a community of wine lovers


October 2006

[Club Vino] Harvest news from the Barolo wine hills; Pebblebed harvest update; Festa update

News from the Barolo wine hills

Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana comes up for breath after some weeks of near non-stop activity in the vineyard and wine cellar to give us the first report on the 2006 vintage. Writes Mario:

The harvest this year has given me a great deal of satisfaction for the quality of the grapes, but it has also been a very frenetic time, more so even than usual. We began the harvest of the Barbera grapes on the 28th September in the Pozzo vineyard of Castiglione Falletto and the day after, we harvested the Barbera grapes in the Sinio vineyard behind the Castello [we visited both vineyards last year on the Club Vino trip]. Acidity, sugar levels and colour were all very good. After only 6 days (last Friday), I decanted the Barbera off its skins after the first fermentation and the result was excellent: deep colour, acidity typically high which is what we seek in Barbera, and an alcohol level of a little more than 13 degrees.

We began the harvest of the Nebbiolo grapes of Barolo on Wednesday 4 October, beginning first with the cru vineyard Villero and we finished on the Sunday with the second cru Valleti (both these special vineyards are in Castiglione Falletto). The bunches of grapes were very healthy and in great condition, and the results here are also promising in terms of colour, acidity and sugar levels. As always, the final harvest was the Nebbiolo vineyard at Sinio [which produces Mario's exceptional Nebbiolo delle Langhe vignetto il Castello]. Also here the grapes were very good quality.

Right now in the cellar, I am vinifying both Nebbiolo di Barolo and Nebbiolo di Sinio. It is cautious time and I hope to not have problems and that we will get good results. However, this harvest has been molto impegnativa and not been without its difficulties. For example, we had to be absolutely ready to anticipate the precise moment to harvest the Nebbiolo this year because in the last 20 days it has been far warmer than usual and the grapes matured more quickly than expected. This meant that there were problems in the cellar in finding sufficient space since the Barbera was still fermenting! At this time I was working 20 hours a day, in the cantina with the wines, and in the vineyard with the harvest.

One of the tasks in the cellar that I undertake is the rimontaggio, twice a day, that is every 10 to 12 hours. It takes me about 40 minutes per tank to do this, but it is important for the creation of supple red wines through the extraction of tannins that are soft and not overly harsh. [When red wine ferments, the mass of skins that give wine colour, tannin and extract sits at the top of the tank - it is important to keep this semi-solid mass wet and so the rimontaggio process involves pumping liquid from the bottom of the tank back to the top, spraying it over the skins rather like a shower.]

It is hard and non-stop work at this period of the year, but there are special moments too. It is molto bello when friends come to help harvest. I love the moment in the cantina when we press the grapes all together and see the red juice run out. And best of all is in the evenings, all together with family and friends, sitting around the dining table in our house, exhausted but satisfied, and we enjoy perhaps a glass or two - or maybe more - of our own wines! Yes, there is satisfaction in this.

Luisa and I are very much looking forward to being with you all for the Festa di San Martino in November! A more calm moment of the year for us, a time to celebrate with you. We will bring over some very special bottles to share with you all!

Un abbraccio a tutti voi.

A presto,


Pebblebed harvest update - final picking and harvest lunch

Geoff reports:

The Pebblebed harvest is progressing well with great yields and quality! Sugar levels in the grapes are well above last years and with 6 tonnes harvested and 10 tonnes to go we should produce double last years number of bottles! We hope to produce a barrel-aged red wine, a sparkling rosé and a desert wine in addition to the Pebblebed rosé and dry white we produced this year.

Many thanks to eveerybody who has helped us with the harvest so far.

Final Picking Dates:

Sunday 15th 9am till 12

Sunday 22nd 9am till 1pm followed by harvest lunch

Please bring secateurs if you can

Festa di San Martino November 17th at Michael Caines at ABode Exeter

Just a reminder that if you've previously emailed me to say that you would like to join us for the Ride for Life Festa di San Martino (in aid of Force) with winemakers Mario and Luisa Fontana at ABode Exeter on November 17, then in order to secure your place, please confirm as soon as possible and send payment to me (£65 per person inclusive cheques payable to 'Ride for Life' c/o Quay Cottage, Ferry Road, Topsham EX3 0JJ). Places are limited and are going fast.

Incidentally, for those unable to make the Festa, Mario will be in the Wine Cellar on the morning of Sat November 18 and we will also have an informal evening of wine, food and friends on that same evening. If you would like to meet Mario and Luisa then, do drop me an email.


Vintage report, vineyard news and recipes from our Club Vino Tuscany trip to follow next time.

Best to all,

Marc and Kim


Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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