Harvest in Montalcino
It is harvest in Montalcino. The Sangiovese for Brunello has been getting harvested throughout the region this last week. Last Friday a few of us visited harvest at Il Poggione.
Fabrizio Bindocci is the winemaker and General Manager, and has been working for the winery his father and grandfather also worked since 1976. He began as a vineyard worker, then eventually moved to the cellar. The previous winemaker, Piero Talenti, then chose Fabrizio as an assistant. They worked together for decades until Talenti’s death, at which time Fabrizio became head winemaker. Fabrizio is now also President of the Brunello Consortium.
We were able to meet with Fabrizio amidst the vines. Here’s some of what he had to say. All was translated from Italian by Fabrizio’s son, Alessandro, who now serves as winemaker with his father.
Fabrizio Bindocci standing in the Sangiovese
“My first harvest was 1976. There have been only two difficult vintages because of weather. 1992 and 2002 were difficult because of rain.” They were expecting rain at the end of the weekend so we asked how they would change harvest because of weather.
“It wouldn’t be smart to harvest the grape too early so we wait [if it is going to rain] until it is dry again. After, any grapes with mold must go on the ground. Our structure allows us to solve most issues quickly. With weather, there is nothing to do about it. Instead of chemical treatments [for mildew], we leave the canopy open for air to flow around the clusters.
“We pick based on three things. The flavor of the fruit. The texture of the skin. If it is too thick, we need to wait for it to soften. The seeds. When they are dark brown they are ready to harvest.
“Experience helps for knowing quality. I have worked these vineyards, one winery. It helps. You close your eyes and remember how it was in a vintage. This way you can do your work with greater tranquility, and less stress.”
Fabrizio and his son Alessandro
I ask Alessandro about the basics of harvest in Montalcino, including the time of day harvest occurs. There are no lights or irrigation tubes in vineyards here as are common in California. They are harvesting in the afternoon. He explains, “We harvest here only during the day from 8 am to 1 pm, then from 2 to 5 pm. This is true throughout the region. Everyone’s vineyards are so close to their winery it is within 5 minutes that the grapes are in the winery.”
hand harvesting Sangiovese at Il Poggione
Il Poggione employees 75 year round employees that take care of the vineyards and agricultural grounds. The property is a self-sustaining farm with olive trees, cattle, grain for the cattle, and a wild animal preserve. Rather than hire seasonal workers during harvest, Il Poggione keeps employees throughout the year that then also work harvest. All vine work, including harvest, is done by hand.
Sangiovese about to be harvested
I ask Alessandro to discuss their view on traditional versus modern styles of Brunello, as well as the role for contact with other regions. “It is important to know what other regions are doing as a way of innovating one’s own technique. Today there is a lot of sharing of ideas and techniques.
“Traditional style is best for Sangiovese, so you can taste the wine, not the oak. I am not against modernity or barriques per se. It can be good for other grapes. But we believe the traditional approach is better for Sangiovese. But still, you want to listen to what people are doing, and taste different styles.
“The younger generation is not afraid to experiment. I have even tasted Brunello from Sonoma made by a restaurant owner there.
“The most important thing for us is focusing on our vineyards, on working them by hand, on not over doing work with products in the vineyard. We have a large property but we work it like a small farmer, all manual. Tractors are used only to carry the tools, or fruit to the winery.
“We have 75 employees all year round. They are highly skilled technicians. They know the vines. There are two vineyard team leaders. We [Fabrizio and Alessandro] go every morning with team leaders to the vineyards.”
To read more about harvest in Montalcino and keep up to date with the wine region there check-out the English-language site http://www.montalcinoreport.com/ managed by Fabrizio and his sister Francesca.
Thank you to Fabrizio and Alessandro Bindocci, and to Francesca Bindocci.
Thank you to Megan Murphy.
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