Monday, October 1, 2012

Q & A with Katia of San Polino: new wood in the winery?

Tino made of Slavonion wood
JG (Justin Gallen): Looks like you got some new oak barrels for fermentation and aging. Can you tell me more about them?

KN (Katia Nussbaum): The round ones are called botti, singular, botte, and the tall ones are tini (tino). They hold from 25hectoliters (660 gallons) for the botte to 38hectoliters (1,000 gallons) for the tini. in our case.

We use the tini for fermenting the wines, you can see that they have large stainless steel openings and doors on the top and at the side, the top one for taking in the grapes at harvest and doing the pumping over and the bottom doors for taking out the skins later on in the process and then the sediments. The tini then double up as ageing tanks.

JG: Do you prefer tini, barrique or botte for aging the wines?

KN: We prefer though to use the botti for ageing the wines. They're good and have a much higher ratio of wood to wine as there is no stainless steel. They can be harder to clean though, because you can just jump into a tino to clean it out. (I say "just" but it actually takes around 4 hours with water and a sandpaper block and loads of muscle) whereas you'd have to have a shrinking pill to get into a botte, so we clean them with the high pressure water thing, idropulitrice, (pressure washer) I don't know its name in English as I never used them in London.

getting the new tino through the cellar door in the ancient building can be sometimes difficult

moving the new botte into position

JG: What kind of oak is it and where does it come from and how do you treat it?  Is it Slavonian?

KN: Yes, Slavonian oak. They're not burnt, like barrique, and give a soft spicy taste to the wines, vanilla, butter, cinamon etc. We do use some new or semi-new barrique on the brunello, or at least on 10% or so of the brunello. After fermentation and in around early January, when the malolactic fermentation is finished we take the lees and divide it up between our barriques (about 25/30 litres of lees per our newish/new barriques). We then fill the barriques with our best wines from the vintage and roll the barriques around with vigorous spins (they're on a contraption with wheels) every day for 4 months. This really does give the wines a sense of greater body.  They become a little yeasty, in a nice way, thicker and richer as the alchemy of yeast proteins mixing with wine and wood tannins occurs. In all the wine stays in the barriques for 6/9 months, more or less. Right now we are moving all the wines in the cantina around according to what we consider as appropriate to the wines. The real aim, apart from cleaning all the containers and making sure that the wines don't get too wooded, or not wooded enough, is to free up the fermentation tanks for the new grapes.

Next:  a harvest update from San Polino . . .

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