We had an early wake up call, and we’re on our way to Montalcino. We arrive in Chianciano and the weather doesn’t look so good. Above us and all around us are clouds threatening to rain. Our destination is Forteto del Drago, an estate that Carpineto bought last March. This acquisition completes the circle of the great red Tuscan wines. The winery now fully controls the supply chain, which includes the well-known Brunello that up until now could only be bought from local trusted winemakers.
Needless to say, an investment of this caliber is quite important and the objective in buying it is clear. “We want to give more solidity and selection to the products we offer from Greve in Chianti to Montepulciano, from Maremma to Montalcino”.
We’re curious to visit this estate, which spans over 53 hectares of land. We’ve been told the atmosphere during harvest season is somewhat magical, will we feel this too?
As soon as we arrive, our jaws drop. The views are incredible. In the east, you can see atop a hill, the charming medieval town of Montalcino. Turn your gaze slightly and your eyes fall miles upon miles of views of Val d’Orcia and Crete Senesi. We’re 450 meters above sea level at this point, one of the highest wine estates of this denomination label.
As much as we want to keep looking at the views, we realize we’re here to learn about the harvest. So we make our way towards the grape pickers who have already begun to work. We walk the narrow grape paths and immediately notice that the grape pickers this time are mostly women. Women in manual labor jobs is no new thing, but what shocked us was the openness of this estate to employ a majority of women to work one of their most precious of products. Not only do the women have roles out in the fields, but they account for administrative roles as well. Tiziana for example is the work supervisor, and she manages a team of both men and women. Farm-life has changed.
To begin our journey we ask something that’s been on our minds – why is this estate called “Forteto del Drago” translated as “The Dragon’s Thicket”? The name is almost eerie. The women around us tell us that its origins lie in a local legend, but Tiziana arrives at that very moment and explains, “The woods in the area are called “forteto” and in the past the farmers used to live here. They once saw an animal so big that they believed they saw a dragon. It was probably a porcupine but to this day, the name remains “Forteto del Drago”. Simple as that.
Tiziana goes back to work and we get back to the harvest. Busy in the fields, we meet Angela and Laura. We ask them what sort of prep work goes into harvesting. “In December we begin with the winter pruning. We cut the shoots and eventually use electric scissors… it’s a job that takes months to complete.” Angela continues, “then there is winter maintenance, and we wait for the summer pruning…”
We notice Angela’s wide smile while we’re speaking to her. We ask her how she stays so young and vibrant considering all the hard work in the fields. She spontaneously answers with an even brighter smile and says, “I work the wine fields, and I like drinking it afterwards”. When a wine of this quality is made, it not only takes the passion of the estate itself but passion from every hand that goes into the product.
We say our goodbyes to Angela and she returns, with scissors in hand, back to the fields. We continue speaking to Laura who is just behind us and she confirms that this year is a good one and in comparison to the disastrous outcome of 2014, the results of 2015 are excellent.
Laura is truly a professional, not to mention her exuberant charm. During the interview, she did not stop once. She explained the processes and quality checks that go into a great harvest and all the while she is keeping up with all the other grape pickers. She explains, “in the beginning of August we begin weighing the grape harvest, when the bunches are not quite yet fully ripe. This determines how much it could potentially grow in 1 month. In order to see what the maturation of the grapes is, we gather random grapes that are sent to the labs for testing. If the oenologist tells us that the grapes are ready for harvest, we weigh the grapes a second time. It’s important to see how much the grapes have grown in the span of a month.”The last part of the prep work consists in removing the leaves from the bunches so that the grapes can fully soak in the last of the sun. This is done some days before harvest.
“And here we are!” Angela tells us that after all this prep work, everything leads to this very place we are standing – the harvest – which is made up of distinct aromas, colors and more importantly, voices.
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