Italy, January – February - March 2015

“The quality of wine. Chapter XI”

  • Spring is coming to an end and it is the dryest one at Case Basse in the 45 years I’ve been in Montalcino. The vines are beautiful, with a richness of leaves containing lots of substances. The lack of rain meant I was able to treat the vineyard with sulphur and copper in a limited way and we are now coming into a more difficult period for vine health and the optimum development of the berries.

    The lack of rain limited the growth of melliferous flowers, which I sowed in the 4 hectares of vineyards at Case Basse, and I had to manually remove all the weeds that grew from seeds present in the manure. It was a huge and difficult manual task, but absolutely essential for amending the soil and to allow the seeds of melliferous plants to germinate.

    We have increased the number of vines in the vineyards, a very important operation which needs the utmost attention, both in the choice of rootlings and soil preparation. This year, for the first time in 45 years, hares have damaged new vines and I have had to invent a way of protecting them by using a light metal net around the part of the new vines where the buds and relative leaves were below a certain height. In agriculture you learn something new every day.

    During spring here in Italy, a frost caused significant damage to north-northeastern-eastern facing vineyards, planted on valley floors and on unsuitable soils for vinegrowing. Case Basse faces southwest, at an altitude of about 300 metres, with particularly suitable soils for vinegrowing, so we suffered no frost damage at all.

    This year we held conferences at Case Basse: in January, with our importers from Belgium (Filip Jans, Jeroen Vandensande and Jens Van Vlem from Stappato, very capable young people) and in June, with our importers from Hong Kong, from the English company Corney & Barrow, wine importers for over 230 years (Adam Brett-Smith, Guy Seddon, Joe Muller, Annabel Berridge, Sara Guiducci, Bryce Fraser, Chris Hodgson, Jerry Cooke, Thibaut Mathieu, Marco Vasquez, Ken Hui, Linda Tan and Wilfried Bourceau):

    1. “Integration of post-genomic technologies for the selection and characterisation of winemaking strains of native Saccharomyces cerevisiae” speaker Prof. Annalisa Santucci – Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Siena.
    2. “Wine and Health. The role of microorganisms” speaker Prof. Massimo Vincenzini – Professor of Microbiology at the University of Florence.

    Professor Santucci introduced the concept of the “Proteome: which and how many proteins are expressed, when they are expressed and how they are made in their functional form”, highlighting IEF (isoelectric focusing) which separates the proteins according to their Pl and SDS-PAGE, which separates the proteins according to their molecular weight.

    Professor Vincenzini briefly spoke about the following:

    • Yeasts and bacteria present in vinification do NOT significantly modify the anthocyanin and flavonol profile, so that they can be used for the varietal authentication of a wine;
    • Yeasts carry out a decisive role in determining the level of bioactive molecules in a wine, acting mainly on the amino acids;
    • During ageing, most of the bioactive molecules undergo a certain reduction, as a consequence of their protective action against oxidation of the wine;
    • However, during ageing, more stable polymeric polyphenols form (dimers-heptamers) with potential beneficial health effects: this is what the scientific community is focusing on.

    The participants were very active during the presentations and debates, filling all the conference time and I am particularly pleased with the great success of the events.

    Over 10 years have passed since 9th January 2007, when Apple presented its first iPhone and Steve Jobs claimed to have combined 3 revolutionary devices in one, calling it an iPhone and changing the lives of billions of people who use it every day.

    Children, young people, adults, men and women carry the world around in their pocket: the IBM supercomputer, programmed by engineers at MIT in Boston to take the Apollo missions to the moon and back in the 1960s and 1970s, was as big as a SUV, cost 3.3 billion dollars and had 64 thousand bytes of memory compared to the 256 million available today in the best smartphones and a processor able to use 3.36 billion items of information per second; an iPhone could currently guide not one, but 120 million Apollo space shuttles!

    But how much of this knowledge is used by man? And how might it be possible for man to use this enormous power even more?

    Who can teach children and kids to use this vast knowledge? And how?

    These are questions I don’t know the answers to, but I think they should be studied and answered in depth.

    What do you think?