as blending grapes: this means that they are not used to produce wines in purity (that is, produced 100% with these varieties) but rather, they contribute to the production of others. This happens through the assemblage carried out either at the actual start of the winemaking process, adding these grapes to those of other varieties - this mainly happens with the Ancellotta - or by producing a wine that will later be used to cut other batches - as is the case with Malbo Gentile.
[TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT]
[READ THE PREVIOUS [Our] Red Vinification: the Grapes - part 1]
Speaking of white grapeswe specified that they are the first to be gathered in the harvest, and we also gave a rough idea of the order in which they reach maturity. Can we do the same for black grapes too?
Well, we can certainly say that, in principle, black grapes are harvested after the white ones. With regard to our own vineyards, Syrah is usually the first to be harvested, followed by Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Normally it is Barbera that closes the operation.
As we have said several times though, this order is subject to numerous variables.
The first, and most important, factor is certainly the wine we intend to make from a specific batch of grapes: some of our products, such as Cabernet Sauvignon Rubicone I.G.P. “Potente”and the Merlot Rubicone I.G.P. "Sintria" are in fact produced with late harvest grapes, thus slightly extending their stay on the plant to obtain higher sugar concentrations.
Having said that, we must take into consideration the specific characteristics of each plot, which can favour a more or less rapid ripening process, as well as the atmospheric conditions!
So, let's say then that, if it was quite simple to outline an order for white grapes, for black grapes it is decidedly more complex!
We have already had the opportunity to introduce the theme of the colour of wine, recognising its origin in a real choice that the producer makes in the very first stages of winemaking. After our brief introduction, in which we introduced the concepts of white and red vinification, we will now begin to go into the details of each of them, illustrating the different stages of development and the specific characteristics.
To do this we will have the pleasure of benefitting from the collaboration of the production manager of Tenute d'Italia, Mr. Ivan Lentini, who will accompany us on a journey to discover how wine is made: starting from the story of his work in our cellars in Linaro.
Hi Ivan! First of all, thank you for your willingness to help us get a deeper understanding of the great topic of wine production. We have already had the opportunity to mention to our readers the two main wine-making techniques, white and red vinification. Now we hope you will be able to tell us all the details. Where do we start?
Hello everyone! I would like to start by saying that the theme we are about to deal with is really very broad, and in addition to the general distinction between the production of white or red wine, it is always necessary to specify that each particular production follows a precise, absolutely singular logic, which depends precisely on the product that you intend to produce. This means not only reserving specific stratagems for each variety of grape, but also applying different stratagems for the different lots of the same type of grape that we want to allocate to different products.
Could you give us an example?
Of course! Think of Pignoletto: in 2019 we decided that we would make a sparkling version, and this led to harvesting the grapes slightly earlier than normal, before the fruits had fully ripened. In this way, we ensured not only a greater finesse of the aromas, but also a better acidity of the must and a lower alcohol content, due to the lower presence of sugars in the grapes. Since two fermentations are required for a sparkling wine (the alcoholic fermentation and the re-fermentation which gives the effervescence) an alcoholic degree that starts off too high could in fact have significantly compromised the pleasantness of the finished wine.
[TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT]
[READ THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE - [Our] White Vinification: Harvesting - part 1]
As we have already named the Pignoletto, we could start right away with the theme of white vinification! What are the other grapes which you use this technique for?
Having read the previous article, I immediately want to clarify that in Tenute d’Italia we apply the equation: white grapes/white vinification and red grapes/red vinification. We are evaluating the possibility of testing the maceration technique for the Albana, but for now it’s only a project.
As for white grapes, there are three types in our vineyards: the Pignoletto, the Trebbiano and the Albana. Let's say that they are perhaps the three most typical varieties of our territory, capable of giving wines of great quality but also of great character.
With regard to the Pignoletto, you mentioned a harvesting that is earlier than normal. Usually, what period are we talking about?
Pignoletto is usually the first variety to be harvested, not only for our production needs but also for the specific characteristics of the plant. In fact, there are varieties that ripen earlier, and others that need more time to mature. Let's say that the harvest of the Pignoletto can begin as early as the last weeks of August, followed closely by the Albana. Trebbiano is the last white variety we gather.
Obviously, this is a rough outline: each harvest is a unique and unrepeatable adventure, marked mainly by the climatic trend of the entire vintage.In addition, another detail not to be overlooked, the timing of the collection must also take into account the position of the vineyards: the fruit ripening process varies significantly depending on exposure, altitude and the type of soil on which the plants are born, sowe always need to take into consideration the differences between the lowland vineyards and hills.
How does the harvest take place?Do you use specific machinery for the grape harvest?
No. At Tenute d'Italia we only carry out manual harvesting: it is certainly less rapid than the mechanical method, but it allows us to make a better selection of the fruits, discarding the bunches that are not perfectly ripe or that have imperfections and, above all, it is much less invasive, less traumatic for the grapes. The bunches are placed in small crates and then loaded onto a cart, on which they are transported to the cellars, where the real wine-making process begins.
