You know that time of the year when the landscape changes from grey and dark to bright blue and vibrant green ? Yes, it is spring but in the wine world that time is called bud break.
The anticipation of this new cycle could appear as a bad omen: the so called vine bleeding. It actually is the healthy sign that is time for the sleeping beauties to gently get back to work. With the rise in soil temperature the liquids and the nutrients stored in the trunk climb up to swell the dormant buds. This process reactivates the system and prepares for bud break. What bleeds from the wood is sap and that is the vital clue that soil moisture is adequate.
The buds literally burst with energy, the green leaves appear and photosynthesis starts, and from there the growth is exponential. It is the beginning of a journey that will transform these tiny, shy blossoms in beautiful, successful grapes.
In football, goal scorers gets the lion’s share of the attention and cheers of the fans. Hard working midfielders, on the other hand, build the more obscure but essential play that will lead strikers to glory.
Similarly, in vineyards, the harvest is the period of a vine cycle that gets the limelight from pundits, media and draws consumer attention. Winter pruning, on the other hand, is the lesser known but crucial time in which decisions are made on what’s going to happen with the fruit for the new vintage.
There are many ways to prune vines. The suitable ones are chosen according to the type of grape, where the vines grow and which shape will make future operations easier. But the fundamental point is that vines produce fruit on one year old wood, meaning that the canes older than that won’t be fruitful. Left to itself, a grapevine would grow to a dense mass of mostly older wood. So up to 90 %of previous year’s shoot growth is removed. A lengthy operation that takes place when the vines are dormant.
The main goal of winter pruning is regulating yields. You mainly do this by controlling the number of buds that will produce bunches of grapes. And then attempting to balance this fruit production with the future vegetative growth (the so called canopy). As easy as it sounds, we should always taken into account the fascinating and sometimes frustrating fact that the grapevine is very responsive to changes in weather. Even more so in cooler regions, where weather conditions tend to be more changeable (spring frost, levels of summer rains etc).
Next time you look at a vineyard in January or February think about the fact that what’s going to thrill your palate in the future starts from those dark and apparently indolent winter days.
What do Italians eat and drink at Christmas? The right answer is that in every region (if not province) you’ll find different dishes, according to different environments and historical traditions. The choice of wine has always been inextricably intertwined with the culinary local options.
Here is a quick glance to the Veneto region’s traditions and suitable wine matches:
As starters, cured meat is a classic. The most famous from Veneto is Soppressa, made from 100% pork. A medium bodied, crisp white wine like our Costeggiola Soave Classico will cut through the fatness. But a juicy red like our Tacchetto Bardolino Classico is a good option too.
In order to warm the Christmas spirit nothing better than a broth made with cappone, a cockerel that was fattened to improve the quality of the flesh. And the trick works! The tasty stock is served with tortellini stuffed with ham or beef, so you can match it with a more structured and savoury Soave, like our Ferra Soave Classico. But also a soft red with plenty of fruit like our Munus will work a treat.
The broth usually provides one popular second course that is bollito (stew). In Verona it is usually seasoned with pearà , a sauce made with stock, bread crumbs, bone marrow and pepper. A perfect choice is our velvety and structured Pojega Ripasso.
Roasts are a staple in the Italian festive menu, in particular those marinated in red wine, usually accompanied with polenta. Amarone, a member of the national wine aristocracy, is used in this type of preparation, leaving the beef overnight marinating in the wine. It makes for an expensive sauce but the results are amazing. Guerrieri Rizzardi is proud to produce two fine expressions of Amarone Classico, Villa Rizzardi e our flagship Calcarole. They are deep, full bodied and extremely elegant.
Dessert is a must. And takes various forms. As a winery from the Verona area we can help but to mention Pandoro. With its soft and sweet hug that calls for a sweet but fresh wine like our Recioto di Soave
The Italian and International elite of wine turned up in Merano last week for one of the classiest appointments of the year. The 26th edition of the Wine Festival saw five days of tastings, debates, wine Masterclasses and food events with chefs of international fame.
Guerrieri Rizzardi was present for the 11th year, this time displaying Calcarole Amarone 2008 and Pojega Ripasso 2015 that delighted the palates of our visitors. On Monday, traditional day for “vintage bottles”, we poured Villa Rizzardi Amarone 2003 that was still in great form!
How do you improve a Cru vineyard? The answer is with a lot of care, maintenance and hard work and then on top of that a renovation!
That is exactly what we have done to the historic, Cru vineyard of Pojega in the heart of Negrar in Valpolicella.
The vineyard was replanted in 1978 in neat rows of high trellised vines (double Veronese pergola). Now, decades later, every year calls for regular work in the vineyard: the replacing of the supports, trimming of edges, replanting of spent vines.
However this year saw an even bigger project at Pojega. This year we removed all excess vegetation from the eastern side of the vineyard and made room for at least two new rows of vines to be planted. Two rows that will run the entire length of the vineyard.
