Work and artisanship

The mother we share is the land that feeds us,
and we grow together with what she offers us

Béla Hamvas

To understand the character of each vineyard, we need to proceed with a rigorous separation of grapes both during the harvest and winemaking phases, in order to produce specific and unique wines.
Such attention, however, would lose all its meaning if it did not originate from working in the vineyard and from the possibility of gaining an in-depth, first-hand knowledge of plants using all our senses.
We are profoundly bound to the land on which our vines grow: it gives us strength, inspires us, and induces us to respect nature, placing great care on our interactions with the environment.

Agriculture, biodiversity, balance

Just like any agricultural production, viticulture involves training a plant for cultivation - a plant that, with its large presence on a given surface, will alter the balance of the pre-existing ecosystem. 
As a consequence, the natural system will react by trying to contrast the invasion of the monoculture and the imbalance deriving from it to recreate a diversified, stable system.

Soil biodiversity is a determining factor in the development of the terroir and of vine resistance; its increase on agricultural land can help accelerate the harmonisation process of the ecosystem, while also contrasting the higher vulnerability to epidemic diseases related to microbiology or fauna.
As a matter of fact, not only do such measures reduce attacks by harmful organisms through the development of natural antagonists, but they also enhance the defence mechanisms of cultivated plants themselves.

The presence of a multitude of butterflies, beetles, wild bees and birds is a tangible sign of the fact that the entire system has found a new balance which is solidly rooted in the life that is activated at ground level.
A direct and essential consequence for viticulture is the growth of more long-lived vines that are able to absorb the precious elements of the soil more effectively, producing richer grapes and premium-quality wine.

The vineyard should be considered as a farming entity or, in other words, a diversified and complex ecosystem.
After all, only in such a case is it possible to speak of terroir.

Ground life

The profile of organisms in the surface layer of the soil is the characterising trait of a place and is the one responsible for its “vital” quality. 
Indeed, the highly complex relationships between bacteria, enzymes, amoebas, fungi, algae, worms, and molluscs in the ground is of inestimable value for the development of the properties of mineral clays and thus for those of the soil itself.

Moreover, the activity of all the natural organisms in the ground is decisive for a balanced and healthy supply of nutrients to the vine, and is fundamental for the absorption of minerals contained in mineral clays and organic matter.

Damaging or partially destroying these fundamental agrobiological processes by using pesticides/fungicides/herbicides, etc. does not only lead to soil degradation and impoverishment, but also results in a substantial qualitative reduction in the “theoretical potential of the ground” or, to put it shortly, of the terroir.

This is the reason why we decided to adopt different strategies for the phytosanitary management of our vineyards, i.e.:

  • Enhance the vines and improve their defence mechanisms through constant soil regeneration and continuous treatment with fortifying plants (nettle, camomile, valerian, inula, willow, etc.). Under this concept, in order to contribute to a broad diversification of microorganisms in the phyllosphere, before flowering, in early June, young leaves are repeatedly sprayed with serum and “preparation 500” (horn manure).
  • Contain infestation-related diseases by means of an overlapping culture that becomes the habitat of antagonists. Planting trees and hedgerows around the vineyard, for example, creates an ideal environment for predatory mites, which have a regulating action on populations of harmful mites.
  • Contrast disease and harmful organisms directly with natural phytosanitary products, i.e. substances that are also present in nature. These products may act directly on harmful organisms or have a stimulating and enhancing effect on the defence mechanisms of the plant.

Laa vita nel terreno - Pian dell'Orino - Montalcino

A daily commitment

Since the beginning, a journey of constant evolution has been undertaken at Pian dell’Orino to favour the restoration of balance and increase biodiversity.
The tangible effects may be immediate or may take years to emerge. However, every action carried out in our daily work and implied in the reflections and ideas driving it already carries with it a powerful, positive force.

A few examples:

  1. A natural grass cover is grown between alternate rows and in the peripheral areas of the vineyards using a mix of seeds that, depending on the needs of different soil types, may include varying proportions of plants like pulses, Cruciferae, Polygonaceae and Umbrelliferae. Herbs are then flattened on the ground to safeguard insects and create a cover that will raise ground temperatures; 
  2. Fruit trees are planted in the peripheral areas in the north-east and north-west (peach, plum, apricot, apple, quince, pear, almond, and walnut); 
  3. Aromatic herbs and seeds are planted for bees on several different small parcels of the vineyards;
  4. Trees (olive trees, rowans, field maples, chestnut trees, willows, elders) and hedges (common hazels, rush brooms, dog roses, etc.) are planted on the edges of parcels and are partly used for row intercropping;
  5. Hedges (laurels and willows) are planted for protection from the wind in the outer and more exposed areas;
  6. Marginal parcels are converted to flowery meadows and orchards;
  7. Beehives are placed in all vineyards;
  8. Nests are put in place for singing birds and roosts for birds of prey;
  9. In all vineyards, small pyramids of stones are built to provide shelters and dens for various species of reptiles;
  10. Every 3-5 years, the soil is supplied with nutrients through a biodynamic compost (made up of pomace, grape stalks, cow manure and biodynamic preparations 502-507 > see section “Biodynamics” for further information);
  11. An experimentation with vegetable charcoal (Biochar) is being conducted to improve the air/water ratio in the root layer and enrich the soil with lignin, phenols, proteins, and minerals;
  12. Fungal activity and mychorriza development are stimulated through the supply of slow-decay organic matter, such as chopped up vine shoots.

