Once the grapes are pressed and the must and the skins are in the fermentation tanks, one of the first things the producer does is the measuring of the sugar levels of the must. None of the measurements done in the vineyard, as accurate as they may be, can ever give you the real gradation of the mass. Therefore this is the moment of truth in which you can find out what will be the alcohol potential of the wine, the moment that determines the first decisions about the destinations of the different batches in the various tanks.
mauro valletti AZIENDA valletti
Through the refractometer, we also follow the progress of the fermentation, understanding the transformation of sugar into alcohol by yeasts. It’s essential to know because alcohol is a solvent that dissolves in the wine the tannins of the seeds and the compounds of the skins. Knowing how much alcohol has developed means knowing how to adjust the intensity and the frequency of the pumping over, the progress of the temperature, and deciding when to rack.
nicola chionetti AZIENDA chionetti
The sugar level, on which the alcohol level depends, naturally isn’t the only analyis that is done on the must at the start of fermentation; it’s also important, for example, to have a picture of the acids as well. But the measurement of the Babo degree is something that every winemaker can easily do on their own. It’s a simple instrument that measures the density of a liquid in a cylinder at a temperature of 15 degrees, simply by immersing it and seeing how much it sinks. The refractometer gives us a value on a graduated scale –in degrees Babo. This number, multipled by 0.65, gives the alcohol potential of the must. The result is not yet definitive because depending on the progress of the year, the grapes can develop up to 0.70 or only 0.62. The Dogliani immediately starts to do its own thing.
sandro barosi AZIENDA cascina corte
In cooperative cellars the measurement of the potential of the must is very important because it determines the compensation for that specific batch of grapes, made precisely according to the degree. Once the must of each contributing member is pressed, before deciding which tank to transfer it into, several liters of must are remived to be able to determine the sugar degree. This measurement therefore becomes the first and simplest determining factor for the evaluation of a wine. It is an assessment that does not always manage to take into account other important parameters, linked more to tasting and balance, but a cooperative winery is obliged to choose a quality criterion that can be considered objective and indisputable by all members.
cantina del dolcetto di dogliani
The heart of the vinification of Dogliani is tied to the maceration obtained through the combined action of temperature and pumping over. As soon as the alcoholic fermentation has begun, the yeasts which transform the sugar into alcohol begin to produce carbon dioxide, which causes the mass of skins contained in the must to rise. This way, the skins separate from the liquid, creating a “cap” of pomace that must be dunked several times a day, “remounting” the must at the top of the tank.
osvaldo barberis AZIENDA barberis
This process is generally carried out by making the fermenting must sink down into the tank, and bringing it back up with the help of pumps. If this job is done manually, it requires two people: one over the tank who dunks the cap and the other who regulates the must coming out of the tank. There are producers who, preferring to do everything alone, are equipped – a bit like the sailers who cross the ocean solo – they know how far to open the valve, they have pumps that can be controlled remotely, and they have a good relationship with the god of wine.
mauro valletti AZIENDA valletti
The process of pumping over is crucial for many reasons. It ensures the mass of pomace is constantly kept wet, because if the surface is left to dry, it can acidify and cause an increase in volatile compounds. It serves to cool the cap, the temperature of which tends to rise from the moment it becomes the place where the greatest quantity of yeasts are working, and to homogenize the internal temperatures. It causes the alcohol contained in the must to dissolve those components that give color and tannic structure to the wine.
claudia revelli AZIENDA revelli
The cellar that for months and months was a silent, dark place with no signs of activity suddenly comes back to life. It is full of moviment, smells, colors and sounds. During the harvest, there can be no more intimate and magical moment than when, entering the cellar, you hear a noise like a rumbling, the buzzing of a beehive, made by the yeasts producing millions of bubbles of carbon dioxide, a mysterious and barely perceptible symphony. This gas, capable of making a person dizzy, protects the must from oxidation and the approach of insects. It is therefore not surprising to see the tanks full of must that cools to be re-pumped during the next pumping over.
