Maturation of wine in cask, “Italian style”
With the rise in temperatures and the consequences in the vineyard and cellar, it becomes urgent to rethink the barrels and the Maturation of wine in cask, “Italian style”
For what regards the maturation of wine in cask, “Italian style”, we go from one exaggeration to another. After years of wines with too much wood we went to the fashion of no oak at all.
To understand which is the right way the Italian Union of Wines through the Wine Corriere has organized a survey and then a conference during the exhibition in Milan.
WOODEN TASTE: MANY SAY THEY HATE IT BUT IN REALITY IT IS NOT TRUE
The results were intriguing, stimulating and even a little embarrassing.
In fact there is a fundamental contradiction: the consumer says he appreciates one type of wine but then he buys another. He thinks he prefers dry wines but then he is more happy to put in the glass those with residual sugar. He claims to hate barriques and “Parker style” wine but then chooses the one with an oak imprint to which he is accustomed.
Contradiction that, from my experience, also affects many tasters formed in the era of late 20th century style wines.
This is not a small problem especially for wines with long aging in cask like Brunello.
VINE – FRUIT AND ORIGIN THE TWO CURRENT MACRO TRENDS
We start from the survey conducted by Master of Wine Justin Knock with interviews with winemakers, producers and distributors from all over the world. Two macro trends have been identified: grape variety and geographical origin. Wood is called upon to support one or both of these elements.
For the great wines the age of power is over, replaced by the search for finesse and purity. The classic French regions continue to use barriques as they did before Robert Parker while the rest of the world, where the small barrels have spread with the “Parker style”, is taking place the return to the big barrels.
GREAT EXPERIMENTATION IN OAK BARRELS
An experimentation of dimensions, woods and toasting that in part depends on the search for the most suitable solutions for your own terroir and grape variety but that leads to answers that unfold like a peacock tail. In other words, there are also those who make vanity prevail over oenology. The fact remains, as emerged from the discussion table led by Gabriele Gorelli, of a widespread research and experimentation of oak woods with different characteristics.
Circumstance of which also my cellar is an example: we have tonneau of Meyrieux, Chassin, Adur, Cadus, Atelier Centre France …. And from this year, the experiment will also extend to large barrels.
THE EFFECTS OF RISING TEMPERATURES IN VINEYARDS AND WINERIES
Everywhere cleaning, humidity and temperature control (falling from the traditional 16-18°C to 14-15°C) of the barrel rooms are more important than before.
This is, in my view, a consequence of the rising temperatures from which higher and lower PH and acidity result, which, in turn, triggered problems such as brettanomyces, of which, until ten years ago, no winery in Montalcino cared.
Another problem concerns the system of planting of many vineyards realized twenty years ago, with high density to increase the concentration in the grape and wine. Vines with little land available and therefore with poor water supply that are now in trouble due to the advance of the vegetative cycle that brings the maturation of the grape in summer that is in the period of maximum water stress. The result is, according to the enologist Lorenzo Landi an explosive mix, so much that now we are faced with the problem of managing the relationship with less acidity on one hand and the loss of reducing power of wine, with oxidative processes already in place in grapes. A situation in which the small barrels that provide a lot of oxygen in the wine, are not very suitable while the large barrels become the right choice.
THE ITALIAN STYLE OF AGING WINE IN CASK
The French style includes short aging in cask and long aging in bottle. For this reason, and because of the presence of terroir ideal for grapes such as Cabernet and Merlot, barriques are ideal oenological tools.
There is another situation in Italy where the wine culture is based on long wooden stays and short bottle stays. A context where traditionally vats and wooden barrels were used. Containers to which producers are returning. This is the new wood-wine alliance of “Italian style” on which Professor Franco Battistutta of the University of Udine aims and perhaps he is right.