Mostly out of choice, but also partly by chance, I find myself running a small wine-making company, formed mainly by two farms given over to different types of cultivation. This is due to variations in the nature and geological make-up of the land. The two farms are, indeed, on opposite sides of Montepulciano, and were chosen for their different characteristics: one is suitable for growing vines and the other for olives. The "Podere Corsica" (one of the farms) is situated in the area of Nottola at an altitude of about 330 metres above sea level, in the heart of the hills which produce grapes for the production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The other farm, "Podere Totona" is at an altitude of about 560 metres above sea level in an area which is perfect for olive trees.
The vines in Nottola are fully exposed to the sun, while the ground is of medium mix and gravelly, thus providing the vines with a richness and the particular fragrances which make them typical of the area. It should also be added that the grapes produced are full-bodied, a feature which blends perfectly with their elegance.
The small dimensions of the farms means that I am able to oversee the organisation of each production phase by myself, though with the collaboration of an enological consultant. This situation allows me to pursue precise objectives which do not merely answer to the demands of the market, and above all, means that I can ensure quality.
Along with Vino Nobile, my other great passion is for Vin Santo. This product, while being greatly refined and therefore made for conossieurs only, is also a matter of personal pride for me and represents a family tradition which I guard jealously. The "mother" vine which produces the grapes for the Vin Santo, is in fact more than one hundred years old and has been passed down through three generations. The old production procedure, which begins with the careful selection of grapes, continues through their drying on mats for at least 120 days. Then there is the pressing and finally the aging process which lasts for at least five years in small wooden casks. Once released from the casks the long period of bottle aging begins. All this means that Vin Santo has all the characteristics of a very high quality wine, and as such, has an exclusive niche in the market.
HOW I WORK IN THE VINE-YARD AND IN THE CELLAR
The company's production is very limited, due both to its size (4.50 hectares of specialised vines in production) and to my system of cultivation and production. I decided to work in this way so as to be able to use the healthiest possible grapes in the wine-making process.. In 1990 I also decided to farm my land using natural methods; My idea of agriculture has always been supported by its eco- compatibility with the Environment. For twenty-five years I have worked in my two little farms, applying natural methods and without ever making use of parasiticidal products, weed-killers or insecticide sprays; neither have I ever made use of chemical fertilizer, always preferring natural manure.
Two years ago I decided to put my choices into effect - which are in fact my choices of life too - by enrolling in the "List of Organic Operators in the Tuscan Region" and I received a Certificate of Conformity of Organic Companies last year from the Control Department of "Soil and Health".This choice of mine was dictated by a specific will to contribute to the realization, for what is possible, of a better agriculture, one which respects nature and which gives birth to earth products which are healthy and genuine, conserving the "bio-diversities" which are and which remain an added value of Italian products and of the collective heritage.
The pruning of the vines, which takes place in January or February, is carried out on a spurred cord which may only carry a maximum of eight to ten buds, something which allows me to control the quantity of grapes produced right from the beginning of the vines' re-vegetation. In the Spring months all the vines are manually cleaned, stripped of excess foliage and the ground is hoed, depending on the what is needed at the moment. These are age-old agricultural practices and very expensive, but all carried out with the aim of ensuring the product's high level of health.
Pesticidal treatment can be reduced to a minimum if the vines are carefully looked after by hand on a daily basis and if the specific micro-climate is favourable.
Between June and July a drastic process of pruning is carried out, where any grape-bunches which I think are excess to the vines' productive capacity are removed. The average number of grape bunches per plant is eight. This permits optimal ripening and sugar concentration.
In August, which is traditionally hot, an important factor in the ripening of the grapes, the earth around the vines - in the central part of the row - is dug, so as to make it fresher and more able to take advantage of the slight humidity which nightfall brings. This prevents the plants from suffering from lack of water and is essential for the equilibrium of the ripening process. It also contributes to the possibility of an early harvest..
September is the most important period of the year: that of the harvest, which is exclusively done by hand. The grape-pickers, if necessary, work by filling two small 10kg boxes at the same time, one for top quality grapes and one for lower quality grapes. In this way when the grapes arrive at the cellar they are already sorted and can be used for different products of different quality. The harvest takes five or maximum six days so that the grapes are all picked at the optimal moment in terms of maturity and analytical balance. If necessary, before the harvest, any low quality grape bunches are removed.
After being pressed and de-stalked, the grapes are put into small stainless steel fermenting vats where they are left to ferment for at least 10 - 15 days. During this period the processes of pumping over and punching down the cap are carried out, sprinkling the grape skins with the must so as to obtain the maximum amount of colour and fragrances.
The process of malolactic fermentation is also carried out in stainless steel vats, before the wine is placed in small oak barrels (24-30 hecto-litres), tonneaux and barriques, where it remains for a period from 6 to 24 months, depending on the type of wine. During these months the wines are under constant supervision from me and the cellarman, who oversees the racking of each barrel. At the end of the aging period in oak, each barrel is analysed and evaluated for one last time by me and the enologist. At this point we can decide on blending.
I sign all the bottles, which also carry information about the quantity of production for that year for each wine, and a guarantee of the quality of craftmanship that went into making the wine. I don't work entirely alone in Montepulciano, however. Indeed I compare and collaborate with others who like me, try to produce ever better wines and to understand more about this area where I was born and where I have chosen to live with my family. For these reasons I am a member of Montepulciano's Vino Nobile Association.