The importance of Appassimento technique, between customs and modernity

After the harvest and before the final selection, natural drying expresses the enrichment of grapes that change their composition, representing the tradition and culture of a territory. The experience of Tenuta Sant’Antonio.

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Stretched out during drying there is the maximum number of grapes that could be harvested: 60 quintals per hectare for a total of about 5,000 quintals of grapes (500 tons). “The grapes were beautiful, healthy, the berries turgid, genuine and quality berries” – says Armando Castagnedi, owner with the brothers Tiziano, Paolo and Massimo of Tenuta Sant’Antonio.

But what does grape drying mean? Withering is the first winemaking technique that wrote the history and economy of the Valpolicella area, helping to draw its geography and social evolution. An important piece that has marked the seasonal rhythms and holidays. If we consulted any dictionary of the Italian language we would find that the first meaning of the term “withering” is: “loss of freshness, withering” in reference to plants, flowers, leaves, fruits. The significant decrease in cellular turgor following the loss of water by transpiration, not compensated by adequate watering or irrigation, could appear in the case of grapes as an operation that negatively affects the characteristics of the fruit. In the oenological field, drying is an ancient technique which consists in letting the grapes wither with partial dehydration of the berries, before pressing. Dehydration leads to the browning of the berries, which take on a wrinkled and wrinkled appearance as well as certain organoleptic properties exploited for the production of a particular type of wine.

“Technology has made it possible to make an important turning point in the drying technique – continues Armando Castagnedi -. Today, for example, we work with extreme precision thanks to software in which we have entered a series of data collected over the last thirty years. Based on the production goal, we decide how to set up the software. For example, if we do not want to lose more than 20% of the product in a period of not less than three months, we will set the parameters necessary to obtain this type of result. Withering is a process that must take place very slowly: the slower it is, the more perfect it is. From 2019 to today, since we started this management of the drying technique we have more yield, more product, more quality and less alcohol by volume in our wines “.

An immense glance, of boxes of hand-picked grapes, cataloged by type, vineyard and date of harvest, return the beauty of a process that is culture and tradition of a territory. A glance that really makes an impression. If the plant for drying and controlling the grapes has perhaps lost something of the ancient romantic allure, that aura of elegance and charm of the racks, the production has acquired quality. The air is sucked in from the outside when the climatic conditions are better (cooler temperature, and above all lower humidity) and pushed in one direction only thanks to large fans that allow homogeneous circulation inside the deposit. The humidity created by the drying grapes tends to stagnate downwards, while the hot air remains suspended. Adequate ventilation promotes optimal drying conditions. “Perfect drying is a slow process that ends no earlier than 90 days after harvest – underlines Armando Castagnedi -, generally for our company from mid-December onwards. Withering means concentration of sugars that must have the time necessary to be included in the pulp and create that glycerine complexity that makes the future Amarone perfect, correctly alcoholic, with great balance and roundness “. Daily checks on the raw material confirm the excellent result of evolution .

Tradition and sentiment have given way to modern technology that Tenuta Sant’Antonio, winery and company founded in 1995 by the four Castagnedi brothers’ love for their land, has chosen not to shy away. A family and a common vision, grown in the dynamics of a purely peasant culture and which today has given way to specific and specialized skills. Noble areas a few kilometers away from each other but with unparalleled personalities boast a complex stratigraphy of soils, very different soils: first of clay, marl and volcanic soils of lava and black basaltic rocks in the places of Soave in Colognola ai Colli; then of pure limestone in San Briccio, Mezzane, Illasi, for an assemblage of territories and grapes, the starting point for great wines. Pergola vineyards on ridges that act as an interlude to hills of uneven conformity: the Soave valley, also known as the nail of the Valpolicella hill. And then Val Tramigna, which has always been considered the richest of all valleys due to the presence of an important source of water, Val d’Illasi, Valle di Mezzane, an enchanting scenery, an expanse of vineyards worked in a context of biodiversity and sustainability that looks beyond procedures and certifications. “Respect for the cycles and rhythms of naturalness – says Armando Castagnedi – are the basis of what we do”. The Single Vineyard, Soave DOC Vigna Monte Ceriani, Valpolicella Superiore DOC La Bandina and the extraordinary Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Campo dei Gigli, micro areas of excellence, plots of high historical value with peculiar characteristics, are the example, the bet towards a land that has been in their hearts for generations. Worked, but above all loved.

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