Wine does not exist in nature. It is not simply grape juice. Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG is the result of many factors which depend on the experience, intelligence and competence of those who produce it. The vine alone is not enough.
However, certain environmental conditions are necessary, without which we cannot even hypothesize. The two most fundamental of which are climatic conditions and the type of terrain. And the letter will be the focus of our next article.
The principle wine-growing areas are situated between 30° and 50° latitude, with average annual temperatures of between 10° and 20° Centigrade, guaranteeing a temperate climate. In the Northern Hemisphere, this corresponds to much of Europe, North Africa and California. In the Southern Hemisphere it covers Latin America, South Africa and part of southern Oceania.
Within this wide band of territory, the altitude of the vineyards plays an essential role in terms of quality. In the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG area, for example, the vines are cultivated at between 100 and 500 metres above sea level; some on steep hillsides known to enthusiasts as Rive, together with Cartizze, authentic crus of the appellation.
In fact, the slope of the ground in the hills facilitates better soil drainage. It also gives the plants greater exposure to the sun, favouring their growth and ripening of the fruit. The hills of our DOCG extend from east to west, with south-facing vineyards, protected by the mountains to the north, thereby enjoying longer and more intense sunshine.
The vine is a very hardy plant, capable of adapting to difficult climates. In general, however, to produce a quality wine it is necessary to have a temperature of not less than 10°C, (below which the vine cannot grow), with an average of 19° to 20°C in summer and -1° in winter.
During the course of the year, the vine must be exposed to between 1300 and 1500 hours of sunlight. The fewer seasonal variations there are the more constant and progressive the ripening of the grapes will be. The results will be balanced wines rich in aromas.
And the rain? It is a decisive factor, guaranteeing humidity for the soil and a steady development of the vines. The total amount of precipitation should be around 700 millilitres per annum, preferably concentrated during winter and spring. Excessive rain during other periods, particularly during the flowering and harvest periods, (with the risk of rotting the grapes), can compromise the quality of the annual yield.
When we talk about microclimate we are referring to very specific climatic conditions concerning the terrain up to a height of two metres from the soil. Cultivation practices, (turfing the terrain, spacing between the plants, propagation methods, pruning criteria), contribute to modifying it, at least in part, according to the expectations and needs of the producer. A classic example concerns foliage. If it is too abundant or too dense, it can remove light from the plants compromising their proper maturation. The solution will be targeted and controlled pruning.
Not all vintages are the same
Climatic characteristics can vary, even substantially, and produce different wines. Irrespective of how sophisticated techniques in the winery have become, no ex-post intervention can work miracles in the event of particularly unfavourable seasons. Extreme consequences would be a significant reduction in the quantity of wine to be placed on the market or the downgrading of the product.
But if the seasonal variations are at least acceptable, the wine enthusiast will know how to recognize the differences between one harvest and another, to detect the different nuances, evaluate the different sensory spectrums and will find reasons for great satisfaction.
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