Riccardo the Winemaker is one of our colleagues in Chianti, running a small wine and olive oil farm with his father using traditional techniques. They live close to the land, in harmony with nature, even as that very nature changes.
A visit to Riccardo at his winery, perhaps with lunch and a wine tasting afterwards, is a favorite excursion from La Limonaia di Celsa. Our recommendation is to take the scenic and slightly longer drive on local road heading due northeast past Monteriggioni and Lilliano and up into Chianti. The drive of about an hour will put you in the mood for a bucolic stroll through his vineyard and ensure you have an appetite for lunch. Plus, you can stop in Castellina for an espresso (or an excellent gelato) on your way back as needed. Shopping optional.
Here is a transcript of our end-of-season conversation with this true Tuscan.
How was the grape harvest this year?
The 2017 grape harvest will be remembered as one of the more difficult of the last years.
High temperatures and prolonged drought were the protagonists of this irregular summer and in the Chianti area the grip of this unusual heat moved the period of harvest from the end of September to the beginning of September.
How do you ensure the best possible harvest?
We picked the first grape already in the last days of August and to preserve the high quality I had to delay my dream vacation in the wonderful Sardinia. Instead of enjoying the sea and the sun of that beautiful island, I spent my holiday time to irrigate my vineyard! It was the only way to save the quality of the 2017 harvest.
For eleven days (August 16th – August 27th), my father and I irrigated 60% of our plants by the tractor (leaves, bunches, but above all roots) rehydrating the plants with 7 – 9 liters of water each one.
In the end, the perfect climate of August with hot days and cool nights, created the ideal conditions for the best maturation of the grapes.
What will you do with the grapes you aren’t as happy with?
Obviously the 40% of the vineyard not irrigated produced a grape good but not top as our standards require, so part of the 2017 vintage was designated to the industry of wine through grape wholesalers for other wine makers.
At the end of the day, we can be really satisfied from a professional point of view, because we obtained a wonderful wine in a very critical context, but this crazy summer penalized us from the point of view of quantity because we lose 50% of Antiche Mura and 100% of Vin Santo, the two most important wines of our winery.
How does climate change affect wine production?
We are really worried for the future, because if you read the bulletins of the last three years, you can see that every harvest we lose part of the production because of the climate and everyday more. I think that the ancient work of agriculture – the base of civilization in every age – is seriously risking to be definitely compromised by the climatic emergency.
How was the olive harvest looking this year?
We lost 60 % of the fruits because the terrible combination of frost in winter and drought in summer. Fortunately, we saved 40% survived which now is giving a wonderful oil that we are very excited about. The ‘olio nuovo’ was fragrant with a high ‘resa’, very good.