In alcune cantine ogni vasca ha una sua pompa e una girante posizionata sulla apertura superiore del serbatoio, uno strumento che riesce a bagnare uniformemente e delicatamente il cappello di vinacce anche senza che l'uomo sia costantemente presente. In questo modo mentre si continuano a raccogliere le uve si possono programmare le frequenze e i minuti di lavoro a seconda del grado babo, arrivando a bagnare il cappello per pochi minuti anche ogni due o tre ore. Non c'è una vasca di caduta, ma il tubo viene attaccato direttamente alla valvola, limitando molto l'ossigenazione. Dal momento che però questa è indispensabile non solo per la fermentazione ma anche per la fissazione di alcuni composti, almeno un paio di volte al giorno è necessario utilizzare il sistema di caduta all'aria.
sergio abbona AZIENDA abbona celso
The containers used for fermentation can be made of various material. Most Dogliani producers use steel tanks both for the fermentation and for aging, maintaining that this is the material that least interferes with the unbridled quality of the dolcetto fruit, leaving the characteristics of the grape unadulterated. The advantages of the stainless steel tanks are that they are air-tight, easy to clean and maintain compared with cement vats or wooden barrels, and light enough that they can be moved and repositioned relatively easily, according to the needs of the cellar. Their thermal conductivity also allows for a rapid dispersion of the heat that could be harmful in fermentation, while the insulation with strips filled with glycol allows the temperature to be controlled and adjusted quickly.
matteo sardagna AZIENDA poderi l. einaudi
Cement was the main material used for containers for many years, and many producers are reverting back to using it. Cement, especially when it is simply treated and not vitrified, permits a gradual oxidization of wine like wood does, but without imparting anything to the wine – a property of wood that many producers consider not very suitable for a fruity wine like Dogliani classico. These producers believe cement allows them to obtain fresher, cleaner wines, less influenced by oak scents, but also lacking certain sensations of hardness on the palate, typical of steel. In cement, the wine "moves" much less than in steel due to convective surges, due to the greater thermal inertia of the walls and perhaps also due to the absence of magnetic fields, which impacts the sedimentation of suspended solids. This can be important for those who bottle without filtering.
aldo marenco AZIENDA marenco
In many cases the concrete containers were also the load-bearing structure of the cellar - a bit like making wine between the walls of the house - and they could be positioned in such a way as to make the most of the space, sometimes leaving little room for work. Unlike steel tanks, these containers do not disperse heat, and it is therefore possible to maintain a slightly higher average temperature during fermentation. During the maceration phase, the stability of this temperature favors the extraction and evolution of more complex tannic structures. Finally, the cement, as a bad heat conductor, is also perfect for malolactic fermentation, because it keeps the temperature stable at about 21° for 15 - 20 days.
silvio levi AZIENDA le viti
Wood remains perhaps the most traditional of the vinification containers, even if now it is used almost exclusively for aging. Some producers still vinify grapes for long-aging wines in open wooden vats, while others maintain that wood is a powerful tool for the transfer of aromas and avoid it in the vinification process, holding that it tends to burn the aromas that will be shared with the wine. For Dogliani superiore, some producers also use barrels or vats that can be hermetically sealed with a steel lid and use them for both vinification and aging.
dario sciolla AZIENDA bricco del cucù
As the amount of sugar decrease and the alcohol level increases, the solvent actions of these components rises, and if you’re aiming for a fruity wine to enjoy while it’s young, you should limit the cap to a short submersion in the wine, to achieve a drawing off after 4 or 5 days of maceration. If instead you’re aiming for a wine of substantial structure, look to submerge and mix the pomace cap with delestage, a maceration technique that manually breaks the cap with a stick whose tip is split in four and widened with wooden wedges, to sink the marc into the wine, obtaining a greater but more delicate extraction, as was the case when there were no mechanical pumps. Given the pressure from the carbon dioxide that pushes the skins up, this job requires a fair amount of strength.
nicoletta bocca AZIENDA san fereolo
A winery can boast the greatest technology, but at the end there is always a moment in which a person has to make decisions, based on his or her experience and on the idea of the wine he or she has in mind. For this reason, the constant tasting of the must in fermentation is decisive for the whole process. The human therefore becomes almost an element of that expansive concept we call “terroir.” Babo, Ph measurement, and definition of starting polyphenols can not replace the daily act of listening to the fermentation, which changes each time based on the climate that year, the characteristics of that crop or a new vineyard, and that continuously recalibrates the decisions on extractions, temperatures and time of racking.