We started with the pruning already in mid-January, starting from 2 of 3 hectares of Colle Vignali and finished towards the end of February with the last hectare in the same area, that is, the Cru of Cercia, to avoid the risk of frost.
The germination started in the second half of April with a very slow growth, especially in those areas of the valley where the night temperatures were often below 10 °C. Therefore, the first round of green pruning was extended until the end of May.
By the end of the flowering season in early June, we began to remove the leaves from both sides up over the cluster, as it was suggested by our agronomist consultant Ruggero Mazzilli.
As each year, the fastest vine in the phenological phase was that of the upper part of Colle Passo and especially the “nostrano” (the typical local). While the slowest one was La Cercia. A favorable climate of sparse, but not intense rain allowed us to achieve fruit set with a perfect health of the grapes and with canopy. The intense heat of July was marked by two large waves with peaks of 39 °C and a high average of 33 °C. The high humidity of the 2nd and 3rd week generated some problems with sunburn on the leaves, but not on the grapes. First, the vines of Colle di Grano and then those of Colle Passo were affected by severe drought, which forced us to dig twice in rows. There was also a new attack of downy mildew on leaves in the vineyard of Casal S. Antonio due to an increase of humidity.
Another consequence of water scarcity was the anticipated verasion with the grape berries already changing color in early June. The heavy rains from the 7th to 15th August for sure helped the vine to grow faster with the downy mildew having attacked some areas of the top leaves.
Already at the beginning of September we noticed the sugar level in the grapes being higher than the average of previous years. We had a potential of 12% Vol on Cesanese di Affile with a 10-day anticipation.
On Thursday, 17th September, we opened the proceedings with the harvest of the Bianco in the rows of Le Fattora and San Giovanni by a total of 11 q.li and 19.5 q.li of the Rosato in the upper parts of Colle Passo.
Saturday, 26th September was the harvest day of the rows around the cottage of Colle di Grano with an outcome of about 30 q.li and 15 q.li from the Cru of Colle Passo, which would eventually be a part of the Costa Graia 2015.
Tuesday, the 29th September was the harvest day of the Cesanese of Le Fattora of about 3.6 q.li.
Waiting for the perfect maturation of the last vines we had, in those 3 days there was about 23mm of rain, which however, didn’t cause us serious problems.
On Monday, 5th October, a gloomy day, although sun had been forecasted, we decided to harvest San Giovanni (17 q.li) and La Cercia (27.5 q.li) with perfectly healthy grapes.
Year of 2014
Due to the compelling work in the cellar we spent most of the beautiful month of December by starting to prune the vine. The mild temperatures allowed us to work at a great pace until mid-January, because in February it never ceased to rain in what was one of the warmest and rainiest months of the past 40 years.
Starting from the famous Cercia through Colle Passo, ending in Vignali with glimpses of sun and muddy boots, we finished the winter pruning in mid-February. A separate approach was devoted to the old vineyards of Colle S. Antonio, Le Fattora and S. Giovanni whenever possible, namely, using the Guyot-method as tradition dictates.
The spring season started well with the right alternation of rain and sun, a few targeted treatments allowed the flourishing to happen without any problems a few days earlier than the previous year. By bare sight we could see that the fertility of the plants was more scarce than the year before. From then on began the ‘month of monsoons’, how we wanted to rename June of 2014. Another tropical year, being more so by the way of raining rather than the temperature, forced us to increase the number of treatments, just as in the previous year (15 by the end of the season).
The 180 mm of rain and the 80% of actual humidity made us realize immediately that we would be looking forward to a difficult season, even more difficult than the one of 2013. We paced ourselves in the vineyards between one treatment and the other in order to remove the leaves around the east-sided grapes all the way until a few days before the full fruit set.
Then came the day we will never forget, in a negative sense, 19th June, when a violent hailstorm hit Piglio. The vineyard of San Giovanni was severely damaged and lost almost 40% of the grapes. The day after, by counting the damages in all parts, we realized that we had been struck throughout. Knowing that there is always worse, the last week of June was indeed more critical. It rained every day and became impossible to enter into the vineyards. The downy mildew spread greatly, especially in the valley, starting from the first young leaves, arriving all the way at the bunches. The notorious mildew disguisedly affected almost the entire area of the DOCG, whom a great deal and whom less. We could consider ourselves the more lucky ones!
Although July is a summer month, the temperatures were more like in late October when it is not pouring, but raining on a daily basis. With focused tillage we could maintain good vegetation and recover all that previously lost to disease and hail.
We finished this phase with the last treatments, 4 or 5 more than usually needed, on the 9th August and a much desired summer seemed to be brining us the beginning of veraison.
Sunshine only remained a dream, since a very cool August followed, which only helped the mildew to proliferate. Our optimism and confidence came back thanks to a summer-like September and October, but only partially, because the new leaves did not grow out, which should have concluded the work.
The first harvest of 2014 is the Strada Brecciata and the GDC of Colle di Grano on the 11th October, where a skimming of 50% was to be done. This is where our first 19.5 quintals come from, which were vinified in concrete tank number 1. The grapes were small and crispy with a potential alcohol content of almost 14 degrees.
