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My dog Pablo walking with me during grape sampling in Piana del Pozzo vineyard

Ripening of a grapevine

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Evaluating the phenolic ripening of wine grapes is more important than just chemical analysis: Cantine Barbera experience

I'm walking with a very excited Pablo, my 3 year-old black hovawart, for our first official 2013 pre-harvest check, a significant as I am about to understand which is the ripening stage of the grapes and to make plans for the upcoming harvest.

Last week I did the same tour with my mom: she takes care of the vineyard during the winter, when I am busy with travels and tastings, winemaking and bottling, and is always very proud to pass me the baton at the end of veraison.
I am so happy with the great job she did this year: amazing sound grapes, a very important thing that should never be taken for granted, and balanced vineyards.
My first thought is that our timing is quite close to last vintage’s: maybe ripening is a bit slower this year, but everything may quickly change depending on temperatures.

I bring my refractometer just for doubt’s sake, but I will eventually pay more attention to what I see, feel and touch than to just the sugar level. Of course ripeness can be measured with specific chemical analysis, but I do believe that nothing is better than your senses to evaluate all physiological process in vines and grapes’ life.

The first grapes to get ripe is Chardonnay, so I will start from there.
First thing I do is to check the lignification of the stems as they turn from being flexible and green to hard and woody. Half an inch of wooden stem will mean a complete ripeness, and my grapes are on their way, as we can see from the picture.

Then it’s the turn of basal leaves, which start to wither as the ripening process goes on. This is a sign of water stress, which is daily routine here in Sicily, but it has to be managed very carefully: while a controlled water supply is very important to vines’ health in order to keep their balanced metabolic functions, excessive irrigation may lead to poor grapes’ quality.
My choice for this year will probably be for short cycles of night-time watering using a drip irrigation system before the vines become sensitive to major water deprivation, so that they will have time to metabolize humidity and stay away from ripening blockings. 

I finally taste a berry: its skin is already soft and elastic. It’s delicious and almost sweet, with a perceptible acidity. Confirming my feelings, the refractometer says 14 to 15 Babo degrees, with some peaks around 18 in the outer clusters. The seed is brown and already crunchy, but not very dark.

A week, maybe ten days, and we’ll be ready for harvest.

Lignificazione del tralcio
Lignificazione del tralcio
Appassimento delle foglie basali
Appassimento delle foglie basali
Acini e vinaccioli quasi maturi
Acini e vinaccioli quasi maturi

Tags: vendemmia, vendemmia in Sicilia, maturazione, maturazione fenolica

THE SHORT STORY

THE SHORT STORY

Grape variety: Inzolia grown in Dietro le Case vineyard
Soil: clay soil with calcareous components, very rich in limestones and sea minerals
Vineyard: planted in 1960s, head-trained bush vines
Winemaking: skin contact for 48 hours in steel tanks
Alcoholic fermentation: spontaneous, with wild yeast
Malolactic fermentation: spontaneous
Refining: 4 months on fine lees, in steel tanks
Aging: one oak barrel, where it ages in perpetuum with its sediment
Average production: a few dozen bottles every some years

Download wine sheet

WINEMAKING

The grapes are handpicked the first half of September, when they are fully ripe. The traditional pruning system - called "a pezzo e spalla" - and the age of the vines, allow slow constant ripening cycles and a great aromatic concentration.

The fermentation is spontaneous, with 2 days skin contact. After soft pressing, the fermentation continues for 8 days in steel tanks. After malolactic is completed, the wine refines on fine lees for about 4 months and is then racked into one single oak barrel, where it ages in perpetuum with its sediment.

The wine is bottled directly from the barrel no more than 2-3 times every decade.

TASTING NOTES

Altrimenti has a bright amber color, enlivened by golden hues. Its nose is predominantly tertiary, where fruity notes of apricot and ripe figs blend onto an intense and aromatic herbal background, enriched by roasted and dried nuts.

It is dry and full bodied to the palate, with a distinct savory personality that harmoniously meets a tannic finish.

SERVING TEMPERATURE: 54 - 58 °F
Pour Altrimenti in wide glasses, at a fresh but not chilled temperature.
Please avoid freezers and blast chillers, as well as a prolonged time in your home refrigerator: this wine is not filtered nor fined, and any temperature below 40 °F will mortify its complex aromas.

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