As I pack my bags and leave Castiglione Falletto, I now knowledge that vendemmia has ended. The past six weeks have passed quickly and I feel a bit emotional about the end; at vintage one’s perception of time becomes distorted as time becomes compressed. I recall Eddie, my Australian winemaker, housemate, and co-worker, reminding me that he only had 21 days left in Castiglione Falleto. It feels as if he made that comment only yesterday; he left earlier this week.
I am grateful to the people who have shared so much time, knowledge and openness to me. I was lucky enough to spend harvest with Vietti and share a full day of cellar work at Elio Altare(thank you Silvia!) and Gaja. Dolcetto will be good, barbera could be very good, and nebbiolo has the potential to be excellent. "Fantastic" is the adjective that I've been hearing a lot. Visits with Terre de Barolo, Valentino, Produtorri del Barbaresco, Sandrone, Pio Cesare, Borgogno, Rinaldi, Cavalloto, Ceretto, and the cooperage Gamba, completed the experience.
The 2008 Vietti vintage team, small children not included
I spent my last day here in Barbaresco with the winemaking team headed by Guido Rivella at Gaja. My comfort level in the cellar and operations pleased me. I noted some friendly scepticism as they met me; I was a bit embarrassed to drive up to the winery in a black BMW, a multiple upgrade from the rental car agency. I had rented the cheapest compact. However, within minutes of arriving, my ease with the equipment put them at ease and we were pumping over, rack and returning, pressing, and adding nutrients to the must on que. I must admit I was in awe as I tasted fermenting Sori San Lorenzo and Costa Russi. I was excited to press Sori Tilden. The vinification methods are very similar to those we employed at Vietti. Today’s experience highlighted the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained from five vintages in thirteen months: Cote-Rotie, Bordeaux, Australia, New Zealand, and Piedmont. My enthusiasm cannot be contained and I am looking forward to South America.
At Gaja, after a pump over
Yesterday, Eugenio, Delco, and Angel put the crush pad away in storage, marking the end of vintage for Vietti. We finished harvesting the Nebbiolo for Barolo early this week. It has been a late ending vintage and people, including me, are tired. At the same time in 2007, all the fruit was picked by October 2. Both sugar and acidity were high. We were waiting for the Ph level to increase. Some vineyards had levels below 3.0 and we were looking for levels of 3.15. Good levels of Ph range ultimately from 3.2 to 3.5. Acid is not proportional to Ph but when the Ph is lower, the acid is higher. Ph increases over vinification so a target of 3.15 finishes around the target range. Ph is important for successful alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. The measure for relative density in sugar in Piedmont is called Babo but can also be measured by a similar metric called Brix or Baume elsewhere. Barbera d’Alba and Nebbiolo were picked almost concurrently so tank space management was an issue.
Fermenting Nebbiolo and Barbera
As previously mentioned, spring was cold and summer brought much rain. When I arrived, most people were pessimistic about the vintage. “I’m sorry, this won’t be a great one,” I heard over and over again. The biggest threat to the vintage was rot from botrytis although powdery mildew and black rot were potentially problematic. Cooper sulfate marked the vineyards with its blue. The weather from mid September to this week was very favorable with only one day of full rain and little sprinkles here and there. With sunny days and cool nights, the diurnal temperatures faciliated ideal temperatures that mitigated some of the damage that was done previously. Abundant sunshine allowed the grapes to ripen properly and avoid moisture while cool nights suspended the propagation of rot.
As I review the last five weeks, I must admit that I’ve had another steep learning curve. After seven weeks here, I’ll be sad to leave Piedmont. Sunday will be my last day.
Great dinner at La Libera in Alba
Tomorrow I’ll be at the Gambero Rosso Tri Biccheri (Three Glasses) tasting in Turin.
Lorenzo, Mario's son, invited me to a dinner party
Working and living in Piedmont has been one of my long time goals that I’ve now completed.