At the northern part of Pojega, by clearing and preparing the land, we have created space which will allow us to extend each row of vines by several metres.
In addition removing excess wild growth around the edges of the vineyards can help to improve the health of the vines themselves. Being sensitive pants grapevines proximity to other large plant growth can cause problems.
All of which means that Pojega vineyard – from which comes both Villa Rizzardi Amarone Classico and Pojega Ripasso – will cover approximately an extra 1/3 of a hectare and one day those extra vines should be the source of over 2,000 bottles of much needed (as it runs out earlier and earlier every year!) Pojega Ripasso.
Often Amarone production is cited as one of the wine world’s most labour intensive processes and with good reason.
To get things right does take a lot of work from the handpicking, to hand selecting, to grape drying and constant reviewing of the dried grapes, to the long fermentation, blending, barrel aging. bottle ageing etc. etc.
But even before any of that starts there is work to be done and in our pursuit of wines that are pristine expressions of the vineyards, cleaning the very boxes the grapes are carried in is no mean task!
Although not as romantic as straw mats we made the switch several years ago to these white boxes, the choice was one of hygene, here everything shows up and can be cleaned away.
The next step is to wet the boxes, softening up the residue and getting them ready to enter the box washer.
The ‘box washer’ is like a large powerful dishwasher and it successfully annihilates any residue left on our boxes
The boxes are then stacked by hand and placed in columns then with the aid of the forklift they will be put aside in clean condition to await the first harvest, which this year – judging by the incredible sunshine – could only be around 10 weeks away!
A couple of days of rainfall, a couple of thunderstorms and temperatures soaring up over 27°C and Ravei has changed quite a bit in the last three weeks.
The vine growth has been excellent and the leaves are glossy and healthy and should these weather pattern continued for the early part of the summer then the young vines will be off to a very good start.
Ravei sits on a gentle slope that faces south west giving it good exposure to the afternoon sun, it is also quite sheltered, a little bit of a suntrap.As can be seen from the photograph below the vineyard is nestled between an ancient olive grove and in the foreground another vineyard.
Here can be seen the contrast between the traditional ‘pergola’ trained vines and the neat rows of trellis posts which will eventually be used to ‘train’ the vines of Ravei in rows.
The advantages to us of this ‘single Guyot’ training system are numerous, not least is the equal, well displaced exposure to the sun that each vine will receive.
Some changes already underway for our new vineyard ‘Ravei’. A few days of rain interspersed with sunny spells followed by several warm sunny days has resulted in a good burst of growth in the baby vines.
Breaking through the wax coating we are expecting rapid growth over the next few weeks.
At first the vines are free standing but already trellising posts are in place and soon the wires will go through each of these posts providing the structure for these little vines.
As with all our vineyards, this will be a place in which we encourage biodiversity, here are some of nature’s best pest controllers in action, happy to see this ‘coccinella’ in the vineyard:
Ravei is the latest addition to our family of vineyards in Bardolino Classico bringing the total number of vineyards to 40 but Ravei is different…
Here we have chosen to plant a variety normally associated with our vineyards in Valpolicella, namely Corvinone, this will be our first planting here in the heart of Bardolino Classico. We believe here, on this gentle slope, planted in the rocky, pebble strewn, clay soils of Ravei that the Corvinone grapes should do particularly well.
The vineyard is planted to a high density, i.e lots of vines in a small space, in fact 5,900 vines in just 1.18 hectares (just under 3 acres).
For now the baby vines stand alone in their rows but next week the trellising goes in to give these rows their order and give the new vines a structure to grow against.
The nice thing is, some good rain is forecast followed by more warm April sun, good ingredients for nurturing these infants.
In Negrar we have reached the end of the selection of the grapes for the Amarone, all organised in boxes in our drying rooms.
The grapes were harvested between September 1st and September 18th, with perfect weather conditions: sunny, dry and warm.
Last year, as an example of a completely different vintage, especially because of the climate during spring and summer, we started the grape selection on September 18th!
This year, 2015, has been the earliest start for the selection of grapes for the Amarone since 2000!
Some rain fall between the 13th and 14th of September briefly stopped the harvest, otherwise hot and sunny days have had a positive effect on the beginning of the drying process.
In 12 days of work, we picked some 15,000 boxes of grapes, divided into five different drying rooms that we have in Pojega.
Two thirds of the grapes were picked from our vineyards cultivated in rows, while a third of the grapes come from the our pergola trained vineyards in Pojega – Villa Rizzardi.
20% of the total grapes comes from our Calcarole hill.
The grapes harvested are mostly Corvina ( 40% of the total), Rondinella ( 33%), Corvinone (11%) and for the rest Barbera and Sangiovese.
In the second half of September, the high pressure and the nice sunny weather contributed to a fast start to the drying process of the grapes in boxes and the delicate transition from the vegetable to the woody stage of the stem is already well advanced.
Historically, this type of vintage with grapes rich in sugars and polyphenols, accompanied by a good acidity, has given structured and complex wines, concentrated and rich in extracts.
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