History, Territory, Nature. Each choice makes sense: Yeast lees maturation and battonage

The work in the winery needs a lot of attention and it’s made of many small steps that, at the end, can bring great results.

For example, the maturation on fine lees and the battonage are important practices for the production of elegant, round and not oxidized wines.

This technique begins at the end of the alcoholic fermentation, I normally pour the wine in order to eliminate the gross and dark less, but I pay attention not to eliminate fine lees, which are lighter brown in colour, and are important for the rest of the year until the bottling.

These fine lees are overgrown yeasts that release mannoproteins. Lees, even if very fine, lay down on the bottom of the tanks.

Battonage means means stirring stirring settled lees back into wineusing a long baton that will fit in the hole of a barrel or special machine that rotate to upend settled lees.

I do it once a week, from the first pouring until March, then every 15 days. What do mannoproteins bring to the wine?

Firstly, they are strong antioxidants, while lees fall down on the bottom, they grab the oxidable parts and bring them down (then the oxidable parts will be eliminated with a pouring). Mannoproteins help me a lot with the protein and tartaric stability.

Battonage, at the end, gives a round sensation to the wines which is perfect for my wines because they’re very sapid. This technique is stopped one month before the bottling, then the lees lay down on the botton and are eliminated with a pouring.

As I like to say small steps make the difference in order to have a clean and elegant wine, my goal is to bring my territory in the bottle and I always try to work hard for that.

Vinitaly 2019, April from 7th to 10th, the Italian most important wine fair, but before that I have flown to London for Raw Wine

Last weekend I participated for the first time to RAW WINE, a two-days wine fair which is a real community of organic and biodynamic wines. This one in London is just one of the events that are organized during the year in different parts of the world such as Berlin, New York, Los Angeles or Montreal.

What have I learnt from this experience? Which impressions to share with you? A lot of curiosity for organic wines, a lot of young people that want to change their approach towards wine culture and curious to discover new little denominations, such as mine. This is for sure the perfect moment for particular wines, that have their own identity and that aren’t very famous among the wine market, such as the one I produce: the organic Gambellara DOC. The fair has been organized to the last detail, I will for sure participate to other events of Raw Wine in the future.

A few days in the vineyard and then we’ll move to Verona for my 6th time at VinitalyBio, the  event dedicated to certified organic wine inside Vinitaly, the international wine & spirits exhibition of Verona. I will be in pavilion F hall 18 of VinitalyBio. I will wait for you there to taste together Primo Incontro 2017 and my Gambellara Classico Col Moenia 2017.

Winter rest

After the great stress during the summer, ended in October with the maturation of the grapes, vines need a rest period in order to regenerate and recover energies, this period is winter. During the so-called winter rest, we don’t just wait for the vines to germinate in Spring, but we help the vines to recover their energies and the soil to regenerate through specific works.

The first work, once the harvest is over, is to remove the dead or sick vinesor the ones that, by mistake, we uproot: these vines are changed with new ones. During the summer, walking up and down the vineyards we already see and mark the vines that need to be removed so, once the harvest is over, we remove them and create a hole in the soil for the new vine. During the winter, thanks to cold temperatures, the soil receives more oxygen and crumbles, becoming more friable in spring when we’ll plant the new vines.

Spring operations are carried out using a tractor that, depending on its weight and tires dimensions, makes the soil more compact. My philosophy is trying to compact the soil as less as possible, using light tractors with wide tires in order to let the soil breathe “better”.

After having removed the vines we use a subsoiler in order to cut, lift and aerate the soil. This operation is extremely important because cutting the soil 40 cm deep we let air and water enter the soil for all the winter, which is fundamental for the microorganisms.

The next step is green manure crop seeding, a mix of grass (Gramineae) and Leguminosaethat, using their roots, renovate the soil and give carbon and nitrogen in order to increase the humus in the soil. Once these operations are finished, the soil rests until next Spring.

We are not finished yet in the vineyards, we still have to prune, clean the banks of the ditches from trees and prepare the vineyard for its germination in Spring.

Pruning begins with cold temperatures, when all the leaves have already fallen. We wait for this precise moment because trees, once the fruit is removed, are still working in order to increase inside the trunk a vital substance to survive during Winter a start once again in Spring. If we prune them in the wrong moment, we will stop this important process. Pruning is a very delicate process where you remove the old part of the vine and decide how it will be in the next years, its shape and the amount of grape bunches it will produce. In the same period we also prune the olive trees in order to maintain unvaried their production and quality.

Another important winter operation is cleaning banks and ditches. We remove those trees that in Summer could perhaps shade the vineyards or block water in the ditches. We have to safeguard the environment and the place where we live so that the future generations will enjoy a better environment than the one we found.

It seems winter is not a time for rest, or better only trees can rest, we have to get organized and work hard in order to prepare the vineyard to be ready and strong when Spring comes.

Cuvee dei Vignato, vintage 2013

This month I’d like to speak about my Cuvee dei Vignato - V.S.Q. Durella-Chardonnay, vintage 2013.

This wine comes from the volcanic hills of Gambellara and it’s a blend of 90% Durella and 10% Chardonnay. It is a champenoise method sparkling wine and it’s the result of the two souls of the winery: my father Gian Domenico by one side, who has always cultivated Durella grape variety, and me by the other side, I decided to introduce Chardonnay.
The harvest is manual, the wine matures in stainless steel tanks and by the end we go on with the sparkling process of the best Cuvee.
The wine smells of ripen fruit, yeasts and bread crust; in the mouth it is round, enchanting and floral with a final hint of exotic fruit.

