Wine & Other Stories

Umberto Trombelli: the ideal cellar

Umberto Trombelli: Professione enologo
Written by Piero Pardini

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The cellar is the beating heart of the company where the manual skills of the operators and the knowledge of the winemaker merge. Of course, today, technology is an indispensable element which, however, according to some, has taken poetry away from a work that is lost in the mists of time.

We ask the oenologist Umberto Trombelli for his opinion on the matter.

What is your opinion on the statement: “Wine is no longer made in the vineyard, but only in the cellar”? A cliché or does it hide a grain of truth?

There are “drink” wines produced on an industrial scale that are personalized in a corporate style through wine making techniques. The grapes used to obtain these products come from vineyards where the productions per vine and the agronomic practices focus on the containment of unit production costs and on safeguarding health. These wines compete on the markets with a low average quality/price ratio.
Quality wines, linked to a recognized appellation, to a defined terroir, come first and foremost from the quality of the grapes and must be expressed through it; they are expensive wines because it costs to produce the raw material and it costs to refine the wine obtained.
White wines, in general, need technology in the cellar to enhance the qualities of the grapes they come from. Wine is the son of man and wine is made in the cellar with the grapes produced in the vineyard.
As you can see, there are no clichés, there are no written and universal rules but, above all, it would be more constructive, serene and pleasant to talk about feelings without having to trigger an a priori process. Have you ever felt the need to sit at a table, in the shade and cool and ask to enjoy a simple and pleasant wine without having to worry too much? If we were to think, every time we drink a glass of wine, what is at the base, I think we would limit our consumption. Let’s drink calmly! We also drink for the sake of drinking!

How much has technology in the cellar improved and how depersonalized the work of the winemaker?

There are no oenological techniques that can do it themselves: each of them must be applied with method and discernment, knowing what are the positive and negative sides they bring to that particular product and at that precise moment. I therefore believe that the work of the oenologist is by no means depersonalized, quite the contrary. Without the technique it is not even possible to enhance the quality of the grapes. Always remember the saying: “The winemaker must be good at not ruining the work of the vine”: this does not mean that you should always use a certain technology. The oenologist must be able to choose the times and methods. Technology is also tasting, decanting, choice of various containers of different nature and size; it does not just mean cross-flow filtration or refrigeration or isobaric bottling.

According to your experience, which technological tool today is impossible to give up?

As reiterated, tasting cannot be given up because through it it is possible to monitor the entire production and aging process of the wines. The chemical/physical analysis of wines is also fundamental because, combined with the organoleptic analysis, it allows the winemaker to define the practices and timing to bring the wines to consumption at their maximum qualitative potential. All the other tools then become protagonists for better or for worse, fundamental or unfair.

What are the main criticalities of a cellar and what is your modus operandi to solve them?

They can be innumerable. In the case of ancient cellars, built according to the needs of the time to which they date back, they can be complex to manage according to current working needs; I am not speaking only of qualitative and logistical needs but also of safeguarding the health and safety of operators or compliance with the rules
sanitation. A modern cellar today must have all the space necessary to outline the production departments and connect them to each other through the production chain. Modularity is fundamental, that is the possibility of being able to take advantage of the spaces necessary to insert, over time, any new premises or the expansion of existing ones. I do not dwell on logistics because it is a foregone conclusion and I think it is not very interesting here, while I would like to spend a few words on the areas intended for the reception of tourists and visitors, of the tasting and sales rooms. We are living in a pandemic state that has subverted all systems of wine sales and promotion but, despite everything, we will return to live as in the past: I therefore believe it is essential that a winery is able to receive buyers and wine tourists and that it is particular pay attention to this area. Guided tours and spaces for receiving guests must be the visiting card of the cellars. Getting to know the producer is a rule of the modern wine market.

In your imagination, how should your ideal cellar be structured? Did you manage to find it in any company?

My ideal cellar should be inserted in its production area, with the vineyards around it as a side dish; it should be one with the vineyards to give the sensation of what it means to make wine starting from the production of the raw material. It should be inserted in the territorial context to give value to the place, creating that fundamental link between man, his wine culture in that environment.

About the author

Piero Pardini

Founder and editor of "The Wolf Post", Italian based International digital wine platform.
Freelance Journalist.
Wine critic and Sommelier.
He has also written about sports and technology for some specialized magazines.
Co-author of the authorized biography "Gianni Clerici - The writer, the poet the journalist", Le Lettere, Firenze.

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