The vineyards are the beating heart of the estate. They occupy only 14% of the land but account for over
two thirds of our working hours throughout the year. The diversity of the varieties growing in the vineyards
and the variety of recently planted Sangiovese clones are the palette from which we compose the 'colour'
of our wines, with labour-intensive harvests during which we pick the various types of grapes separately.
The structure of the plantations has changed a lot over the past forty years. Until the 1960s there were few vineyards: most of the grapes were produced in the rows separating the small fields typical of share- cropping. The hectares planted as vineyards came later, with the end of share-cropping and the spread of tractors in the Tuscan countryside. A further change took place in the mid-1980s, when we abandoned the quantity targets for which the plantations had been designed and focused instead on improving product quality. We adopted less potent fertilisers, changed from the traditional guyot pruning to the less productive cordone speronato technique, and selective harvesting. Finally, for the plantations in recent years we returned to guyot pruning and decided to continue our policy of planting Tuscan vines rather than turning to international varieties such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. The only exception is Chardonnay, which we use with the Tuscan Malvasia white grape to produce Spareto.
In the more recent vineyards, we have planted various Sangiovese clones and complementary red varieties (Colorino, Malvasia Nera, Foglia Tonda, Abrustine and Pugnitello) to have a wider choice when creating our wines.
When we introduced organic farming techniques in 2001 we also began to sharpen our focus on managing the vineyards. Indeed, the physiological balance of the plant is a crucial aspect of using organic fertilisers, which are milder that chemical ones, and products such as sulphur and copper, which offer less protection than synthetic pesticides.
We harvest the grapes by hand, in several passes, so that the grapes can be taken to the cellar while they are still healthy and at various stages of ripening. The first grapes to be harvested are used in the simpler wines, while the second, riper batch is earmarked for the wines that are finished in the bottle, such as Chianti and Chianti Riserva.
The wines are fermented and matured in the Estate's ancient cellars. The most recent, built 50 years ago, is
at Avanella, while the maturing cellar was built in 1920 and the storage cellar is in the mediaeval basement
of the Estate's headquarters. We have made major investments in upgrading the cellars to the hygiene and
technology standards of modern wine-making.
We separate the vinification for each variety and vineyard, enabling us to control the fermentation temperature. We use short steeping for the reds with which we produce Tintero and for the grapes from the first harvests, with which we produce our "Etichetta Bianca" Chianti. To extract colour and polyphenols, however, we leave the skins longer in the riper grapes that will go to produce our Chianti and - in the best years - Chianti Riserva. We also process a small quantity of green grapes to make Spareto, fermenting them partly in steel vats and partly in barriques.
It is mainly our more structured wines, such as our Riserva and sometimes also our Chianti, that we mature in wood. The majority of our French oak barriques have a 350 litre capacity and are used many times over, more for their ability to ensure that the wine develops well than to obtain the spiciness typical of wines matured in wood.