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Sensorial analysis of the grapes let me teach you how it is done

You must put three grapes in your mouth at the same time, to then analyze separately the grape, the pulp, the skin and the seed. And it does not cost anything


Grape tasting Valérie Lavigne’s hands after tasting

Grape tasting Valérie Lavigne’s hands after tasting

By Donatella Cinelli Colombini

The first to promote a sensorial analysis of the grapes were Rousseau and Delteil of the ICV inMontpellierin the year 2000 (read “Corriere Vinicolo” about this and other techniques). Their method is still today the best known and used. It is based on a form with 19 descriptors to which the taster gives a vote from 1 to 4 where the best grade is the lowest. For certain points the numbers grow and in others they decrease, because it is evident that the grapes will be readier at harvest time while being less acidic and sweeter.

The first parameter on the grape requires a visual exam and to touch the grape to evaluate the consistency, colour, aptitude to be separated from the stem. Evidently the healthiness is an element that needs careful evaluation.

Then follows the tasting of 3 grapes at the same time. They must be examined separately, in this order pulp, skin, and seeds. Of the juice we must under stand: the separation skin/pulp, sweetness, acidity, herbaceous and fruity aromas. Evidently the acidity and herbaceousness must be as scarce as possible while the other elements must be more abundant.

On the skin the exam regards 3 elements which must result high (aptitude to being crushed, tannic intensity, fruity aroma) and 3 elements which must result scarce; acidity astringency, herbaceous aromas

After having tasted the seeds one must spit them into the hand. It’s awful to say but that is

Montalcino 2013 harvest grape tasting

Montalcino 2013 harvest grape tasting

exactly the technique. Astringency (as little as possible) aromas and tannic intensity must be tasted, then one seed must be crushed between the teeth and then spit them out to visually examine them, in colour and the aptitude to be crushed. The seed for great wines is well lignified, it has no green stripes and it breaks up easily.

The sensorial analysis of the grapes requires previous instructions from am expert guide, but the first steps can also be carried our by someone who is self-taught going to the Vineyard at harvest time.

Producers and wine makers use more and more this method of grape tasting especially to choose the right moment to pick each field and it potential quality. The laboratory analyses are also very useful of course to evaluate the technological and polyphenolic ripeness of the grapes but the tasting become more important year by year.

Don’t wait then, come and taste our grapes, the harvest at Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and at fattoria del Colle in southern Chianti are in full swing.


Global warming and italian vineyards: What to do

Will be go back to the tent? Maybe not, but surely there will be some changes: less vines per hectare, no more grass among the rows, lower vines with more leafage

By Donatella Cinelli Colombini Casato Prime Donne – Fattoria del Colle

Orcia and Chianti vineyard

Orcia and Chianti vineyard

Lorenzo Tosi and Fabio Bottonelli summarize in their 2nd supply-chain report for “Sole 24 Ore” the main actions adopted by Italian wineries to contrast the effect of the higher temperatures and the heavy rainfalls. It must be said that the global warming has not finished: in the next 40years the temperatures will be 0,8-1,8°C more than today. In other words we will have furnace like summers with rainfalls similar to the Niagara Falls.

But let’s see what is happening in the vineyards. Less vines per hectare, every wine will need more room to colonize and from where to absorb water. In the cultivation of the soil the hoe is backing use planting of pulses rather than grass, which seems to have been surpassed. The necessity to make the soil softer to retain the most water possible during the brief but violent storms will bring a return to frequent hoeing and let’s hope to leave the use of herbicides. To reduce the transpiration of the leaves the height of the rows will be reduced. Previously the agronomists asked for one square metre of active leaves, which means young, for every kilo of grapes, now we will reduce it to 20cm2. There are even those who think that it might be a good idea to go back to the ten which in Sicily and in Puglia has given excellent results for Chardonnay.
A choice which leaves on speechless. For years in fact the tents were considered synonym of great quantities and cheap wines.
The removing of the leaves has been abandoned, this 20years ago helped with the ripening

Chianti vineyard

Chianti vineyard height of the poles

and the health of the clusters. Now the problem is protecting them from the sun. The leave wall is permitted to grow in height so as to give shade to the grapes below. This brings changed to the trimming of the shoots also. We will no longer see vineyards all trim looking like hedges. In the future the vines will look more “bushy” even though the female shoots will be treated as before.

So in 30 years we have gone from the battles against those who added sugar to the must to increase the alcohol level to the opposite problem. Now wines are too alcoholic while the market accepts with difficulty bottles with more than 12,5Vol in alcohol.

Il Drago e le 8 colombe

Today is the beginning of the Chinese New Year and this is the year of the dragon. A magic year for this wine which changes completely.

New vintage, new blend of grapes, new name and new packaging for the Drago wine by Donatella Cinelli Colombini.