[READ THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Harvesting part 1 / part 2]
Let's continue our chat with the production manager Ivan Lentini on the white vinification process as performed at Tenute d’Italia. To read the first part of the interview click here!
What happens when the grapes arrive at the winery?
The bunches of grapes are immediately loaded into the press, i.e. a cylindrical machine equipped inside with an air chamber whose increase and decrease in pressure can be controlled: when the grapes are placed inside the press and this chamber is swollen the berries are crushed against the walls to let out the juice (the must): the presence of a grilled wall allows the must to come out perfectly separated from the marc, or pomace.
How big is a press?
The press is a machine available in different formats: ours allows us to load about 30 quintals (3000 kgs) of grapes.
Is it preferable to work at maximum load or with smaller quantities?
Let's start by saying that if the harvest is a traumatic moment for the grapes, the moment of pressing undoubtedly represents the peak of the stress to which we subject the fruit. So the general rule when it comes to wine is that we should always minimize the trauma which our product undergoes at every stage of its processing: during the pressing cycle, the chamber in which the grapes are introduced rotates on itself (to facilitate the distribution of the grapes inside) therefore the fewer grapes we introduce, the greater the possibility of their being knocked about inside the press, causing an uncontrolled crushing of the berries.
Our goal is to preserve the integrity of the wine grape with a full load, so that we can have maximum control of the pressing.
[TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT]
[READ THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE: [Our] White Vinification: Pressing - part 1]
Do you also adopt other measures?
For some years we have adopted a veritable pressing protocol that allows for the complete abandonment of the so-called pre-set loading programs to adopt customised programs, designed for our specific needs. To give you an idea of the improvement, we went from about 30 rotations for each load to a current average of 3. In the same way, even for the subsequent phases of the actual pressing, our machinery is set up to work according to a precise sequence developed by our technicians and consultants.
What does it consist of?
The white wines of Tenute d'Italia are treated with a procedure inspired by that of the great French white wines: we work in gradual increments, that is, we set a first pressing pressure which will be kept constant until the flow of must exiting the press has ended.
At that point, without deflating the chamber, we increase the pressure to get a new flow, and so on for a maximum of two more sessions. In this way we obtain the so-called free-run juice, absolutely the most precious must and the one that will be used to produce the most valuable wines, such as Pignoletto DOC Spumante Santerno Wines.
Is that the end of the pressing phase?
Absolutely not. From this first phase we obtain the absolute finest must (the free-run juice), but the process can continue. The procedure is simply repeated by applying higher pressures, obtaining the so-called second pressing, which is still quite precious and with great aromatic potential.If you want to completely exhaust the extraction potential of our grapes, you can finally proceed with a third and final cycle, the so-called third pressing (or torchiatura), whose quality level will however be significantly lower than the other two lots of must. Though, in certain cases, it is in fact possible to allow for the blending of the free-run juice and the must from the second pressing, the must produced by the third pressing will always be kept separate, to process it independently.
There is very little time left before the start of the harvest, but even these last few days will be crucial in defining the quality of the 2020 vintage. While it will be necessary to wait a few more weeks to be able to trace an overall evaluation of the vintage - analysing its trend and, consequently, outlining the main characteristics that will mark the new production - we can already introduce this fascinating theme by taking a look at everything that happens before the grape gathering. The production of a wine is indeed a long process that begins way back, in the early months of the year, in the vineyards, and it winds its way through several stages, all carefully planned. The perfect management of these stages is a crucial element in order to obtain a good wine.
To introduce this vast and most fascinating agrarian aspect of wine production, we have chosen to rely once again on the professionalism of the team of technicians of the Tenute d’Italia network. We have met and interviewed for you the agricultural expert Massimo Casella, responsible for the management of our vineyards.
Hi Massimo! To get the ball rolling, could we ask you to introduce yourself and briefly explain your role within Tenute d’Italia.
Hi everyone. I am Massimo Casella, I am an agricultural expert, and my work takes place on the soil, among the vineyards: in fact, I take care of the agronomic management of the vineyards, that is, the care of the plants and their fruits until the time of harvest, when the work passes into the hands of the winemakers.
Can you explain to us what the "agronomic management" of the vineyard consists of?
The agronomic management of the vineyard includes several fundamental programming areas and interventions, namely the defence of the vineyard against disease– and from attacks by insects and fungi; its nourishment, or the planning of a correct nutritional supply to the plants; weed control and irrigation management.
Does your work in planning the defence and nutrition programmes of the vineyards follow a standard protocol or is it possible that changes occur between one year and the next?
Each year is definitely unique! The main variable - not to say the unknown - of my work is represented by the weather, which significantly affects the development of fungi that attack the vine: powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis.
In addition to the weather, there are many other factors that affect, directly or indirectly, every year to define the trend - and the quality - of a vintage. Let's think, for example, of insects: every year their number and, above all, their aggressiveness can vary significantly. Defence programs against these pathogenic agents therefore have to be based on the monitoring programs carried out at regional level which provide us with essential data to guide us.
[TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT INSTALMENT]
[READ THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE - Before the Harvest: the Agronomic Side of Wine Production - Part 1]
In the vineyards of Tenute d’Italia there are several different varieties of grape: is this also an element that affects your work? Are there varieties that are easier to manage and others that are more delicate?
Yes certainly, variety is also an essential factor. By way of example, the incidence of botrytis on albana is almost zero, unlike red vines which are much more sensitive to the attack of this fungus. On the other hand, an attack of mites on an albana or trebbiano is much more likely than on a syrah. So let's say that each variety has its own strengths and its own weaknesses. But let's be careful here: I want to make it clear how these examples are closely linked to our vineyards. The individual characteristics of each plot (altitude, exposure, soil composition) are in fact crucial to define the incidence of health problems.
As far as nutrition is concerned though, does this also vary depending on the year?
Yes. Absolutely. Certainly, from this point of view the continuity between the different vintages is clearly stronger, that is between the work to be set up each new year and that carried out in previous years. In any case, when it comes to nutrition, it should be emphasised that the key element is the objective in terms of the final product. In other words: it is true that wine is made in the cellars... but also in the vineyard! Through nutrition we can in fact, from the vineyard, inaugurate a work of monitoring and intervention on some essential components of the wine that we are going to produce, such as the alcoholic component and the polyphenolic component. Furthermore, over time, a nutritionally well-supported vineyard guarantees a constant in terms of production and quality compared to a fluctuating management.
Let's remember that nutrition is not only the supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but also calcium and bio stimulants contribute in every situation to guarantee the objectives which we have set ourselves. Referring back to the previous question, there are obviously also clear differences in approach to nutrition according to the different varieties: but going into detail on this particular aspect would be rather complex due to the many variables concerning the composition of each variety and of the various clones.
We have seen how multiple factors are involved in defining the quality of a vintage, characterised both by a strong interconnection and by an absolute mutability. The vintage that we can read on the label therefore doesn't just indicate the year in which the grapes used to produce that particular wine were harvested, but it encompasses the whole history that led up to that harvest.
Are there other elements that intervene to define the quality of a vintage?
A predisposing factor for the success of a vintage is certainly proper water management, or the possibility of being able to make up for any shortfalls and thus avoid the so-called stress of the plant. After all, if we think about it, this is a determining factor in the management of any crop!
How do you envision a perfect vintage?
Let’s start with the premise that there is no single answer to this question. As we have seen, there are so many variables that we cannot define a uniquely perfect set-up. Rather, we can speak of favourable years, that is, those in which the pressure of pathogens does not go beyond the thresholds and the correct nutritional intake is supported by the weather. Of course, long periods of drought are always to be avoided, as well as, conversely, excessive rainfall, especially in the period close to harvest.Equally damaging are extreme weather events such as hailstorms, tornadoes or frosts.That said, however, I want to emphasise an important point: successfully completing the so-called agronomic year, therefore being successful in managing the vineyard, does not automatically mean having a great vintage in the cellar. The key to success in the overall work of our supply chain lies in the constant coordination between the agronomic work and that carried out by the team of oenologists at every stage of the journey, in order to pursue a final goal. We must never forget, though, that constantly working alongside us is Mother Nature, a very special collaborator who is capable not only of dealing with really unexpected problems but also of proving herself to be a great ally.
The grape harvesting operations have officially started in our vineyards!
As expected, the first varieties to be harvested are Pignoletto and Albana, the most famous indigenous Romagna withe grapes that will give us extraordinarily fresh and fragrant wines.
In the coming weeks, all the other white and red varieties, whose ripening process is carefully monitored by our technicians, will follow.
We invite you to follow us on our blog and on our social channels to experience with us this special moment of the year!
While the last of the operations of perfecting the 2020 vintage are still underway in the Tenute d’Italia winery in Linaro (Imola), we announce the official closure of the harvesting activities in our vineyards.
Tenute d’Italia wants to extend a big thank you to all the members of its team who for almost two months have been involved in the harvesting operations, carefully selecting the grapes that - we hope - will give us one of the best vintages of our production history.
Thanks guys for your work and your commitment, essential elements for building the present and the future of our company!
There is only a little more than a month to go before the harvest begins, and to pay homage to this truly magical moment, around which all our work literally revolves, we are working on a very special project, created together with our technicians to bring you (virtually) into our cellars to observe first-hand how the wine is produced.
Better: we’re going to tell you all about the work that we do, or rather the particular techniques and processes that are carried out specifically by our staff for the production of wines from the Tenute d'Italia catalogue.
Our story will be articulated by revealing each phase of the two main winemaking techniques, the white and the redvinifications, through the direct testimony of our technicians.
You can start making your contributions right now to enrich our interviews by sending us your questions and telling us your curiosities through our social channels or by email.