This vintage in particular, 2013, didn’t have any dry peaks during the summer; spring was rainy and a not so hot summer helped the grape bunches in a slow maturation, carried out in the best way possible.
A great vintage for sparkling wines because the grape bunches with their slow ripening, were able to maintain acidity and freshness, which are very important for a sparkling wine. Cuvee 2013 smells like citrus and in the mouth you can perceive a strong minerality.

My work in the winery

In order to follow my idea of producing a clean and elegant wine, that is a mirror of the territory and that is produced without adding other external products, I have understood that I have to pay attention to every single step in the winery during the harvest period. I have understood how much important s following, day by day, all the wines: from the harvest to the bottling.

Among the various activities in the winery, two in my opinion are the most delicate: the choice of the optimal harvesting period, and the winemaking process.
As regards the first activity I always have to keep in mind that the harvesting period and the choice of the vineyard may vary depending upon which type of wine I want to obtain.
For my Cuvée dei Vignato – V.S.Q. Durella for example, I only choose Durella grape variety (since 2016) coming from my volcanic hills in Gambellara, this is going to be an early harvest so I can maintain freshness in the wine even after 4 or 5 years of maturing.
For my Col Moenia – Gambellara DOC Classico I only use Garganega grape variety and I harvest the most ripen grape bunches to give higher complexity, the harvest could be even 30 days after the harvest of Cuvée grape bunches.

As regards the winemaking process, at least the natural one, you cannot make any mistake and the promptness of the actions is fundamental. First of all the winery needs to be always clean and disinfected using 120° steam pressure. Grape bunches have to get to the winery in an intact condition and healthy, in order not to have any external interference. Another important practice is the indigenous yeasts Pied de Cuve, that is done 4 or 5 days before the harvest of the grape bunches. Thanks to this technique I’m able to increase a lot the number of the yeasts thanks to the repeated oxygenations of the fermenting must, even for several hours per day, so when I start the winemaking process of the rest of the wine there will be a lot of yeast and the alcoholic fermentation will begin very soon.
During the fermentation the tanks need to be checked every morning to understand if everything is going on correctly or if something wrong is happening, in this case a pouring or some other techniques are needed in order to solve the problem.

Since I don’t want to add any other products to the wine, I have to try to anticipate the problems that can occur, for this reason a daily tasting is fundamental.
Once the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations and the first pouring are done, I start with pumping must over the grape dregs and weekly battonage until the next spring.
This is another important technique that helps me for the maturing and the stability of the wines. In July I proceed with the bottling, adding a small quantity of sulphur, to maintain the wine and guarantee they are perfect even at the other side of the world.
In the winemaking process of a natural/organic wine you need to pay more attention in comparison to a conventional wine, don’t let anything by chance and cuddle the wines ‘til the bottle.

Sustainable, who?

In this newsletter I’d like to tell you about my “organic” choice.

I have always been fascinated by this way of working the soil and I wanted to carry on this practice. In my opinion it was necessary to think about a more sustainable agriculture compared to the one I found when I started working in this field.

I have always seen my father working 15 hours a day, intoxicating himself, the surrounding environment and the grapes with all the chemical products that he used, and after that his incomes were very low that he couldn’t afford the growth he had in mind! “I can’t go on like this!”, I told myself.

Analyzing the situation, I understood that I had to remove all the chemical products in the soil and in the sprayings, in order to give value to the product and to be in harmony with nature, from the vines in vineyards to the microorganisms in the soil.

This kind of agriculture was more sustainable for me. I started to follow the organic techniques removing chemical fertilizers and all chemical products, using green manure to bring microorganisms and soil back to life and bottling my own product to give an added value to my work and offer people a sustainable wine.

There is always a lot to do and to innovate, but I think this is the right way for a sustainable agriculture, for my winery and for my wines.

Back to the future

Once I had defined the way I way I wanted to follow for my winery, thanks to all the experiences I’ve done and, most of all, to the meeting with an amazing Chardonnay from Loire Valley produced with natural technique, I came back home full of enthusiasm.

I was used to cultivate the soil following traditional techniques, my father was not sure at all about my choices that led to a great changing: the natural technique, either in agriculture and in the production of wine;

but we managed to agree on it and he gave me the possibility to cultivate a small plot of land following my ideas.

I started by eliminating herbicides and chemical fertilizers, I also began to work the land in a different way and decided to reduce yield per hectare in order to have less quantity of grapes but of highest quality.

It didn’t take a lot to see the very first changings: in two years the leaves began to change their color in stronger green; after more or less four years the grape bunches also began to benefit having a more intense golden color; the taste was richer and the skin crispier. I was very enthusiast of these results so I went to my father, who was satisfied as well for this amazing and tastier bunches, and he asked me “and now, what shall we do?”. My father used to sell the grapes by weight: since the production was very restricted, the idea of following my agriculture techniques wasn’t profitable at all.

Then, after having reconverted other plots, the right moment came! I managed to find clients that were looking for this kind of grape, and our grape were a step ahead of the others! That’s why I decided to convert all the farm to organic agriculture. It took several years to detoxify the soil from the traditional agriculture but finally, in 2006, we started to produce our own wine.

A real changing that gave me the possibility to renew the whole winery and its philosophy, coming back to authentic wine! A travel to the future to come back to the origins.