Thanks Marco (pictured above)!
The 2013 – 2014 season was particularly challenging in the North East of Italy where Friuli Venezia Giulia is located between Venice and Slovenia.
In particular we faced a very warm winter and an early spring. On the one side, warm winters make the vineyards easier to work, most especially the pruning and trellising that we do 100% by hand. On the other hand, winter has the important function of sterilizing the vines from molds and fungus, which affects the plants. As we work organically, using only the traditional copper and sulfur strategy against peronospera and oidium, we knew that we needed to be fast and respectful in the timing of our actions during spring and summer.
As the vines began to flower, things seemed to return to normal. June and the first half of July were generous months with their weather, and the grapes looked wonderful.
When you are a winemaker you know perfectly well, harvest by harvest, that you depend on the weather and though you work hard, you need to accept what it will give you. The second half of July and August were radically different from what we have come to expect in terms of the average temperatures and rainy days that we normally face. We decided to not take any days for holiday and to run fast through the vineyards to defoliate the vines so that the grapes might be more airy and exposed to the light of the sun. Again we were not very lucky and rainy days continued to follow. However, as the harvest date neared, it seemed that we might be picking on schedule. In fact, there were even some varietals that were not completely ripened when the first signs of botrytis started to appear.
Since we are a small winery focused on producing fine, complex and rich wines, the choice we had to make, even if painful, was immediate and clear. We decided to sacrifice up to 20% of our grapes to the molds so that the remaining 80% could fully ripen. The first varietal to be picked was the Friulano, which is the most important varietal in TOVE'. Second, we harvested the Pinot Grigio, which reacted better to the heavy rains, and finally, Riesling.
I am very thankful to my picking team. Many of my colleagues now harvest with huge automatic machines that run the vineyards, but I truly believe that this year it was particularly important to select the grapes and cure them. It has been a work of patience and love. I am also thankful for Thomas Malatesta, my assistant winemaker and partner in the Malatesta project. We spent days and nights thinking of how to take the best from the grapes we brought home. We both believe in natural winemaking and had to radically change some vinification processes to work the grapes as delicately as we could, without using chemicals to enrich or smooth the juices.
Marco & Thomas Malatesta
As I write, the red wines are almost done and have given us very nice results. The Refosco is fermenting right now and the Cabernet Franc is very close to being picked. Luckily the end of September had been very sunny and the red varietals have reacted very well.
Last but not least, I want to dedicate this difficult vintage to my Grandfather Alfio, who died few days ago in the middle of the harvest at the age of 83. He was not famous in the oenology world but he gave me the chance to start this wonderful job in 1998 when he asked me to help him, and he taught me to never give up, and to be honest and respectful of the environment.
To read more about the wines of Marco Cecchini, read here.