01 Nov The quality of wine – December 2017
Five years have gone by since that atrocious event that my family and I suffered on 2nd December 2012. Firstly, I would like to thank all those who have stood by us through these difficult years. However, these years have also been packed with studies, research and new events that have made us stronger. We have made investments for over 1,200,000 euros and changed our commercial network. We have increased exports enormously, with about 50 importers all over the world who enthusiastically promote the Soldera brand and wine, which is produced exclusively from Sangiovese vines (an excellent grape variety) grown in our vineyards.
To commemorate the end of this period, we decided to donate the whole of the 2010 vintage to charity. We bottled it only in large formats, two charity auctions have already been held in London and we aim to do another 8 events over the next few years. More than 119,000 euros have been raised and donated: we are particularly pleased about this, as we have transformed such a painful event into a message of hope and optimism to those less fortunate than us.
The cellar finally contains full barrels and the 2013 vintage has just been bottled. It will be on sale from March 2018.
In my first article published in January 2006 by “Il Chianti e le terre del vino” I wrote… The themes that I set myself are the (non-relative) quality, comparison, diversity, typicity, uniqueness and identity of this wonderful product we call wine. I can develop these themes from two points of view because, from the early 1950s to 1972 I was just a family consumer who learned to eat and drink well; but since 1972 I have been a vinegrower and, since 1975, a grape grower and winemaker, ageing wines made from grapes grown in my own “Case Basse” and “Intistieti” vineyards; I lack the experience of grape and wine merchant, a producer of wine not from my own grapes, a bottler of wines not produced by myself and a blender of wines. Clearly, for reasons linked to culture, choice and experience, my way of thinking is biased, because I firmly believe that the quality of wine begins with those microzones with a unique soil, habitat, climate, clarity and quantity of light that make up the natural environment which enables the vine to produce healthy, ripe grapes that are rich in all those elements that distinguish a great wine and that can only be made by a landowner/producer. I have set out the basis necessary for identifying what I think quality means. Man must not distress the subsoil, but must try to understand and follow the soil’s natural vocation, especially in microzones and plants that can produce high-quality fruit. Therefore man must not push plants to produce large quantities, but try to make the plant live as long as possible, because vines give their best after the first thirty years. As a result: no forcing (either chemical or any other kind), with great attention paid to the needs of each vine, which cannot be done with machines; a total ban on chemical substances which could enter the plant and grapes; only manual work in the vineyards to create the best possible conditions for the vines to produce perfectly ripe and healthy fruit; crop thinning, leaf thinning, quantity and quality of leaves to be kept during the various stages.
All these operations (done by man who knows the vine, who uses his brain, eyes and hands) are essential if we want to talk about quality.
The harvest must be done at the right time, when the grapes are perfectly ripe, and only completely healthy and ripe grapes must be picked and vinified. Lastly, the harvest must have a very short duration, otherwise the grapes will deteriorate.
I believe that nature knows better than man, which is why I don’t believe in using technology in the cellar. For 42 years I have made wine only by destemming, the must stays in large wooden vats with just native yeasts, without temperature control and only with pumping over, for as long as the expert considers necessary to transform the must into wine.
Ageing must take place in cellars with a suitable temperature, humidity and ventilation, without smells, noise, light and in large wooden barrels that do not impart flavours and aromas to the wine; a great wine acquires flavour naturally and the harmonious, elegant and non-invasive aromas from grapes would be wiped out and overpowered by the violent aromas and flavours of oak.
Bottling should be done without clarification, filtration, fine filtering to make the wine clearer, additives, preservatives, colouring, flavours or aromas. The bottle, cork and packaging need to be carefully chosen in order to preserve the wine in the best possible way.
All the above-mentioned operations must be checked and certified by research carried out by universities that follow all the processes assiduously. This ensures continual improvement and, more importantly, that mistakes made by man are identified and put right as soon as possible, so they have a lower impact on the final quality of the product.
I think at this point I can draw the following conclusions about the great quality of a wine, which can be summarised as:
- harmony, balance, elegance, finesse, complexity of aroma and taste, typicity therefore a recognizable microterritory, uniqueness because it is not replaceable with another wine, rarity (great wine cannot be made in large quantities), longevity, when it improves with time
- wine that is made only and exclusively from a particular land and habitat
- the need for attention, care, research and in-depth study
- man must never forget that he is inferior to nature and therefore all his work must be geared to respecting and preserving the natural situation
- man must always compare himself with the rest of the world in order to improve.
I hope I have opened a debate with those who have had the patience to follow me throughout these considerations.