Grape harvest is finished and we are waiting for the 5 star
A cold winter, with snowfalls which blocked people in their homes for a whole month, but also a dry winter where even the snow left very little humidity in the soil.
So, the 2012 summer has been preceded by a long period of about 12 months of dryness with rare showers, and that means with half the usual amount of 700 mm of rainfall which we usually get in this part of Tuscany. This is where it starts to get interesting! From June onwards 3 months without a single drop of rain with temperatures above average but most of all a sky that was always so clear, so the hours of sunlight were always very many every day. This type of situation has greatly troubled the grape growers. The trimming of the shoots were modest and the leaves nearest the clusters were left to protect them from the sun. The vineyard was hoed so as to maintain the humidity underground, the clusters were thinned out twice so that in the end there really were very few.
Luckily the vines proved themselves “intelligent plants” in fact extraordinarily intelligent ones: for years now we have been seeing smaller and smaller flowerings, as if they new that they had to reduce their vitality to adapt to the great heat and the droughts of this new climate. So, not much in quantity of grapes, and smaller and looser clusters which are excellent for producing great wines but that are also apt for a situation with extreme hydro-stress. On July 15th the lignification of the shoots (called agostamento) which had begun at the beginning of the month, was greatly ahead. Then the vines sort of stopped.
The invaiatura– colouring of the grape is a hormonal process which is brought on by the hydro-stress, when this stress is excessive,
such as in 2012, it happens very slowly, or it doesn’t happen at all. The vine, clever plant, when in difficulty, abandons a part of its children, the less promising ones, because further away from the wooden trunk. These are the cluster then taken off by the grape-growers during the second thinning out.
Finally at the beginning of September the showers arrived and from despair we passed to enthusiasm. The grapes were scarce that is
true but the possibility of a great harvest began to seem possible. At this point the countdown begins to get to the complete phenolic ripening of the grapes. The sky was clear and we really began to believe in the miracle.
In the meantime we began to pick the Merlot, which had suffered more than the Sangiovese this hydro-stress. The 2012 harvest was one that proceeded hiccupping; it began the 27th of August with the Traminer grapes and finished on October 3rd with Foglia Tonda and Sagrantino grapes. For the Sangiovese this was a storical period, between the end of September and the first days of October. Exceptional, healthy clusters which were well open and completely ripe and whose seeds were perfectly lignified. The grapes were small and coloured your fingers as soon as touched so the must has a very intense red colour, typical of great wines apt for ageing.
With such beautiful grapes the fermentation was very carefully carried out. Few pumping-over and punching of the cap procedures to maintain in equilibrium the extraction of the poliphenolic substances (anthocyanins and tannins). Every day tasting the must the decision was made regarding how and how much to oxygenate it so as to fix the colour and give the wine a molecular structure that will allow it to last in time.
The Merlot stayed 16 days with the grape-skins, the Sangiovese between 14 and 20 days. The temperatures during the fermentation period were kept under 25°C.
A reasonably easy harvest in the end, without interruptions due to rain and with temperatures which were quite mild, in fact were cold by night, so the grapes arrived in the cellar at temperatures between 20 and 25°C. The grape acidity, which had in the origin worried a little, became more regular during September. The fermentations were regular, much more than usual during the past few years.
The only real shame was about the quantity of grapes. At Casato Prime Donne in
Montalcino it was nearly normal with just about 6 tons per hectare which is what is permitted for Brunello. The soil, rich in clay, maintained more humidity than that at Fattoria del Colle which has more limestone, where practically all the grapes went into the stomachs of wild boars, deer and roebucks. A real disaster!