Preparing the cellar for the harvest

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Giovanni and Ciccio repainting the vinifying section

As I like things to be ordered and clean, the month of September means preparing the cellar for the harvest. We disinfect the complete cellar and re-paint the parts of the cellar walls and ceiling where mould has settled over the last vinifying season due to the high humidity while working in the cellar over winter. All the equipment is tested and cleaned and the parts that have been damaged due to wear are being replaced or repaired.

As we work entirely without sulphur, we obviously are exposed to bacterial infections, even though we work with perfectly clean and thoroughly selected grapes. Therefore I want my cellar to be as clean as possible in order to avoid “bret” or other infections.

I strongly believe that the best way to express the terroir and vintage in a wine is to have exclusively the yeasts of each specific vintage expressing themselves in a perfect and undisturbed way.

To reach this goal, there are according to me two approaches; and the obvious third, “perfect”, solution… The inside vinification would be to sterilize the cellar and vinification equipment, in order to avoid any kind of interference which is external of the indigenous yeasts of the vintage as well as to eliminate all bacterial infections accumulated over the year(s) in the cellar. This means vinifying in a completely sterile cellar.
The other possibility is to vinify outside, under the open sky in the area where the grapes are cultivated, in and with the environment and vintage. This might sound like two extreme solutions but in the end, both systems make perfect sense as they respect perfectly the vintage.

I have some 7 years of experience vinifying under the open sky (2003 – 2009) and I like it. There are the problems of the hotter vintages with (too) warm ambient temperatures and sunlight on the fermenting tanks as well as the cold and rainy ones with practical complications of planning pump-overs and pressings due to bad weather. Both can also influence the fermenting but the weather conditions are an integral part of the vintage as long as no damage is done in terms of losing the delicate flavours of the wines. The wind and the rain (good closures of the fermenting tanks are fundamental!) which bring freshness and clean air are hard to achieve inside.

I was very worried in 2010 to start working entirely inside and have implemented extremely high standards of cleanliness which go far beyond the H.A.C.C.P. procedures. With great results; although I intuitively feel the need for more “cosmic interference” while fermenting.
Today’s need for more space in our cellar (I thought in 2010 the cellar was huge…) has pushed us to invest again and to go bigger and thus we will rent the complete floor on top of our existing cellar for mainly vinifying, a small office and a garage for our farming equipment.

This new vinification section, on top of our existing cellar, will have all the necessary windows, doors and “cosmic exchange” built into the cellar and so we will have in a way the best of both worlds: practical spot-on pressing and working under a roof with ventilation and cosmic influence all around. With the great extra advantage of being able to work in gravity: after fermenting and pressing, the wine will flow into the cellar below for aging and decanting without using pumps.

The construction will start right after harvest this year and will last realistically more than a year and so I guess that the harvest 2014 will be the first where we will be able to work comfortably at high standards in the new part of the cellar!
Meanwhile we are also planning our own cellar which we hope to start building in 2020… some long term planning!

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