Great wine is born in the vineyard: the role of the winemaker to intervene as little as possible in order to result in a finished wine that is as pure an expression as possible of the grapes and the land which has given it birth.
Thus, after a year of toil in the vineyard, the time the grapes are ready to harvest is ‘il momento della verità’ – the moment of truth. All of the year’s efforts and toil have led to this vital and very special moment. Intuitive decisions that have been made throughout the year, in the depth of winter, during the spring rains, or in the heat of midsummer cannot now be undone. There really is no turning back.
This, says Mario, is ‘la prova di tutto il lavoro che hai fatto’ – the proof of all the hard work that has been carried out.
The different grape varieties all reach optimum ripeness at different times, and this can vary quite considerably from vineyard to vineyard. Mario carefully monitors sugar and acidity levels, as the grapes approach maturity. Dolcetto is always the most precocious, normally harvested in early September. Barbera should be ready to pick by the end of September. Nebbiolo, a notoriously late ripening variety, can be ready from the middle of October until the end of the month.
The grapes are all harvested by hand by skilled pickers. If the weather is hot, then the harvest takes place in the cooler hours of morning or evening. The grapes are placed in small, clean plastic crates that can be stacked without crushing the fruit below. They are then transported directly and as quickly as possible to the wine cantina in Perno where they are immediately pressed.
By ensuring that grapes have been picked at the optimum moment, under the best conditions, by skilled grape pickers, then taken to the wine cantina as quickly as possible, Mario is able to start with the finest primary material from which to make his wines.