A few days later, precisely on the 15th, we finished the harvest, mainly because the plants were blocked and did not go further. Only 7 quintals came from S.Giovanni, 19.5 quintals from the rows selected by Michele in Colle di Grano, 2.5 quintals from Le Fattora, 8.5 quintals both from the higher parts of the previously thinned in Colle Passo and from Casal S. Antonio.
Year of 2013
After a late pruning in February, which ended only in March because of bad weather, the plants started to feel the warm weather and sprout in late April, more or less in the same manner. Thanks to no excessive temperatures and to regular rainfalls of every 5 or 6 days, we could protect the plants with sulfur and copper in this first period.
As the first step, it was decided to begin the green pruning already on the 7th of May, leaving 3 buds each spur, to encourage the lowering of the leads the following year, as well as to protect us from eventual hailstorms. Right from the start there was a slowdown in the growth of the buds in the vineyard of Cercione, which led us to work the soil, so to stimulate the plants.
Due to the continuous rains and the speed by which the branches grew in the other vineyards, especially in Colle Passo, we were obliged to take the second step: green pruning and shoot pruning at the beginning of June, also because of having dug the soil in anticipation of the heat.
During the flowering period because of the excessive humidity, we were had to enter a lot more into the vineyard in order to minimize the risk of burn from copper. Unfortunately, the vineyards of Vignali were affected by downy mildew of different incidents and without any prior sign of yellow spots on leaves. Especially in Cercione, we had noteworthy stagnant water, downy mildew on grape clusters and poor fruit set, which undermined 60% of the production of grapes.
The same problem of fruit set occurred in the oriented N / S and the more clayey Colle Passo, called Berlame, in this case due to an excessive growth of the branches. The previous pruning, which should have brought the plant to be more concentrated onto the grape cluster, was not enough to stop that outcome.
This allowed us to focus on a critical issue in response to Cesanse su 110 Richter in a very rainy year with little drain. Even afterwards the rain did not stop and continued pouring with almost a tropic-like speed. It was normal to have warm and sunny mornings with a gradually increasing number of clouds, reaching a stormy weather by early afternoon and subsequent sunny intervals, as well as perspiration from the ground.
The weather has therefore allowed the proliferation of mildew in the higher laying vineyards like Colle Passo and San Giovanni, as well as occasionally peeking downy mildew in the vineyards situated lower, such as Vignali. While it was possible to eliminate the first fungus with various treatments in July, a second appearance has never shown its nature, apart from the drying off of the affected grapes.
The veraison, long-awaited, appeared in Colle Passo around 7th August, followed slowly by other vineyards until early September, the veraison time for the old vineyard of San Giovanni. All this has confirmed a phenological delay of two weeks compared to the average of recent years. The Tendone of Passerina, joined the rows of the Cesanese Cru in San Giovanni, we were happy for the health of the grapes thereby. The summer passed without peaks of extreme heat, never exceeding 34 ° C, while allowing storms to happen at the end of August, which continued for the entire month of September to reach the threshold of 1,000 mm of rain accumulated in the course of the year. These climatic conditions, in conjunction with the charge of grapes and a late defoliation, forced us to a careful selection during the harvest and to a subsequent selection in the winery to avoid grapes with botrytis.
In the end, towards the beginning of October, we managed to have the amount of passerina almost fill a tub of 10 hectoliters, as we originally wanted it to be (about 15 quintals of grapes with a yield of less than 65%). The grass continued to grow relentlessly, forcing us to do a row-cleaning for a second time, same for the branches, especially those of Nostrano in Colle Passo, which were often polled, even three times, between early June to late July. The effects of these interventions were to be seen and thus we achieved good ripeness in this area of the higher laying vineyard, that led us to the first harvest, mixed between Cesanese di Affile and Nostrano, right after the white grapes. With Colle di Grano and San Giovanni lagging behind, we started to worry, therefore, we opted for a thinning in the old vineyard where, because of a long pruning, the charge appeared to be excessive compared to the plant, even if the relationship between canopy and chili grape was excellent.
The “leitmotiv” continued in the first week of October, that is, the problem of water. The Cesanese, which usually does not present problems of gray mildew, began to rot on certain areas, especially those already affected by the disease during the year. We noticed a great lack of homogeneity of maturation by sampling, but also by the same tastings in the vineyard, which turned out to be the same even within the same parcel. For these reasons, we started to delimit micro-areas, and to mark each plant for extreme cases. The grape which was not suitable to the production of our wine was harvested slightly in advance and sold, the remainder was left for at least a week longer on the plant.
On 15th October, the changing of the moon ended the maturation of the grapes. We harvested in Colle Passo, from where several quintals of ripe and healthy grapes arrived filling tank number 2. On the same day a few, but very good grapes from the GDC marked plants of Vignali were taken away.
All amounts of Colle di Grano was harvested between the 14th and 21st, but only 24 quintals of the total 96 finished tank number 3. A persisted closure of the first harvest in San Giovanni on the 23rd October finished straight in the concrete tank numbered 1.
Year of 2012
This was year zero for the Costa Graia, in which three wine lovers decided that the time has come to commit themselves to a new project in order to exalt the vines of Cesane di Affile and its region, Piglio.
Willingness alone is not always enough, even so that we were compelled to postpone the formal establishment of the company to 15 January 2013, due to the question of time and to the whereabouts of the members.