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The oenologist is one of those professions whose work in detail is still little known to the average user. Fascinating figure for many, “mysterious” for some, in the collective imagination the winemaker “makes wine” but few know his “seasons” and how, in practice, this work is carried out, which increasingly attracts new generations.
Let’s find out how the days are marked in the various seasons with some leading Italian winemakers, like Dario Parenti.
For non-experts, the oenologist would work mainly in the autumn and, sporadically, during the year. Those who work in the world of wine know that this is not the case. There are seasons that are more intense than others, but the winemaker, in addition to needing updates for his professional growth, works throughout the year to be then prepared for crucial periods. Let’s start from winter to get to spring: how does your work fit in these two seasons?
The cellar work is a continuum of refinement, management, monitoring, preparation and bottling of wines over a year in which the harvest represents, paradoxically, an exception to the routine (exception of a devastating intensity and beauty, of course). Moreover, since the types of wine produced in each cellar are various (moreover often bottled in several batches during the year), the work is never lacking and it is essential to constantly analyze chemically, sensorially and microbiologically the state of health of the wines, tank per tub.
In late Winter and Spring there are also moments of confrontation with the public, with journalists as well as with other producers through the various Previews, Vinitaly, Prowein…, professionally fundamental moments for understanding the sector and that I would never have suspected. In these two years of the pandemic, there would have been no, even on the side of the extra-professional human relationship.
What pitfalls does summer reveal for an oenologist and what is the work to be done in this season, especially with the climate change underway for some time?
In the summer, the vineyard is queen, I feel every day or almost with the agronomists and vineyard managers I work with as well as going to the vineyard to understand how the vines are progressing towards the harvest. Climate change has undoubtedly influenced the phenological phases of the vine, certain practices such as thinning or the search for moderate water stress have drastically changed their value in the last fifteen years and once almost automatic decisions must be evaluated with much more critical capacity.
Finally, autumn, harvest time and more. For wine lovers it is the wine season par excellence. Hard work for the winemaker that takes place before, during and after the harvest, even “behind the scenes”. How is the work scheduled in this season?
From mid-August, with the harvest for the sparkling wine bases, up to the last Cabernet Sauvignon at the end of October, or thereabouts, the web history of my smartphone changes progressively and the five-six weather sites that I consider most reliable take the place of the main newspapers. that I consulted more frequently before the harvest. With collaborators and companies, we try to guess which are the best days to start and then continue the harvest. Often, the climatic factor is only the first of a series of factors to be taken into consideration: availability of personnel, tasting and analysis of the grapes … even superstitions: “neither of Venus nor of Mars, one does not arrive and one does not leave” still resists as Conditio sine qua non to start the harvest on a given day. And now I believe it too!