Our seasons in the vineyard

During the year, work on the land is carried out in few steps, using light equipment for sowing.
Near plant trunks, instead, inter-row hoeing is combined with biodynamic treatments to stimulate dynamism. 
The arrival of the first shoots occurs while the vineyard is immersed in a sea of flowers: a feast for bees and butterflies, a true paradise for insects of all kinds.
The preventive use of organic compounds such as nettle infusions, equisetum and yarrow extracts, and mineral clays helps assure the good health of the vines.
Grapes are thinned out before flowering and 4-6 bunches are left on each vine.
In the summer, bunches are constantly monitored as they grow, with one last, important check right before harvest to remove any individual grapes that are spoiled or rotten as a result of weather conditions.
In late autumn, the following are planted: lacy phacelias, vetches, buckwheat, sulla, and rye; various spices such as coriander, mustard and horseradish; and different varieties of clover and numerous other pulses. As they grow during the dormancy stage of the vineyards, these herbs bring the soil to life, favouring the proliferation of microfauna and, thanks to their symbiosis with small bacteria, they capture the nitrogen in the air, allowing vines to absorb it.

The harvest

Ripe and accurately selected grapes are hand-picked and transported to the cellar in 15-kilo crates.
A first, important selection based on grape size is carried out directly by our destemmer. Next, grapes are moved onto a sorting table where bits of stems, leaves and insects are removed by hand.
Finally, the last step is performed by means of a large optical selector, in line with the latest technologies in the winemaking industry.
A CO2 cover used during the entire process prevents oxidation and safeguards the integrity of the berries all the way to the barrels intended for vinification.

Work in the cellar

Sangiovese grapes are the gift of our vineyards, not a product of the cellar.
This is why fermentation is spontaneous: it is induced by indigenous yeasts that are formed on the grape skins while still on the plant. No need to add sulphurous dioxide or perform cooling: thanks to the meticulous selection procedures performed, grapes at this stage are already whole and perfect the way they are.

In the case of the Brunello di Montalcino, once grapes have been transferred to oak vats, the fermentation process typically starts within 3 days after harvest. Skin maceration takes 4 to 10 weeks, depending on the vintage. Still in the vat, right after alcoholic fermentation, malolactic fermentation takes place and lactic bacteria transform malic acid into lactic acid.
No additional yeast beyond grape yeasts, no industrial enzymes, no other additives or supplements to alter the flavours or inherent characteristics of the vineyard from which our grapes come, or the vintage itself.
After spending 36-55 months ageing in 12.5-50 hL oak barrels, the wine is bottled without filtration. The “Vigneti del Versante” Brunello di Montalcino (i.e. from vineyards on the DOCG hillside) rests in bottle for at least one year before being labelled and made available to customers. As for the Bassolino di Sopra Cru, the ageing process in the bottle lasts two years.

Grapes for the Rosso di Montalcino undergo the same selection as those used for the Brunello, but with a different vinification system. A short natural fermentation is followed by the spontaneous fermentation. Once alcoholic fermentation is over, post-fermentation maceration continues for approximately one week, enhancing the fruit and its freshness.
The wine is then poured into 25-30 hL barrels, where malolactic fermentation occurs. Next, the wine is aged for approximately 24-28 months before being bottled. It will then rest in the cellar for another 6 months.

Grapes for Piandorino come from the most prosperous parcels of our vineyards, where the soil generally favours the development of fruitier aromas.
Spontaneous fermentation, which usually does not exceed 28°C, and a short period during which grapes are left in contact with the skins (approximately 7-10 days) contribute to further enhance the typicity of these grapes.
While fermentation is still ongoing, wine is transferred to 12-25 hL oak barrels where it completes alcoholic fermentation and where malolactic fermentation normally also takes place. The duration of ageing in wood is generally decided based on sensorial impressions and, after approximately 16-20 months, the wine is bottled. After resting another 6 months in bottles, Piandorino is ready for tasting. 

Character and originality, balance and elegance: in order to obtain a wine with these characteristics, it is fundamental to have a place that respects them – a healthy, natural and balanced environment.
The very cellar, located next to the farmhouse of the Pian dell’Orino estate, was created following biological criteria and the respect of the surrounding landscape, and constructed with building materials that allow it to breathe: clay, wood, lime, and stones sourced from the vineyards.
Its rounded shape recalls a cradle, an ideal and harmonious place.