I’m telling you about my first real harvest experience and my thoughts about it, at the Alessandro di Camporeale winery.
The harvest, and in general the work in a winery, means knowing how to wait and respect nature’s times. It means also to know your vineyards deeply and to know when the time to collect the fruits has come. It is to know the harvest times, the arrival of the grapes in the cellar to start the first processes. You have to take everything under control even during the fermentation phase and constantly know, control and appreciate the status of the grapes before, then the must and at the end of the wine. It’s an hard work, which requires constant attention. Moreover although there are, today, cutting-edge technologies, this does not reduce human labor. The technologies must be wisely governed and used for the benefit of one’s idea of making wine. The moment of the harvest is fascinating, but it is also hard, it has a broken back and cartilages of the knees consumed, it is keeping up with the vineyard clock.
It’s pleasant to enjoy a good glass of Grillo Vigna di Mandranova by Alessandro di Camporeale, comfortably seated on the sofa, but it’s even more beautiful if you are aware of all the work and the people behind it, who are not few. Because getting in touch with nature and with a territory and its traditions, has the incredible power to enrich us as people and make us more aware as consumers and as communicators.
So at the end of August, I finally felt the thrill of being part of the wine grape festival, between efforts and sharing.
In this experience I had the pleasure of following the work of the winemaker Benedetto Alessandro and learning from him. His great dedication has given to me so many of the things I’m writing about. He guided me along the way from the vineyard to the cellar, answering all the thousands of questions with patience and care.
In the days of my visit we harvested the Grillo in the district of Mandranova, from which their Grillo cru is named.
But let’s take a step back. We are in Camporeale in the province of Palermo. Gentle hills between the Doc Alcamo and Doc Monreale. The Mandranova hill where I harvested, is about 450 meters above sea level. This vineyard faces north-west and is on predominantly clayey soil. Here the climate is Mediterranean but characterized by important diurnal range. In particular during the period of reapening (August – September) there is a difference of about 15 ° C between day and night, very important to slow down the loss of aromas and acidity in the grapes, and therefore to produce fresher wines and with finer aromas.
During the morning of the harvest, the grapes arrive in the cellar continuously, they are received and immediately destemmed. Afterwards, the berries go to the press for a couple of hours, where the juice will be separated from the skins and seeds. Subsequently the free run juice, that is the first product of the pressing, is transferred into truncated conical tanks in which relaying is carried out for about a week. For the first few days, pumping over with nitrogen is carried out, then the must is left to decant in order to extract the aroma precursors.
At the end of this process, the must is transferred to steel tanks, where fermentation will begin for about 15 days under the careful control of the winemaker. The vinification process is carried out in hyper-reduction, therefore in total absence of oxygen. After fermentation, the ageing takes place first on the fine lees of about 6 months and then in the bottle for about 2 months.
Next spring we will be able to taste the 2019 vintage of Grillo, Vigna di Mandranova.
And this was the Grillo harvest and vinification process, I think that this process is repeated with the due differences for the other grapes. Differences based on the variety, therefore different harvesting times and different care in the cellar, in addition to a more complex winemaking process for red wines.
This experience, in addition to teach me so much, really made me appreciate the outstanding work of the Alessandro’s family, whose wines I will tell you about soon.