(You can click on pictures to enlarge them)
Here at our home at Fattoria Viticcio, the 2006 harvest has begun. These grapes will become the table wine, Chianti Classico, Riserva, Super Tuscan of 2007-2009. And-- Alessandro Landini, the hands on owner of the Viticcio vineyards and winery, dreams of again being named to the Wine Spectator's top 100. Just now the October edition has included Viticcio's 2003 Beatrice Chianti Classico Riserva in that august list--not the first time this small winery has been so recognized.
Last week they begin picking the merlot grapes, this week the San Giovese and in two weeks will be the Cabernet Savignon. Here it is done by hand--no large conglomerate machinery. There is a crew that methodically and meticuously cuts each cluster, loading baskets which will be emptied into the carts awaiting them at the edge of the rows.
Once a cart is full, it is taken to the building housing the de-stemmer.
No--the stems are not patiently pulled off one by one nor are they ground up to become part of the brew that eventually becomes wine. This machine is ingenious as it spits the stems out, sending the grapes on their way to the big vats where barefoot contadini happily crush the grapes while belting out arias from La Traviata.
Actually, after the destemming, the grapes are skinned and crushed in another machine and the juice is sent on its way to very large vats where the transformation from grape to wine begins--a process that is intricate and to the winemaker for the next many months and years emotionally absorbing. For grapes do not just "become" exceptional wine. They arrive there by the knowledge, decisions and expertise, of the wine maker and his enologist (chemist.) And--maybe a little bit of good fortune along the way.
No part of the grape is wasted. Even the skins and pulp become something special and unique--grappa!
This picture shows one of Alessandro's crew moving the skin/pulp to a smaller container where it and juice will be sucked up into tubing connected to a vat where it will ferment, ultimately transforming into the grappa--for the uninitiated, grappa is a formidable after dinner drink which is very strong and powerful.
The second part of this simple story will document the grapes' journey from the vats to the day when trucks arrive for the first step of the wine's journey to Canada, Australia, Japan, the USA and more--and to the next edition of Wine Spectator.
A Side Note:
At the front of most rows in this vineyard and many others are found lovely rosebushes. When we first came, I thought "How pretty that is. What a nice touch to add roses amidst the grapes." But--now I know that there is a much more important purpose for these flowers. Roses and vines have similar constitutions and so are subject to the same diseases but the roses will get the disease first. So--by watching the rose, the vines can be saved.
And beauty has a purpose.