By Francesco Tirinato
Wine has always been rooted in popular tradition.
It was part of the identity of the farmers and all the inhabitants of the countryside who produced it strictly according to ancient local customs.
It was Greek colonists around the 8th century BC who imported the vine, symbol of the Greek god Dionysus (referred to by the Romans as Bacchus), to the Ionian coast.
Since then, procedures have been refined from generation to generation in a continuous search for better and higher quality wine.
In Italy, for example, special care and attention has been given to the cultivation of the vine, and it is no coincidence that Italian wine is still recognised around the world as an excellence.
And a small but significant part of this success also bears the mark of Calabria:
“Calabria is a land marked by the biodiversity that distinguishes the entire Calabria region and that starts with the most remote crop of our civilisation: the vine. The vines that are still found in the same places where they originated alone cover 60 per cent of the area under vine. There are around 12 thousand hectares under vine, for a total of around 9.5 million bottles of Calabrian wine that reach Italian tables every year, but also reach the foreign market with a significant 15 percent of total production“.
It is not at all easy to grow the right grapes and obtain a good natural wine in the cellar: the particularity and difficulty of making this product make it rare and precious.
This delicate process starts with the harvest, continues with the transformation of the grapes into must and finally ends when the must is transformed into natural wine.
As every year, September is the month that opens the doors to this fascinating rite that has always represented a moment of celebration between the community and the territory: the grape harvest.
Thanks to the harvest, the fruits of a great deal of work are gathered, culminating only in the delivery of a quality wine (or so we hope) to our tables.
The harvest is nothing more than the picking of the grapes*, the moment in which the vine-dresser, using his experience, identifies the healthy, ripe bunches of grapes with their skins intact (a conditio sine qua non for producing a good natural wine), and at the same time, tastes the grains of the vines in order to understand the right moment to pick them, (usually when they reach the right ripeness in terms of sugar and phenolics, as well as acidity and Ph. ), and then cut them with special shears, and finally store them in not excessively large boxes, to avoid possible crushing.
The next step is the crushing phase.
The grapes are taken to the cellar and put into the crushing machine which separates the grapes (the berries) from the stalks (the twigs), thus avoiding that some residues of the stalks can remain in the wine, making its taste less pleasant.
When the grapes are broken, the must is released, which has an intense colour.
Once the grapes (marc) have been crushed, they are pressed to release the residual must, which may have remained attached to the skins or still contained in them.
After the grapes have been pressed, they are placed in large vats where fermentation begins, i.e. the transformation of grape juice into wine (which occurs when the sugars are transformed into alcohol).
The natural transformation of the must into wine consists in letting the fermentation of the sugars present take place thanks to the yeasts naturally associated with the grapes (indigenous yeasts), thus avoiding the addition of selected yeasts (such as sulphites). In this way we try to interfere as little as possible with the perfect (but sometimes uncontrolled and risky) balance of Mother Nature.
At the end of the fermentation period, the racking process begins, which consists of purifying the wine from the solid residues and marc remaining at the bottom of the vats and transferring them to the barrels, stimulating a second fermentation and further transformation of the residual sugar.
The period between the end of fermentation and bottling is known as wine maturation. Only time allows the wine to improve its characteristics and become ready for consumption.
As can be deduced from this brief description, in order to obtain a wine that is absolutely natural and of the highest quality, it is necessary to carefully manage all the individual stages.
After all, wine is not just a simple consumer good, but rather a sincere expression of our civilisation, each bottle encapsulating ancient traditions but also bearing witness to new and stimulating future encounters.
“Wine is therefore culture when it is produced, but it is also culture when it is consumed, because we never choose a wine solely on the basis of practical or nutritional criteria, we also choose it according to a universe of customs and symbols, which lead us to reflect on where it comes from, on its essence and on the emotions it gives us”.
*differences between wine grapes and table grapes:
“We can say that table grapes have rather thin-skinned berries, a firm and crisp pulp, with few or no seeds. In contrast, wine grapes have a much juicier pulp, which makes them suitable for nectar production, and on average a berry with more seeds, which are also involved in the first part of winemaking.
But the most important difference lies in what is known as technological ripeness, i.e. the ratio of sugars to acids in the grapes.
Table grapes tend to have a higher sweetness and sugar content than wine grapes, but a lower degree of acidity.
Wine grapes have a more balanced acidity/sweetness ratio, which aids the winemaking process. This balance facilitates the preservation and refinement of the nectar and allows its organoleptic properties to be expressed to the full”.
Written by Francesco Tirinato