Italy, August – September - October 2015

“The quality of wine. Chapter XIII”

The seasonal trend has been excellent, with a beautiful spring and summer, lots of sun and light and very little rain: I am absolutely convinced (at least for my land) that we have the optimum weather conditions for producing a great wine this year.

All of the phenological stages after the ones I described in the previous issue of Oinos, i.e.: berry development; berry development (small pea-size stage); the bunch closes up; veraison starts; veraison and full ripening, have gone very well.

The amount of rain, right up to the harvest, was excellent with a very long period (about 60 days) of very hot sun, without any rain.

The harvest started on 18th  September and ended on 21st with wonderful weather: the grapes that had been freed from the leaves covering them since 14th August, were ripe and healthy and the manual selection of each bunch this year enabled me to eliminate a much higher percentage than in previous years, i.e. everything that I consider unsuitable to go into the destemmer; a machine which I think is absolutely essential for obtaining whole berries of the desired calibre. Further manual selection on the table, carried out by my family and my most skilled workers, eliminates, berry by berry, the ones we don’t consider valid for making a great must.

Into the vinification vats go whole berries and this allows me to obtain very regular fermentation and to reach the highest internal temperature later on. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professors Daniele Trinchero and Massimo Vincenzini and the engineer Luciano Ardingo for giving me the chance to measure the temperature inside each vat, thus we registered the variations in temperature every 10 minutes during 24 hours, which reached 35 degrees this year, too.

Vinification is going well, for the last 25 days the analyses that Professor Vincenzini sends me each day have confirmed the excellent results.

Immediately after the harvest, I started working in the vineyard with manual hoeing (the elimination of weeds, especially Cynodon Dactylon, is absolutely indispensable for the vine’s health, as well as uncovering the graft point to avoid the surface roots and above all to make sure that the cold limits the development of parasites), ripping of the rows and cutting the earth.

These operations have already been done in about 80% of my vineyards and are indispensable for preparing the soil for manuring.

Naturally, I personally smell the aroma of the musts in the vats every day and I taste them continually, operations that are absolutely essential for me to be able control the progress of the vinification.

It is with great displeasure that for months I have been following the serious economic situation of the Physiocrats Academy in Siena, an academy that has worked in sciences and culture with an immense scientific and cultural heritage since 1691: the board of directors, with the President, Professor Sara Ferri, are working to solve the shortcomings of others.

How do you think such an important body for Siena and Italy can be helped?

The situation of the wine market in Italy is very critical, distribution companies are struggling due to a lack of and/or very late payments from clients, added to this is the very high quantity of supply as Professor Mario Fregoni wrote on the problem of quality and the economic consequences deriving from it, in the journal VQ a few years ago:

“The Terroir, this unknown”: “The cultivation techniques that mainly lead to the wiping out of the terroir and the production of ordinary wines, without finesse, are low planting density, little pruning, no bunch thinning, irrigation and so on. The winemaking techniques that wipe out the terroir are numerous, but among them is the overuse of barriques and alternative woods, as well as chemical compounds with a strong influence on the structure and aroma of the wine. All this contributes to making an anonymous end product.

What are the consequences? The consumer finds all wines the same, he no longer believes in designations of origin (and therefore in the terroir) and his choice of wine is based on price and grape variety. Producers of designation of origin wines are the ones who pay most dearly for this vicious circle, because they have to pay high costs for controls and they get less and less from their grapes and wines.

Furthermore, even the European Union doesn’t believe in the terroir, because it allows mixes of grape varieties also within designations of origin and, since August 2009, with the coming into force of the new CMO for wine, it has been possible to indicate the grape variety on labels of wines without geographical indication, namely without origin, unknown and confused.” 

Foodstuffs continue to be confiscated:

  1. Olive oil: the Parliamentary Commission of the House on the phenomena of falsification has found that 9571 tonnes were confiscated in the oil producing sector in the period from 2011 to 2014.
  2. Italy is invaded by Tunisian oil, imports were up by 681% in the first three months of 2015.
  3. Wine: MIPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) press release of June 2015: over 310 thousand hectolitres were confiscated (therefore 31 million litres, equal to 41,333,000 bottles of 0.75) as well as 900 quintals of liquid sugar, plus 2,730 quintals of sugar and four tanks of water and sugar at an important winery in the Bologna area.
  4. Wine: MIPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) press release of July 2015: about 150 thousand hectolitres (therefore 15 million litres equal to 20 million bottles of 0.75) were confiscated in three important wineries in the Ravenna area and also table-grape producers from Puglia are said to be involved.
  5. Wine: an inquiry by the public prosecutor’s office in Udine, the chief prosecutor Antonio De Nicolo investigated 17 wineries (including well-known ones) in the Collio area for adulterating their Sauvignon wine.
  6. Fish: the University of Siena has devised a test, “Fish Track”, which takes the fish’s “fingerprint”, even if it has been processed, to establish if the label is telling the truth. The first data observed by “Fish Track” on samples of fish taken from retail shops in Tuscany and Umbria, has shown that 58% of grouper fish analysed was false, as were 50% of shrimp and shelled prawns. “The research aims to characterise the species of origin through DNA barcoding”.

The first sentence has arrived for Alitalia, which condemns some of the managers responsible for the huge losses of public money:  just from 2001 to 2007 the losses amounted to 4 billion euros,  398 million of which for the cargo sector, where, during that period, there were 135 pilots to fly only five planes. Perhaps the responsibilities of politics, workers and controllers should be examined, too.

Another example of bad management was highlighted by the Corriere della Sera of 1/10/2015; the “ENIT tourism body” staff have higher salaries than White House staff (average ENIT worker 85,897 euros – White House worker 62,363 euros); in Italy it has 78 workers who are represented by seven different unions.

The body only spends a few thousand euros on promotion and a huge amount for its workers in Italy and abroad.

In the Italian economy there is a thriving company that has gone from a turnover of 24 million to 50 million euros in six years (more than double), this company produces powdered herbs, emulsions and liquids destined to drinks, sweets, meat and cured meats and for all the large food brands. It has a research centre that has already churned out 15 thousand products.

What do you think?