The quality of wine – January – February – March 2014

The autumn and winter season was inclement, with rains starting immediately after the harvest and, except for a few breaks, continuing right up to almost the end of February 2014. The temperatures were mild; fortunately when the rainfall finished (which was very high and in some cases very heavy) the temperatures fell slightly and I was able to prune and remove canes without damaging the unopened buds, especially in the 42-43 year-old vineyards. On the subject of growing vines, the following article by Professor Mario Fregoni, entitled “The thinking heads of the vine” published in the magazine VQ, is very important: “The vine has two brains. Knowing and dominating them is fundamental for obtaining quality results in viticulture. These two critical areas are at the two extremities of the plant: the vegetative and root apices. Furthermore, the cells of these apices, that carry out meristematic functions (cell division, therefore growth), have recently been defined as stem cells, like human or animal ones. The two nerve centres are subjected to two opposite attractions: the vegetative apices of the shoots towards light (positive phototropism) and the root apices towards the earth’s centre (positive geotropism). The sun and the earth therefore exercise an attraction that allows photosynthesis and water and mineral absorption. It follows that management of the canopy and roots influences plant physiology and the quality of the fruit. For example, trimming the top cuts off the vegetative apices, which multiplies the thinking heads at the top (with the production of other apices), inasmuch as the vine cannot remain acephalous. But how do the opposite apices, at the roots, respond? They cannot be pruned and multiplied, however they can be encouraged by choosing soils that allow maximum root development (double that of the canopy), especially deep down, where water absorption is more constant and mineral absorption is different to that on the surface. Surface growth of roots (wet, fertile, clayey and compact soils) is unnatural and goes against the geotropic tap-root angle. The rupestris, with a narrow geotropic angle, has been a great rootstock, able to give lots of mineral character to wines. The use of rootstocks with wide geotropic angles has been a mistake, caused by the need to adapt vines to unsuitable soils. The selection of tap-rooted rootstocks could reverse the general tendency and give deeper roots. The surface roots encourage high shoot vigour and deep roots give moderate vigour and therefore quality. This basically means that the activity of the shoot apices depends on the structure and nature of the soil. Poor, stony, loose, deep soils that allow roots to follow their natural attraction towards the centre of the earth are ideal for obtaining a balance between the root apices and shoot apices. Balanced vineyards do not need much shoot thinning – particularly top trimming – and their growth stops at veraison.These considerations enable us to reaffirm that a suitable terroir still remains the indispensable condition for obtaining quality. In this terroir, the climate (sun) and the soil are the dominant factors in the mechanism that determine the genius loci, i.e. the nature of the place that creates the highest quality, based on the balance between the extreme thinking heads of the vine.”I believe that knowledge of such well-reasoned concepts is absolutely essential for every vine grower who intends to produce grapes suitable for making excellent wine; if I may, I would also advise everyone to buy the most important book on grape quality: “Viticoltura di qualità” (Quality Viticulture) by Professor Mario Fregoni, the latest edition published in 2013.In difficult climatic conditions the help of research carried out at Case Basse is very important:

  • “Evolution of microflora of enological interest in vinification” –  Professor M. Vincenzini, Florence University
  • “Climatic change and water stress of the vine” – Professor M. Fregoni, Honorary President OIV
  • “Vine diseases” – Professor G. Surico, Florence University
  • “Acarofauna and biodiversity” – Professor S. Simoni, CRA (Council for Research and experimentation in Agriculture) Florence.
  • “Project on molecular traceability” – Dr Rita Vignani, Siena University
  • “Drone remote sensing” – Dr Lorenzo Genesio, IBIMET CNR Florence
  • “Agrometereological applications to support environmental management” – Professor Simone Orlandini and Professor Giampiero Maracchi, Florence University
  • Studies on sensory analysis – Professor Luigi Odello, IASA – Tasters Study Centre in Brescia.

In the cellar, the wines that did not suffer damage are ageing well, as is the 2013 vintage, despite the rains that lasted until 22nd July; but then it benefited from the good weather in August and September: so we obtained an excellent wine for 2013, too. Continual monitoring of all the wines by Professor Massimo Vincenzini’s microbiology team gives us peace of mind and security: research results confirm more and more that the quality of wine, i.e. elegance, harmony, great sensory sensations, digestibility, man’s health, great pleasure etc derive from the land, the habitat, the ability of the grower to manage everything in order to bring a small amount of healthy ripe grapes to large seasoned-oak barrels without temperature control, to be vinified exclusively with native yeasts. It is only microorganisms that can transfer all the beneficial substances present on grape skins into the wine, therefore giving it the chance to last more than 50 years and giving the drinker the chance to enjoy a great wine.The Italian political and economic situation is very serious in my opinion: continual changes of government, promises of constitutional reform that remain promises, every day there is news of corruption, especially in politics, public administration, the health sector, public works, cultural heritage etc etc. The rate of youth unemployment is extremely high and takes away any hope young people have, destroying the future of Italy.I would like to thank all the participants of the fourth edition of the International Brunello di Montalcino Case Basse Soldera Award dedicated only to studies in Montalcino by young researchers. The Award enables me to meet and work with these young people at Case Basse; they are full of enthusiasm and have a desire to study and work that gives me a lot of pleasure and stimulates me in my commitment to carry on and to expand the research that my family finances, and will continue to finance in the future. I think that helping young people, especially in this difficult period, is a duty.In 1939 the “Manhattan Project” was set up in the United States, financed by President Roosevelt’s government: 130 000 people were employed at a cost of 28 billion dollars in today’s money: scientists from several nations worked side by side at Los Alamos, New Mexico, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, astronomers and professionals from many other areas, as well as politics and the military. It is undoubtedly the most important technical-scientific enterprise ever accomplished. This project, which also led to the chain reaction causing the violent atomic explosion, demonstrated that scientific and technological results are not possible without investing large amounts of capital and without the wide participation of experts from different scientific fields, united by an administrative and political authority. One of the scientists, Weinberg, called this system “Big Science”. The economic consequences of “Big Science” are the fertile binomial between technological innovation and the creation of wealth. The Austrian economist Schumpeter in his “theory of economic development” had already developed the concept in 1911 “that innovation sustained by capital and important institutions inevitably has an economical impact.”I’ll close with the hope that our politicians follow “Big Science” (not for destruction) and finance research and innovation especially of young people. What do you think?