New winemakers start here


logostrip.jpgWe studied the books. We hired a bright young winemaker. On his instruction we built a winery and equipped it with a frightening array of vats, barrels and machinery. We joined a farmers' union. We joined the Chianti Classico wine consortium whose Black Rooster logo was eventually to adorn our bottles with their official seal of approval. We had enormous help from friends and back-up from suppliers. A wonderful man, Anelio, joined us as our Man Friday, constantly surprising us by his good-natured willingness to tackle any job. We roped in our guests. We took advice, often conflicting, from every source available. One of our guests, Jon Cousins, even went to the extent of designing a label for us — a beautiful one at that — after helping us produce a small welcome guide to the farm. It was a great favour, as Jon is top of his field in the advertising world. We're proud to say his logo remains to this day; prouder still to say our friendship has blossomed.  

When Alberto Antonini, the winemaker, broke the news that we had to convert three acres of terraced wasteland into something useful, we called in the Caterpillars and planted a whole new vineyard. The mountain of rocks that resulted could have been visible from space.


The Roccas on the rocks?  No kidding! The smaller pictures above show how we then worked the new slopes with more diggers, crunching the remaining galestro stones until they were shingle so we could plant each vine individually and water them in abundantly. It would be four years before any fruit would appear.

Sangiovese.jpgMeanwhile we sprayed the mature vineyards to prevent mildew. We ploughed. We 'green pruned' to thin the vines. We grafted. We nursed the Sangiovese grapes from little buds to big juicy fruit — that's a pretty good example on the right — and then we harvested. Work after that went four ways: in the winery,  maturing the juice; in the fields, pruning and replanting; bottling and marketing the wine; keeping records, ledgers, analyses, charts, certificates. Bureaucracy.                     

The actual business of making wine took us on another vertical learning curve. Until this madness overtook me I had simply assumed that once the grapes had been harvested they went into the winery and the rest just took care of itself. 

Oh, was I wrong!    

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