Italy, December 2016

“The quality of wine. Chapter XVIII”

The heavy rain following the harvest, which ended over 80 days ago, did not prevent me from ripping all the vineyards and, above all, from manually hoeing every single vine. This was also possible because I was able to use 35 men (all non-Europeans) all hoeing at the same time in one day. In agriculture it is essential to work the earth when it is not wet and stop when it is wet; all the roots of weeds were eliminated; I also manured over a third of the vineyards and I hope to finish manuring by the end of this month; I think that using only cow manure, matured for fertilizing the vineyard, is absolutely essential for the end product of grapes destined to become wine (even more so if you want to make a great wine).

The situation in the cellar is stable, the barrels of the 2016 vintage have finished malolactic fermentation and I’m waiting for the cold weather before carrying out the first racking.

Four years have gone by since the damage I suffered and there are already eleven barrels of various sizes in the cellar, full of excellent wine. I am counting on having a full cellar once again with the 2017 vintage.

The market trend for wine in Italy has got even worse, especially due to delays in payments, as well as non-payments, of wine; unfortunately the judicial system in Italy does not protect creditors, both in terms of time and the costs the creditor has to sustain, leading to further damage for the wine producer. But this situation is also detrimental to foreign investments, industry, trade and all those companies that work honestly and hard to try to come out of this economic crisis that has lasted for over seven years; we must all work more and harder; we must all fully accept our responsibilities; stop asking others for favours; stop trying to be clever, ask less and give more, if we all follow this advice we might just be able to overcome the crisis; I would be happy to receive any other advice that might help us to get out of this situation.

For my part, in recent years I have invested over 1,000,000 euros in the winery in planting, barrels, machines and equipment, but I have especially increased research and experimentation, as well as the Soldera Award for young researchers, with other major investments; I have always been convinced that wineries can overcome any crisis just with studies, investments, innovation and men with ideas, a passion for work and who believe in their ideas.

Also this year my leaves have stayed green for a long time and this process of late leaf fall in my vineyards (compared to other leaves in vineyards which turned yellow and fell off much earlier) is one of the factors that account for the huge variety of wine produced, but at the same time, complicate any chance of focusing on the fundamental aspects of the quality and greatness of a wine. At this stage of the discussion, it should be borne in mind that the composition of a wine is extremely complex and difficult to describe fully because of the large number of chemical compounds involved.  As there is no official analytical method on an international level, many of these are affected by various degrees of uncertainty. Within certain limits, it is possible to identify (though not always quantify) almost 1,000 (one thousand!) constituents of the compounds able to stimulate visual, taste and aroma sensations, thanks to progress in the wine chemistry sector and instrumental analytical methods in the past 20 years; colour is essentially linked to phenolic compounds (several dozen), flavour to ethanol, sugars, polyols and polyphenols, acids and amino acids, numerous volatile substances, such as aldehydes, ketones, esters… (several hundred).

This extremely simplified description of the perceptible composition of wine does not take into account organoleptic interaction between the constituents (synergism or antagonism) with enhanced and also masked perceptible effects of a component, depending on the interaction.

The above supports what has already been proved by Prof. Luigi Odello’s Centro Studi Assaggiatori in Brescia, which recently got 50 tasters (i.e. experts in wine nosing) in a laboratory to smell an ALDEHYDE 2- NONENALE, which is found in several types of food and drink; each taster was asked to give a name to the smell, the answers were totally different from each other, ranging from cucumber to Southern green shield bugs, vegetal, spicy, mould, green peppers, cut grass, fried food, melon, earth, mothballs, vegetables, etc, etc; naturally the research explains the reasons for these enormous olfactory differences but the consideration that I think should be drawn is that every nose, every moment and every different personal, physical, environmental and climatic situation leads to different olfactory perceptions.

I would like to relate what I wrote many years ago about what I think is essential for overcoming this extremely difficult period for wine producers:

  1. Drastic reduction in grape yield (30/40 per cent of that provided by the production regulations).
  2. Systematic controls by third parties (Universities): from the vineyard to the harvest, vinification, ageing, bottling, at the various points of sale, with the relevant certification.
  3. Research, experimentation, advice from universities on:
  • Climate change
  • Experimental fields for vine selection
  • DNA
  • Vine diseases
  • Microbiology of grapes, must, wine
  • Native yeasts
  • Studies on wine contaminants (ochratoxin, quercetin and many others that have already led to significant wine confiscation).
  1. Shrewd choice of terroir and habitat that are particularly suitable for vinegrowing; cultivation without weedkillers, only manuring – lightly working the surface in winter – manual hoeing of each vine – pruning only when the plant is absolutely dormant (these operations were already described in more detail in chapter three in May 2006).
  2. We should remember that if we are thinking of facing the crisis by lowering prices, we will always find someone offering an even lower price, whereas if we can make real quality, we won’t have many competitors; because there is only room for a few at the top of the pyramid and there will always be a market for real quality.
  3. What is a great wine, what makes a great wine stand out from other wines:
    1. Harmony = balance = proportion (if a manufactured product is not proportionate it collapses)
    2. Elegance = finesse
    3. Complexity = multiple aroma, taste and pleasure sensations.
    4. Naturalness = healthy, ripe grapes with just the transformation of sugars into alcohol; no crushing but vinification with whole berries and an optimal selection of each berry for health, ripeness and diameter.
    5. Medicinal effects = the desire to drink that wine again; a sense of wellbeing; satisfaction; sharing; friendship.
      1. Typicity: being able to recognise in that wine the micro territory (vineyard) it comes from.
      2. Uniqueness: a great wine is irreplaceable because it has unique characteristics, because it is recognisable, because if another producer made a similar wine, he would certainly keep it himself or sell it bottled under his own brand.
      3. Rarity: a great wine is the pinnacle of a pyramid of about 30 billion bottles a year; how many can get to the top?
      4. Longevity: a great wine must improve for several years and must give different sensations over time. Wine is the only natural product that can last longer than a man’s life.

Wine is subjective, the same bottle may be worth 1000 euros for one person and not even 1 euro for another.

Certainly Harmony – Elegance – Complexity – Naturalness – Typicity – Uniqueness – Rarity – Longevity are values that significantly increase the cost of a wine, since any product with these characteristic has extremely high costs.

What do you think?