I had a grape time learning about wines today. After spending the morning in Pienza, we traveled to Montepulciano for our second wine-tasting of the trip. We toured around a very old wine cellar and got a glimpse into wine production. We looked at massive barrels that held around 14,000 bottles of wine and our tour guide explained to us the process of cleaning out the barrels. This process is particularly important as it prevents the accumulation of a particular type of yeast bacterium that gives off a horrible scent and taste. I thought the colmatore was particularly interesting because I didn’t realize how important its role was in the fermentation process. I learned that as wine heats up, it expands and pushes wine into the apparatus, preventing too much wine from spilling out of the barrel. As wine cools, it shrinks, which is indicated by the decreased volume of wine in the apparatus. When this happens, the cellar worker knows to add more wine. above the bulb that contains the wine, there is a second part to the apparatus that contains water. This helps to keep out the oxygen, creating the best conditions for fermentation. The advantage of using wooden barrels over concrete or metal drums is the oxidation the wine receives in the barrels. Additionally, the wine picks up the flavors in the barrels such as the type of wood or the previous wines or fluids that the barrel contained. We also learned that the particular winery we visited today had a trademark label “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” that prevented anyone else from using it. We also discussed in class that the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the first wine to receive the top classification recognized by Italian legislation. Furthermore, we learned that there are very strict aging requirements for this particular brand of wine; at least 70 percent of the grapes have to be Sangiovese.
What I loved the most about Montepulciano was the rich history that was incorporated into the city. Such amazing preservation of the ancient Etruscan civilizations had me enthralled in a desperate search for further exploration all day. I was enamored by the incorporation of these histories into modern day life in Montepulciano such as the gift shops that displayed ancient passageways into Etruscan dwellings and the winery that showed a glimpse into the underground ancient city. If there are three things that Italians really know how to do better than the rest of the world, it’s cook food, preserve amazingly beautiful history, and persuade me to buy way more wine than I am going to be able to drink!