In Italy’s designated land of pork and Parmigiano, there’s always room for a vineyard.While Emilia-Romagna might not be particularly well-known for having an extensive or flourishing viticulture, the region produces a large amount of Lambrusco and even some international grapes including Chardonnay and Cabernet-Sauvignon.
Working for Ferrarini S.p.A., a company with a lot of land producing a large variety of Italian specialty products (Prosciutto, Parmigiano, Balsamic Vinegar, Wine, etc.) I get the opportunity to follow the entire production process of these things on a first hand basis. Yes, I even get to taste the grapes from Ferrarini’s vineyards. I can’t exactly say my life sucks.
During the month of September into the beginning of October, the grape-vine reaches the height of excitement in its life. Kind of like graduating from high school, the grapes that have been in the process of growing the entire year, are now being picked and transformed in to bigger, better, and more alcoholic things.
Being an American, I have always romanticized the picking and crushing of wine grapes. Having seen that infamous “I Love Lucy” episode far too many times, I expected to see a group of ageless women in checkered dresses with handkerchiefs on their head, picking and stomping grapes to the beat of a distant accordion. Instead, I saw that the people harvesting grapes were actually students, round together every year to make a quick buck during the harvesting season.The harvest is 100% manual, which is surprising considering that Ferrarini has over 20 acres of their land designated for viticulture.
Because this area of Italy is not particularly famous for its wine culture, the general approach for wines from this area is quantity above quality. Lambrusco being the regional wine, is a simple table wine that pairs well with fattier foods, with a light carbonation and acidity that helps cut the heaviness of what’s being eaten.
Running around with Ferrarini’s enologist, Luca Torreggiani, I was filling pages and pages of my notebook with wine facts that any wine-dork/food-freak would find fascinating. A conversation with Luca, my comprehension degenerating with each sip of fermented grape elixir, I pushed myself to understand the intricacies of it all..
The Q&A’s with Mr. Toreggiani
- Q: What is organic wine?
- A: I am convinced that it can’t actually exist 100%. Sure grapes can be grown in an organic environment, without using pesticides, etc. But once they leave the vineyard, Sulphites almost absolutely have to be used in order to create the right fermentation environment for the wine. Sulphites are fundamental for extending the longevity of wine, as well as conserving it’s color and flavor. Organic wine? I’m not convinced.
- Q: Why are grapes always grown on a slope?
- A: Slopes are very important in viticulture. Especially for white wines. By growing the white wine grapes on a slope facing east, they are never exposed to the direct heat of the sun, and the flavors are not burnt or compromised. Red wines on the other hand need heat, so they are grown facing West on a hill to have the best sun exposure.
- Q: How come drinking a sip of Champagne or other sparkling white wine makes me feel immediately drunk?
- A: Well, it’s actually not the alcohol content of the wine that makes your head spin immediately like that, it’s actually because sparkling white wines or “Spumanti” have a higher level of sulphites that have that side effect.
Making wine is not a simple endeavor. It requires an extensive knowledge not only of climate (Ferrarini uses specialized technology to specifically monitor weather patterns), but also a good background in science, and a passion for the product itself. I have a passion for drinking the product, but something tells me that’s not enough to open my own vineyard. As far as a Grassroots Gourmet wine production goes, for now all we have to rely on is the moonshine eating away the plastic of my bathtub. I should probably just stick to drinking and enjoying wine, leaving the rest to the pros.