The Montalbera grape harvest
For those who have watched it develop over the season, this year’s grape harvest has been particularly rewarding and unusually exciting because this year, more than ever, wine is the liquid manifestation of silence.
The Montalbera grape harvest, as in the rest of the Monferrato area, has had to cope with a growing season that has seen and suffered a number of adversities: frost, then hail and, last but not least, a drought that was worse than that of 2003. Montalbera, with its vineyards planted at 280 metres above sea level, experienced a light frost and, above all, was undamaged by the hailstorms that hit vineyards to the east, but we’re talking about approximately 25 hectares out of 160.
Luca Caramellino, a highly experienced winemaker who has worked for Montalbera for almost 15 years, tells us: ‘You need great grapes to make great wine but, above all, you need to know what to do with them. That is the best part of my job, what makes every year unique.’ Luca goes on to observe, ‘mind, heart and hands that specialise in old and modern vines… Oenology and wine are not a series of formulae or chemical reactions. Today it’s harder to make a bad wine than a decent one. Our aim is to make wines that move and excite you. Every time, every year and in every vineyard, an oenologist needs to develop a close relationship with the grapes.’
This year, the biggest problems faced were the lack of juice, the concentration of aroma precursors, the lack of nitrogenous matter, high pH, low acidity and unbalanced mineral salts. It was therefore not possible to work on the basis of vineyard zones. Instead, it proved necessary to work on the grapes as they came in, linking them to their level of ripeness.
We therefore considered starting with an early harvest and, rather than taking into account the potential alcohol level, we chose grapes with a low pH that could, over time, blend with the last loads characterised by a high sugar content and low acidity. We worked on a weekly basis, choosing different kinds of yeast: starting with yeasts with low alcohol tolerance that would enhance aroma, moving on to yeasts that could make the most of the glycerol content, to strains able to preserve the aroma precursors despite the high alcohol content, and ending with Saccharomyces bayanus in order to tackle alcohol levels above 14.5%.
For the first time ever, Montalbera has made wine on the basis of ripening times and not on the basis of different locations affected by the same summer drought conditions.
You can discover the result… in a glass.