The season of vine harvesting is finished, and the cellar work has started. On the sweet hills of Tuscany, at the feet of the imposing Trentino mountains, or facing the Mediterranean sea in Liguria or Sicily, this time begins by reckoning, tasting, and guessing the future wine taste. It’s a sweet time spent in the wineries’ brisk yet cozy atmosphere, organizing the works of must fermentation or grapes drying. At the same time, you walk in vineyards immersed in the golden shades of autumn colors and enjoy the taste of chestnuts, truffles, and mushrooms, along with a good glass of wine.
Cellars do not rest!
The magical fall landscape becomes a picture of full shades. Nature slowly heads toward winter, and those who make wine know that there are jobs that must be carried out daily to ensure the quality of their precious product stands out.
Fall’s wine-making processes are a charming activity to a look at when you visit a winery. You can step in and peek at different stages of the brisking vinification works and learn so much about the wine culture of the Italian region you are visiting.
Time for decision-making, experiments, and mistakes, like in the Amarone wine legend.
The first wine production stage taking place in cellars for most wines is must fermentation, while in wineries producing passito wines, grapes are first laid to dehydrate. Walking into the cellars, you are easily overwhelmed by a heady smell, given off the must containers usually made of steel or the large drying grapes crates.
This is a fundamental stage that has peculiarities for every grape variety and winery, which decides the character taste, and color of every wine. This is the time when cellar makers and oenologists have their say and direct spotless works in the cellars to avoid future defects in the taste of the wine and enhance the year’s vines’ main features. Their guess and interpretation, which started in the vineyard during the previous months now give way to decision-making to give shape to the in-the-glass experience of the wine.
This early stage is also the time for experimenting for the wineries who want to venture into new ways, giving more time for decanting or trying new materials, and this is often also the time for mistakes from which to learn, in good and bad luck!
Maybe you heard about the Amarone wine that, according to the myth, originated by mistake. The story about the excellent Venice wine goes that a cellarman of the Valpolicella area, some Adelino Lucchese, forgot a barrel of a sweet wine called Recioto in fermentation. The second fermentation consumed all the sugars left over and transformed it into a bitter and dry wine instead, so much so that it seems that the name derives from the phrase of Adelino, who at the tasting exclaimed: “this is not amaro (bitter), it’s amaron (so bitter)! ”.
The story is apparently not true, and the superb taste of Amarone is more likely to be credited to the expertise of the Verona wine producers, who managed to transform the spoiled taste of too-long fermented Recioto (“recioto scapà“) wine into a new incredibly successful wine.
At the end of fermentation, we have the wine 🍷!
Racking and decanting, time for fine-tuning and truth.
Racking follows and that is when the main difference between red and white wines is made. The process of transferring the wine from must containers while filtering and eliminating solid residues is more important for red wines, which need to have the parts of the remaining grapes fully removed than for white wines, which after fermentation have a smaller quantity of filthy deposits.
Then it’s time for the longed-for decanting in bottles!
Some wines are bottled right after racking, others need to be decanted into different containers made of wood, steel, and sometimes glass. Normally red wines are meant for longer settling, and white wines are bottled right away, except sparkling wines and a few aged white wines.
This final stage of vinification is when the winemakers have a full picture of the result of their months-long work in terms of the number of bottles produced and the quality of their wines. When everything is done, autumn is at the verge, the culmination of a busy and exciting time that leaves them tired but happy, not to say tipsy!
The nature they find outside the cellar has never stopped its colorful spectacle. Copper, gold, and red are the colors of trees and vegetation, in magic renovating every year within another magic, played among light, aromas, and smells to be explored in beautiful walks in the vineyards and tastings in wineries, a suggestive fall experience in Italy.