Terre di Sovernaja – the rhythm of the heart
With the harvest 2022 Federico and I were able to finally resume a conversation we started some time ago about what it takes to make a great wine. Let me share some of his secrets!
Federico Montagnani, with his Terre di Sovernaja, is one of my best discoveries. At my first close encounter of the third kind with Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a few years ago, I put him on my personal podium right away, and then I found out that it was his first wine production ever! A Vernaccia with the sea inside, with a distinctive oyster’s flavor, intense, crisp, savory and mineral. Authentic! I promised to visit him with a load of oysters, then the covid killed all good intentions, and Tuscany had to be forgotten for a while!
As chance would have it, my first visit to him was right around harvest time, so I offered to help! Truth be told, I am the one who gained the most out of the deal, because I finally found myself in the most beautiful place in the world and with that joy of resonating with something much bigger and much more beautiful than myself. It was about time!
The vineyard is my happy place! Where everything makes sense, the horizon clears, my heart sings, my soul rejoices. I was able to help with the harves for one day only back then unfortunately, but I can proudly say that I contributed to the making of Assola Riserva 2020, the winery’s Cru from a sixty-year-old vineyard! You will have to wait a little longer to taste it as it will be presented at the next Preview however, therefore no spoiler allowed!
This year was a different story altogether! For this 2022 harvest I was there to help out for a full four days! Imagine my joy! This time I contributed to the making of Viti Sparse, literally Scattered Vines, a wine named this way because the grapes come from several vineyards with very different locations, soils and orientations. A kaleidoscope of particles that give life to a strictly authentic and very recognizable Vernaccia.
The harvest has its own rhythm, and although mine is a bit slower than others, I must say that as the days went by, I have perfected my technique! If you think it is simply a matter of picking bunches, then reset and read on carefully! I wish it were that simple!
There are some bunches that literally drive you crazy! Inflorescences that tangle together generating clusters united for life in the vineyard and for eternity in the bottle. You cannot tell where the end or the beginning is, and for the most part they are upside down! But I was able to figure them out in the end and managed to give them a clean cut without breaking the berries in desperate search for the stem! In the most complicated cases I must confess I have left these bunches to those who were upstream on the same row!
All rows are not the same either and technique is important here, especially if you are not skilled in skandasana, a yoga pose that helps you stay balanced while squatting for a long time. Therefore, if the bunches are hanging low, take advantage of the slope and get downhill so to avoid squatting or bending over for too long! When the going gets tough sit under the vines, I’ve done that also!
The cleaning of the bunches in the vineyard to get rid of the dried berries from this scorching summer was meticulous. As tedious as it may seem, it offers a chance to rest for a moment without disfiguring too much with your teammates who, as experienced grape pickers, are much faster than you! Anyway, at the end of the day I myself did my good 3 miles up and down the rows!
With this harvest we have come to terms with vintage 2022, which has caused so much concern to our vignerons and to all wine lovers. It is too early to make any judgment, but the grapes were harvested, hallelujah! And they were healthy, juicy and very good! I took out a few bottles right in the vineyard!
Beyond my personal taste, it must be said that I do know how to pick my champions!
A dream comes true when you can share it
This is his motto! Federico is a Caterpillar in determination, and tremendously meticulous in execution. Precise instructions: only these rows, these grapes go here, and these others go there! In the end we came up with three masses of free-run must, already different after less than a day. They will all contribute to Viti Sparse, but in a way that is only in Federico’s intuition at the moment and will be realized according to a precise idea. Because wine is not made in the vineyard as many might say, but rather in the cellar.
It is the grapes that are made in the vineyard. In front of a plate of pasta with tomato and basil from Signora Silvana’s garden, we debated on the subject with Andrea Pizzolato, a young and talented enologist. Andrea says it is a wine project that is made in the vineyard to get the best grapes for the wine you intend to make.
Wine is a bit like the work of a sculptor in the sense that you cannot miss a single stroke if you want to bring out what you see locked up in the block of marble, in this case in the grapes you bring to the winery Things do not always go smoothly however; one wrong racking and the completed work will be different, perhaps even better than the original vision, who could possibly tell beforehand? There you have it, for those who demonize the work of the enologist, it is about controlling the winemaking process and the only way to intervene the least over it! And by the way
“All that matters is what cannot be measured” cit. Andrea Pizzolato
I learned so many new things during this harvest and in the next chapter Federico will teach me all about pruning; my apprenticeship with him has just begun! This chapter ends with a very interesting visit to Giorgio Comotti at Palagione instead, but that is another story.
Let me wrap this up with something I read a while ago, a phrase taken from some inspirational post floating around on social netwoks; it came back to me because it seems so appropriate here:
The soul sometimes makes sure to reconnect us with those closest to us, thus giving us emotions of inexplicable beauty, or it leads us to unknown destinations to which, when we get there, we feel that we belong more than the very place where we were born.
And if it is true that after six degrees of separation we are all related, I am sure that the degrees of separation between Federico and me and his wonderful family are way fewer! Thank you from the bottom of my heart Federico for allowing me to be a part of your dream!
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