News from the cellar and vineyards
One thing is clear:
2011 was a good year. Whether the wines will be truly great is something we will know in twelve months’ time, but at all events it will be a good vintage.
By Helmuth Zozin, director of the Manincor wine estate
After a winter with the usual cold and snow and so on, the vegetation season began with plenty of moisture in the soil. With extremely mild temperatures, the new shoots were very quick to appear and vegetation was soon two weeks ahead of a normal year. May, too, brought warmer temperatures and longer hours of sunshine than average, and by the middle of the month the vines were already in flower. June and July were also perfect for the vegetation process, with an adequate supply of rain and warm, but not too high temperatures. Unfortunately, some of our sites were again hit by hail in 2011, but thanks to our proven method of spraying camomile after the hailstorm, the vines made a complete recovery in time for the harvest, although it was ten percent down in volume. The temperatures did not really hot up until the end of July, but then they did so in style with day after day of sunny skies and temperatures constantly above 30 °C and peaking at 35 °C. The ripening period in August was also very sunny – and that would have been perfect except that the vines were starting to suffer from the drought. So again we applied our anti-stress remedy, namely a camomile infusion. That gives the vines greater powers of resistance.
What an autumn! The stable period of high pressure with blue skies and sunshine for most of the time continued throughout the harvest. Such a golden autumn is something you hope for as a vintner before every harvest, and when one comes along after many years you naturally want to take full advantage.
The two week lead over a normal year continued right up to the harvest, which lasted from 29 August to 17 October. That was a very early and – with fifty days – also an extremely long harvest period. As a result we were able to work without any time pressure and harvest the various sites when the grapes were at optimum maturity. We also had the time to separate out any grapes that had been hit by hail or were damaged in any other way.
In the first three weeks of the harvest, when the weather was especially hot with daily highs above 30 °C, we only picked the grapes from 6 a.m. to 12 noon. That was done because the white wine grapes should be pressed at a temperature below 15 °C, and the reds should not be pressed above 20 °C. Processing the grapes is always a delicate operation, and quality is easily lost. The pressing temperature, for example, is extremely important for the fruit flavours in the wine. The benefits of this measure are already to be seen in the young wines, which are expressive and broad-shouldered, not heavy and oily.
The 2011 vintage white wines have again increased in complexity, for one thing because we now employ spontaneous fermentation for almost every barrel. Of course, the trust we place in the natural yeasts also involves a higher risk; the barrels are checked daily but basically you hand back the winemaking to Mother Nature. The fermentation processes are very slow and often take until December. As a result the wines develop a complex finesse that is almost impossible to achieve with cultured yeasts.
In mid-September we took a break from the harvesting for a few days so as to bring in the reds with perfectly mature tannins. Vernatsch, Merlot, Lagrein, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon – they each went into the cellar on exactly the right day, variety after variety and vineyard after vineyard. The reds satisfy all the prerequisites to develop into outstanding wines. Intensive mature fruit aromas dominate the bouquet and dense fine-grained tannins the mouthfeel. The red wines are harmonious and elegant, although their alcohol content is slightly higher than we would like.
Delight for the palate. The wait for the sweet wine harvest is always an exciting affair for us as we are unusual for South Tyrol and Italy in that we make a real late harvest wine. And you never know in advance how things will develop; there is always a risk of losing everything, but usually it pays off. This year we picked the Petit Manseng grapes for our Le Petit five days before Christmas – not quite as concentrated as in the last three years, when we harvested in the middle of January, but this time with no botrytis at all. If all runs smoothly in the cellar, we expect fermentation to be complete at between 10 and 11 percent alcohol with a residual sugar content of 170 to 180 grammes per litre. I am looking forward to a fruity sweet wine with a well balanced acidity to sweetness that will delight the palate.
For all of us at Manincor, the autumn was a source of joy. The work was there to be done as usual, but without the stress – good for the wines and good of us. We even found time during the harvest to prepare the ground for the year ahead: Camomile spraying, compost spreading, soil treatment and cover crop seeding were performed right after the harvest – the ideal way to maximise the benefits of hibernation, and vitality in the vines in the following spring.