Originally in Castiglione Del Lago Newsletter …….
Phew! Wot a Scorcher!
(With quiet apologies to the Sun or the Mirror years ago!)
(Wrote this piece near the end of September)
We’re lucky, we have the best of both worlds. Where we live looks out over vineyards, our back garden is a small vineyard, but the vines are rented out to a small local cantina up the road – so we have the pleasure of looking at them but not the pain of tending them!
August this year was exceptionally hot and dry leading to the early ripening of the grapes in this area.
The cantina that tends the grapes in our back garden usually harvest early anyway – last year it was the 1st September for both red and white grapes. This year, mid-August was their chosen time – REALLY early!
So while we were enjoying the sun, the cantine were worried. The grapes were ripening far too quickly and sweetening up – even the Sagrantino grapes were ready.
Grapes are generally harvested at slightly different times – so, for instance, the Chardonnay grapes might be picked at the end of August, whereas the Sagrantino grapes can be harvested as late as October. To show how early the grapes have ripened, the last grapes to be picked of the season are the bunches selected to become the Sagrantino Passito.
One of the methods used, is the Sagrantino grapes are harvested for the secco (dry wine) then the bunches chosen for the Passito (dessert wine) are left on the vines for a while longer to ripen further.
Then, usually in late October, these bunches are picked and laid in a single layer on wire racks in naturally aired rooms for about 6 weeks to lose some of their juice and concentrate the natural sugars. They can lose around 70% of their volume and become raisin like. (One of the reasons that Passito is more expensive than the secco wine!)
We have seen at least 2 cantine where this process has already taken place – at least a week ago if not more (mid-September). That’s unbelievably early to be making the Sagrantino Passito.
So the question will be, will 2011 be a great vintage or not? Have the cantine saved the grapes? You’ll have to wait at least 3 years before that question is answered!
What do you think? Will 2011 be a good year for wine?