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The life of a winemaker - it's harvest time!

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Above: a row of "new" (6 years old) trees of Montepulciano, just before the grapes' harvest.

The life of a winemaker - Part 3

Before showing you some pictures and giving you some figures about this year's harvest, I need to tell you another part of the story. Basically, during the last 7 years, I worked on rebuilding and renewing completely my vineyards, in the sense that I've been replacing step by steps all the old trees, poles and wires with new ones. It wasn't very expensive (all in all I think I spent around 5000 over those 7 years) but it costed me a lot in terms of work, because I did all the manual stuff by myself (with the precious help of my brother in law, who's mad about home made wine even more than me), I cannot really count how many hours in total, but we are talking about many hundreds of them, possibly a thousand and more, actually.

However, no matter the efforts I had to do, today I have a total of 600 trees, 450 of which are new trees planted over the last years (elder ones are 7 years old, youngest are from this year); the old trees are for the most of the Cesanese and Montepulciano kinds for red wine and Malvasia and Moscato for white wine (all of them are 30-40 years old trees), with some Merlot and Cabernet my grandfather wanted to plant later in his life (15-20 years old trees), plus very few and very old trees (a couple are probably 60 years old, the last remnants of the very first vineyard he planted), which is even difficult to identify to which kind they belong to because they are grafts of local species which have basically disappeared.

With regards to the new trees, I planted for the most (ca 400) black varieties, Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo and a small mix of few other kinds (Sagrantino, Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese) for testing purposes about growth, adaptation and natural resistance to diseases (besides, adding small quantities of different varieties of grapes makes the bouquet stronger and the taste smoother); during the last 2 years I've planted some 50 trees of Trebbiano, which is a resistant white grape which produces a not so sugary must, that mixes well with the other grapes from Malvasia and Moscato.

Some pictures of red grapes below




Montepulciano (new trees) proves to be very productive, even if the actual growth of grapes seems to be smaller when compared with the old trees; Ciliegiolo gives not much grapes, but they are all invariably healthy and sugary... the surprise is the Merlot: to be honest with you I wasn't expecting it to be so productive and healthy, I have only 5 trees for testing reasons, but I'm considering to plant some more in the future.. Merlot it's of course not typical in my area, but it has been planted so much in the past that it proved a very good adaptation to the peculiar climate we have here.. most probably the next 50 new trees I'll plant will be of Merlot.

Few pics of white grapes


I want to add a couple of comments on the pictures above. First, the high grass it's intentional, and it's based on the logic of BIO; basically, I try to limit to the minimum any invasive intervention on the soil: only one digging per year in late winter/early spring (just after the manure has been spread on the ground) and after that I only cut the grass once or twice within June, and never after that period (once the grapes start to grow), this because a) the high grass in general is a good thing in summer because it helps keep the humidity in the soil and b) I want to prevent any kind of pollution to the grapes (exhausts, mostly).

Besides, if you look at the picture, it's rare to not to see a ruined berry every once in a while, but in my book that's a warranty that the product is biologic: look, perfect looking fruits and vegetables are always suspect to me, I mean I've been farming as a hobby for years, and bio products are always somewhat imperfect.

The wasps
That's a short video I made, because taking a picture of those little lads it's impossible. The constant presence of bees and wasps (and sometime hornets) on the vineyard is another indication of a good biological balance; usually when we harvest and squeeze the grapes we are literally swarmed by bees and wasps, and receiving one or two stings it's quite the norm, ouch!

The tipical crate
Averagely a crate can hold 15 kg of grapes, though only if you squeeze them in (something I don't like to do).

Talking about this, I'll give you some figures: averagely each tree produces 1,5 kg of grapes, but it's a rough estimation as it really depends on the season as well as on the age of the three; an old (over 30 years) tree can produce up to 3 kg, a young one (2-3 years) not even 200 grams.
However, with 600 trees the estimated production, depending on the season, varies from 700 to 1000 kg, but it can also be sensibly more or less, in particular less if the season is very bad... as a matter of fact 2019 is the first good (normal, nothing exceptional) season in 5 years: twice we had very late ice (end of April, very uncommon in Italy, even for my region) after an earlier hotter period, and once we had extreme haze (like that once it was over there were like 20 cm of ice on the ground!!!) and in general the mixing of sun and water wasn't good.. the average harvest on that period wasn't more of 400 kg, this 2019 the total is around 700 kg (450 red grapes, 250 white grapes), but in any case the overall quality is rather high.

And that's pretty much everything about this chapter.. next time I'll talk you about how I do actually make my own wine

Updated October 10, 2019 at 08:23 AM by Flinn

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  1. makanyane's Avatar
    This isn't 100% winemaking related but wondered if you knew the use and history of these;
    We've just been to Puglia region, and these dry stone huts seem to be everywhere in amongst vines and olive groves. Search online shows that they are a traditional thing for the area, but not what exactly they're used for, I assume they must still be used otherwise people would have reclaimed the stone? Specifically we were curious why the formation of that large flat step around the base...
  2. Flinn's Avatar
    Hello mak, I'm sorry but I'm not really a historian

    If I am to guess I can assume that they could have been storage huts, especially for olives (which need to "rest" for few days before being squeezed into oil), but it's wild guessing on my side. Is that a monumental graveyard on the background?
  3. makanyane's Avatar
    Thanks anyway.

    Is that a monumental graveyard on the background?
    Yup, that one example of the hut was in a public park with a graveyard behind, the ones we saw in fields were when we were passing on the train or bus and we didn't get photos.

    The monumental graveyards were very impressive, we saw a few that looked like small towns from a distance!
  4. King Athelstan's Avatar
    I'm super happy to see all the progress! I remember you talking about doing this years ago, and now it's coming to fru(u)ition!

    How much would it be for a bottle or two shipped to Norway when the time comes?
  5. Flinn's Avatar
    @ mak, I see, I was asking because maybe they could have been graves, I mean the huts, but once again I'm not really the right person to answer you I had a check online and I gathered that the tradition of building stone huts is very old, and that possibly they were used for various different purposes, so I really don't have a better clue

    @ KA, thanks bro, indeed it's an important part of my life, soon I'll post a new blog about the actual process of wine making.
    And I'm afraid that shipping a bottle to anywhere isn't an option, it being a biological wine with no sulfites means that moving it around "too far" will certainly ruin the taste and the quality of the wine... you have to come to visit me mate, I'm waiting for you in my barbecue area, just inside my vineyard
  6. Flinn's Avatar