Before my trip to Italy, I knew very little about wine – how to differentiate between different flavors, fermentation techniques, and great wine versus mediocre. Honestly, my knowledge of wine was limited to distinguishing between red, white, and sparkling wines by sight but nothing more. During our stay in Castel Gandolfo, my class and I took a day trip to the neighboring town of Frascati where we visited a family vineyard. Like the name of the town suggests, this family owned business has been bottling hand-harvested Frascati wine for years now. While here I learned the specific regulations, processes, and time it takes to make an excellent quality bottle of wine that sells. For example, this family bottles DOCG wine, as of 2010, which prohibits the use of irrigation, even during the dry seasons. Because of this new adopted requirement, which is extremely difficult to obtain and maintain, their harvested grapes are less plump but the wine produced has a stronger and richer flavor. Likewise, this Frascati vineyard takes their product excellence a step further by only storing the wine upright, as to not allow the wine to be flavored (woody or oaky) by the cork. Lastly, in order for the bottle to be considered a “Frascati”, it must contain at least 70% of Malvasia grapes, no more than 30% of Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Greco Bianco, and Trebbiano, and not exceed 15% of other local white grapes.
As discussed in class, Frascati wineries have continued to utilize the same grapes that were used nearly 3000 years ago. The Etruscans, an ancient group of peoples inhabiting this area, discovered that if they waited longer to harvest, the wine produced would have a higher alcohol content. They had to spend a significant amount of time pruning the grape vines and hand-picking clusters of grapes in the fall. All in all, from thousands of years ago and continuing on to modern day, wine production is a system that takes time, energy, and a vast amount of knowledge. Wine makers are truly masters of their trade. They must be able to follow all the set regulations to allow them to sell a high quality bottle of wine, protect grapes from weather conditions, all while balancing the perfect amount of acidity, sweetness, flavor, and tannins. When I travel back to the states and try the California-grown wine, similar to the wine here, I can have a much more deepened appreciation for the glass in front of me, the creative, yet wise, hands that crafted it, and those in Italy that went before them.