The wine making process (and its vinous end results) is one that has fascinated humans for at least a few thousand years. From the apparently banal fruit of the vitis vinifera have stemmed (pun intended) diverse cultures, rites and rituals. Wine was part of the celebrations of the Ancients just as it is of the Jewish Seder and the Christian Mass, and it appears in the iconography of art as far back as we have human marks on pots (including in these Renaissance paintings). So how does the grape become wine? We’re going to look at this today from the point of view we take here at Dievole, where we believe that simplicity is key in the wine making process.
Wine starts with land. You can only grow vines within a specific range of geographical conditions, in certain parts of the world. Italy is fortunate to be entirely fertile territory for winemaking, and Tuscany, being famously blessed by the “Tuscan sun”, has always been an important producer of wine. In the Chianti Classico territory, the boundaries in which this wine can be produced are very specifically delimited, and we’re inside those lines.
Being a Chianti Classico winery means focusing on your land and what makes it unique. We have lots of neighbours who make brilliant wines, but each winery’s results are different, because our rolling hills are composed of different soils and exposures. Years of close living on this land are what makes us know what grape will grow best where, and it’s this respectful knowledge that is the starting point for everything we do.
Respect for the land is key in our wine making process, and it’s unquestionably simple. Do not add anything, not even water (the latter is dictated by the regulations of the Chianti Classico consortium). Encourage the earth to yield fruit by caring for it and for the vines as you would a loved one. We plant seeds between the vines to help oxygenate and provide food for the vines, but nature does the rest. Our agronomist, Lorenzo Bernini explains: “We want to create a favourable habitat for our vines, seeking a perfect balance […] for the best possible expression of our terroir.”
Respect for the grapes is another aspect of this simplicity. They’re carefully monitored as their time grows near, and when we pick them, we do so by hand. Grapes are cradled in gloved hands and carefully clipped from the vine, and then laid in small buckets. The amount of time that passes from there to the destemmer and press is minimal.
Human intervention in the wine making process that follows in the cellar is also minimal. You know the expression “a watched pot never boils”? Well we have to keep a close eye on the fermentation process and we do check our wines-in-progress once or twice a day, but we try to avoid essentially “poking and prodding” it. We let nature take its course: the two steps of fermentation (vinification and malolactic) happen naturally, only controlling the temperature to ensure the quality we adhere to, but we don’t add anything that isn’t found naturally on our grapes. Wine is like humans, it doesn’t want to be “manhandled” but requires delicate respect and time to mature.
Like anything human, wine, while fermenting and ageing, needs to breathe. Dievole has recently made a major change to the wine cellars, removing the traditional oak barrels in favour of large cement casks. This porous material lets the grapes be themselves and come into their own without imparting additional flavour.
The wine that ensues is delicate yet robust, like a child given the space and time to come into his own. It reflects this simplicity and respect. No decanting needed: just pour and enjoy.