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
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…
Having ones company brochure in Chinese is something new and very different from the usual brochure in English or German to which we are more accustomed. It makes us feel less provincial. It is only a sensation but it gives courage, in a moment where the future seems to be without certainties, being able to looks toward China with good commercial possibilities is definitely a relief.
Violante Gardini with the chinese brochure
And now Violante (the Cinellicolombini Jr) export manager for Asia gets almond shaped eyes. She has accepted the request made by our importer and has created a brochure with text in Chinese and images which are apt for that market: the historic halls of the villa at Fattoria del Colle, the works of contemporary art in the Sangiovese Brunello vineyards …. Most of all, on the front page the team of all girls at the Casato Prime Donne winery in Montalcino. There is also the French consultant winemaker Valérie Lavigne. The contrast between the very Tuscan images of stone walls, cypress trees, and sweet hills of the Val d’Orcia with Chinese characters and the text is a strong one, but all considered it appears new and pleasant.
The talented French winemaker came to us for a brief visit during which she sampled our 2011 vintage wines and the Brunello 2008. She was very excited about the 2011 vintage and was happy with the Brunello. According to Valerie Lavigne the Brunello 2011 from Casato Prime Donne will be better than the legendary 2010. We hope she’s right!
Valérie Lavigne and Barbara Magnani
She argues that the most important element of our Montalcino wines is their elegance. She feels that some other types of vines may be able to grow successfully in this terrain but they would not produce the winning power of our wines.
She asked our agronomist Folco Bencini to stop weeding in the vineyards. Weeding causes soil pollution and impoverishes the soil, it can also damage the quality of the grapes. That is good advice Valerie, let’s go back to the old traditional systems of caring for the vines.
Gradually Dr. Lavigne is leading us into the new future of wine making which combines the benefits of using nature itself, ensuring excellence in all areas and taking advantage of scientific advances.
Today, together with Valerie, we posed for photos by the excellent Bruno Bruchi which will appear in the book Brunello di 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
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 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
Cross your fingers and do a rain dance! The coming weeks are crucial for the quality of the 2011 vintage. Our Brunello, Chianti and Doc Orcia vineyards have bravely endured the strong sun in the second half of August but now are desperate for a good drink of water
Our winemaker Valerie Lavigne has followed the progress of the harvest via the internet and today will be joining
Valerie Lavigne wine maker
us to personally oversee the harvesting of the Brunello grapes. At present our most important grapes have potentially a high alcohol content, with very high acidity and only a few extractable polyphenols. We await further developments in the coming days. At the moment the fruit bears some resemblance to the legendary 1997 vintage.
The harvesting started last Monday at the Fattoria del Colle with some of the Traminer grapes which when they resemble raisins will be used to produce the passito. This wine has a sweet, soothing aroma and tastes of honey, it is my husband Carlo passion and also that of the wine producer Barbara Magnani. At the moment we are bottling the 300 precious bottles of our Pink and Gold label passito from our 2010 harvest, which we are sure will give us a delicious sweet tasting wine.
Merlot grape harvest at Fattoria del Colle
The harvest then continued with the Traminer grapes which will be used to produce our white wine ‘Sanchimento’ IGT Toscana. Only 40 quintali of grapes were collected which will be used to create wine for the enjoyment of future visitors to the Fattoria del Colle. 30th August was the first day of the harvest of the Merlot grapes for the Doc Orcia’ Leone Rosso’ wine. As always the Merlot grapes have suffered the effects of the sun much more than the Sangiovese grapes and therefore it was necessary to harvest them at least 15 days ahead of our normal scheduled harvesting date. Barbara is getting used to addressing this problem as it is happening more and more often.
For us the most important grapes are the Sangiovese and, fortunately, the extensive thinning out of the fruit which we undertook in the first half of August has helped them to withstand the stress of the lack of water which was triggered by the strong sun which we have experienced in the last month.
It is most likely that the best grapes of the next harvest will grow on the established older vines and not from my wonderful new vineyards which are only 10 years old, although these have a very good position on the hillsides they are very exposed to the sun and have suffered more from the heat this year than the other more established vineyards. That’s the nice thing about having vineyards in lots of different positions with varying amounts of sunshine and in lots of different types of soil! Every year the weather benefits specific positions of vineyards and soil types and therefore guarantees a good harvest from a good portion of the vineyards.
Our team of harvesters this year is made up of 18 people, 2 of which are driving the tractors and 16 are harvesting by hand. Many of our team are young people, some are still students and some have recently graduated. Almost all are from our local area. When we start the harvest of the Sangiovese grapes we will increase the size of the group by another 7 harvesters.
20 kilos boxes for the grape harvest
The grapes are collected in 20 kg boxes, these are stacked on the trailers of tractors, and then they are transported to the wine cellar where they are passed through the crusher and de-steming machines and then they are fed into the fermentation vat where they will stay for about 15 days.