A day with Coppo’s enologist, following the footsteps of Pomorosso. The secrets hidden between the rows of grapevines, the remedies for an extremely hot vintage, the last-minute tastings before the harvest. “The vineyard always surprises you, supporting its needs is a must. We can label our work as reactive-agriculture”.
What’s behind a great wine? What happens during the harvest? Why the vineyard is the beating heart of a producer?
We hang around with Gianmario Cerruti, Coppo’s enologist, in his typical day through the vineyards.
We’ll find out what happens in Piedmont during the harvesting of Barbera, following the genesis of Pomorosso, the finest possible expression of Barbera for this winery, together with another landmark like Riserva della Famiglia.
Between the harvesting and the bottling stages, there are so many steps to be undertook directly in the cellar: pressing, alcoholic fermentation, skin maceration, oak and bottle refinement for weeks, months and even years. But everything starts today, in an early September morning.
A brief stop by the winery, a last check to the weather forecast, a coffee. An enologist’s survival pack during harvesting times includes: four-wheel drive, daily schedule, mobile always at hand.
It’ll be necessary to climb up hills to visit three different units of vineyards: Agliano, Castelnuovo Calcea and Nizza, the three “Cru” dedicated to Coppo’s Pomorosso. This complex system devoted to Barbera is characterized by old, mature and young vineyards located in particularly suitable areas, a guarantee for high standards of quality from the perspective of the product and from the perspective of sustainability through time.
Our first stop is in Agliano, where one of the original vineyards of the company is located. Here we visit four different vineyards: “The old Priest”, “The new Priest”, “Giova” and “The Gazza strip”. All four are named after their former owners. Here could also visit the recently acquired hectare of Barbera, planted just one year ago.
How long does the harvesting of Barbera last for?
“Today we harvest some Barbera grapes whose quality and history make them ideal for the vinification of Pomorosso.
Traditionally, we harvest our vineyards in ten days. This process is carried out by 8 people from our company, helped by personnel from the cooperatives. This year the process has been quite easy so far because we opted for an early thinning and cleaning that really simplified our job. The people in charge of the harvesting work here all year long so they already know our standards of quality.
We’ll need several weeks to harvest all the grapes of the company. We started early, the 7th of August for the Spumante grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Moscato. The whole process of the harvesting usually takes two months, I think this year we’ll probably be done by the end of September.”.
When does it start?
“We run a series of test in a laboratory to measure the degree of phenolic and polyphenolic ripening of the grapes: total acidity, sugar levels, PH. Through the polyphenolic analysis we measure the maturity of the color. However, when it comes to make final choices, to understand when a vineyard is ready and select the specific dates for harvesting, we always like to “look the grapes in the eyes”.
The rain arrived in the last few days helped us greatly. The vineyard always surprises you, I wasn’t expecting this rain to be so beneficial. We prepared the soil, working the ground a bit. I wasn’t entirely joking when I told my tractor drivers that, with this recurrent hot temperatures, we should start learning how people in desert regions treat the ground”.”.
How do you make sure the grapes are ready?
“Take a berry, put the grapeseed firstly in your mouth and then rub it on your fingers: if you’re able to see the color after 2-3 rubs that means the grapes are ready to be harvested. From a visual standpoint, the grapeseed should look brown. Its taste shouldn’t recall green/young tannin but already wooden, sweet sensations. All these elements are fundamental in order to determine if the grapeseed is in its final ripening stage too.
For certain varieties the polyphenolic and tannic maturation occurs simultaneously, for some other (like Barbera) there’s a one week gap. When you already have the right sugar level and potential alcohol, you still need to wait a bit more in order to obtain the highest quality possible”.
Test – E’ ora di vendemmiare? #barbera
Il nostro enologo Gianmario spiega come, dopo tutte le analisi di laboratorio, assicurarsi che è davvero arrivato il momento di raccogliere l’uva.
Pubblicato da Coppo su Sabato 9 settembre 2017
What happens before the harvest?
“We harvest 10.000-12.000 Kilograms of grape per day with a team of 10 people, because we prepare the bunches in advance by pruning the greenery. However, the high temperature of this year was challenging in this regard since an excessive process of thinning could have resulted in burnt berries. Overall, our yield per hectare is around 7.000-8.000 kilograms.
In average/regular vintages we leave one bunch for each bud, then we thin out until we reach 6-8 bunches per plant. In hot vintages like this one, we ended up with 10-12 bunches for two reasons: first of all we had enough time to let them ripen, secondly there were some dry bunches we already knew we were going to eliminate during the harvest”.
What are the differences between a new plant and an old one?
“In dry vintages like this one it’s easier to understand the difference. Unlike old plants, young vines don’t have deep roots, their leaf structure and stump don’t have great resources.
Just compare two vines with a 5 years difference. In the young one the berries look thin, almost dry. In the mature one you can actually see the freshness: the majority of berries are full and rich, thanks to the structure of the plant, more suitable to counteract the effects of the heat. “.
How to deal with the climate change?
“It’s true that the temperatures are increasing lately, but we need to point out a few things. There are vintages wetter than others, like the past one. Some others seem normal until spring time and then they become hotter. In these cases, treating the ground in advance becomes crucial.
We usually work the ground and seed the lines alternately just once a year during the autumn, but in a vintage like this one you need to be sure that the eventual arrival of water is not wasted. For this reason, we moved the ground two weeks ago underneath the plants, in order to make it more receptive and stimulate the assimilation. It’s still pretty clear that the lines that weren’t prepared are drier, while those we treated in advance look fresh.
Another aspect that we need to consider is that very often this summer rains are sudden and last for a short time. We had 4 centimeters of water in three different moments in the span of a few days, for just 30 minutes each. If the ground is not prepared in advance, all the water is wasted. We should learn from the populations living in drier countries how to save water more effectively.”.
How has the work in the vineyards changed through time?
“Working in the vineyards is becoming more and more a reactive process. In the past, our ancestors used to work always in the same way, trying to compensate everything. On the contrary, today we tend to pay a lot more attention to all these fluctuating conditions, therefore we have to adopt a reactive approach to agriculture.” There are no predetermined sets of conduct, it has become increasingly important to spend as much time as possible in the vineyards and to rely on human resources.
For example, today I visited this vineyard and I’ve already changed my plan. The one I was supposed to harvest tomorrow will now probably be harvested in three or four days. As unimportant as it may seem, this type of intervention is what makes the difference quality wise in the end. “.