“Il Drago e le 8 colombe” in the flesh

“Il Drago e le 8 colombe” in the flesh

The doves represent the women and consequently refer to the female cellar staff, a revolutionary work situation for Italy. With the arrival of the female consultant wine maker Valérie Lavigne the doves increase in number and the name of the wine changes: it used to be called “Il Drago e le Sette Colombe” and has become “Il Drago e le 8 Colombe”

Quite on the contrary the Drago emphasizes a male presence – nobody here wants to be discriminating – in the person of Carlo Gardini, Donatella’s husband who is a great wine lover
The arrival of Valérie Lavigne, sets of a serious thought about Italian grape varieties and the possibility of blending them to make high quality wines that are able to sell on foreign markets.
From here the desire to emphasize the Sagrantino grape, a variety greatly used in Umbria, which is just 20km away from Fattoria del Colle and belongs to the same geographical area. For the moment we are cultivating Sagrantino grapes in just a few rows, but soon it will be possible to harvest a whole new Vineyard. Read more…

The grape harvest at Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino

Sangiovese – Brunello 2011? At Casato Prime Donne <<the grapes are better than last year>> says Valérie Lavigne the wine maker

Donatella Violante Valerie Barbara

Donatella, Violante, Valerie, Barbara

The forecast for our 2011 harvest are very good. The cellar master Barbara Magnani and the agronomist Folco Bencini are optimistic most of all about the resistance of the Sangiovese vineyards at Casato Prime Donne regardless of the great African heat at the end of the summer.
Valérie Lavigne’s opinion is even more positive << our Brunello grapes have really surprised me, they are even better than last year because the ripening has been more   homogeneous>>.
First day of harvest at Casato Prime Donne was September 15th, 10 days sooner than the traditional Brunello calendar.
At Fattoria del Colle Merlot, Foglia Tonda (which has demonstrated that it greatly suffers from droughts) and some of the Sangiovese for Chianti and Doc Orcia wines have already been picked. Apparently the Fattoria del Colle vines have suffered the heat and lack of rainfalls more than those at Casato Prime Donne. In fact the lager quantity of clay in the soil in Montalcino has been a decidedly favourable element this year.
The grape harvest is quicker because of the lower quantities of grapes. About 30% less than last year.

The grape harvest

The grape harvest

The Consorzio del Brunello had diminished the production per hectare to 6 tonnes of grapes and probably the lower amount of clusters is also because of the pruning done at the beginning of July. The “green harvest” diminishing of the clusters has helped the vines a great deal to be able to withstand the great heat from the second half of August and September as did the difference in temperatures between night and day.
The lower yield also depends on the size of clusters which are smaller than usual, and the size of the single grapes is also smaller. However the clusters are beautiful, open and loose.
The most positive element is that the grapes are perfectly ripe; there is not one cluster anywhere with some mould.
the quality that will result depends a lot on the choice of the clusters. The clusters and parts of clusters that have dried grapes must be eliminated. Allowing them to go into the vats would mean that the sugar content of the must would go up and the wines produced would be too alcoholic. The removing of dried grapes takes automatically along a selection table that has a vibrating mechanism for this reason. The rest is removed manually by the two people constantly present at the table.
At this moment the analysis of our Sangiovese-Brunello show a potential alcohol of more than 13° vol, acidity around  7,30, an abundance in phenolic richness, which however will only partially be extractable. The grape seed are lignified, that means that they will not release green tannins.

So, to conclude we are expecting a good harvest, especially in Montalcino and in the older vineyards.
The 2011 vintage will probably have “Mediterranean” characteristic, so it will be very pleasant and round in the mouth and on the nose it twill be characterized by nuances of ripe fruit

Waiting for the grape harvest at Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s wineries

We are very optimistic about the wine harvest. The clusters of grapes tend to be sparse with berries growing on small stalks. We feel confident to predict that we will be ahead of our timetabled harvest by almost 10 days


Green harvest of Foglia tonda vines

Green harvest of Foglia tonda vines

The rains in the second half of July have reduced the water stress that the vines were experiencing thus lengthening the time for the maturing of the fruit. The colour change of the grapes is even better than we anticipated and is more like the colours we would expect in vines which are planted in lower fields.
The grapes were definitely less abundant last year and we considered that to be quite a sparse crop. This year we have been able to remove any excess clusters, especially in vineyards where some of the new vines were too laden with grapes, they would have producted much more than the optimal production of 1.200 kg from every 4 bunches. This ‘green harvest’ was carried out at the Casato Prime Donne di Montalcino on the Sangiovese grapes which are intended for the Brunello and the Rosso di Montalcino and  at Fattoria del  Colle nel Sud del Chianti , in the vineyards of the Doc Orcia Cenerentola and the Leone Rosso.

We are very excited about the quality of these grapes and anticipate a 5 star harvest.
In Montalcino thinning the grapes allows us to control production to around 60 quintals of grapes per acre, which is a crop production which is determined by the official assembly of wine producers. This level of production relies entirely on the quality of the grapes which are being grown. We hope that the sun will shine the appropriate amount and help us to achieve our anticipated 5 star harvest.

Casato Prime Donne - green harvest

Casato Prime Donne - green harvest

The next job for those of us who tenderly look after the grapes will be the cutting back of the leaves which can only  be performed when the sun is weaker and in the vineyards

Bonella showing us Sangiovese

Bonella showing us Sangiovese

which we pick last. This operation allows the grapes to dry quickly, in case of rain, and avoids them being attacked by mould. This is therefore a natural way to try and avoid any mould problems. We only ever use anti-mould products in the event of very severe weather conditions.
The harvest will begin with the Traminer grapes at the end of August,  in early September we plan to start on the Merlot and between 10th and 15th the Sangiovese will probably be ready for picking.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

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