Want to know what it's like to be a winemaker?
In the fall, Piemonte is busy with all sorts of harvests, not least of which is the vendemmia, or grape harvest. After all the grapes are loaded into crates and brought into the cellar, then what happens? What is it like to be a winemaker in Piemonte during this busy time of the year?
This month's Blogging Piemonte topic is "A Day in the Life," and I took the opportunity to get a closer look into the daily life of a Piemontese winemaker. Don't forget to check out the other bloggers and their posts at the bottom!
Meet: Carlo Manera
Title / Position: Winemaker and co-owner at Manera Winery, located in San Rocco Seno d'Elvio (Alba, CN).
Wines: Favorita, Arneis, Moscato d'Asti, Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Langhe Rosso
First off, how was harvest? Word is that 2015 has been a stellar year for Piemonte (and all through Italy!).
2015 could be described as the perfect vintage. The quality of the grapes was without a doubt exceptional. Spring began with moderate temperatures and good precipitation. Summer was very hot and dry, which helped evade mildew and parasite problems with the vines that you can encounter during the season. It was defintely a vintage to remember…
How long have you worked at Manera Winery? How and when did you decide it would become your work?
I worked in the winery even as a little kid, and little by little I grew very passionate for wines and viticulture. That’s how my desire to take part in this world grew. I studied at the Institute of Agricultural Technology at Grinzane Cavour, and after graduating, I entered the winery business.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis in the winery – from the wine cellar to marketing – in October?
In October, we have an assortment of many kinds of work in the cellar: Pumpovers of the must, pressing the skins, preparing the wines for malolactic fermentation, and bottling the rest of the wines from the previous year. For every vintage, we do two bottlings: the first in spring, around February or March, and the second in September or October. As for marketing during this period, we take part in the International Alba Truffle Fair (we have a little stand with our wines, where you can come and taste them and talk to us). We also organize guided tastings in our winery and in different locales in Alba.
The most challenging part is definitely managing the cellar...It takes a year to produce good, healthy grapes but just a moment to damage the wine.
How is October different from other months of the year?
The work in the winery is very diverse depending on the period of the year. I’d put October in the period of the harvest. So, at this moment we’re nearing the end of the harvest with Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo for Barbaresco. The days go by quickly, and sometimes we end up staying in the cellar until late in the evening, too, to press the grapes we gathered during the day; you could say we don’t have real work hours. Monday is the same as Sunday. You know when you have to start work in the morning, but not when you’ll finish.
Who do you work with every day; who is part of the Manera Winery team?
I have the good fortune of working with my family. There are four of us between the ages of 28 and 32, and three oldtimers between 65 and 70. It’s a good mix between innovation and tradition. We’re never short on discussion...and sometimes controversy!
What do you like best about your work? And least?
What I like best about my work is the satisfaction of seeing all of my efforts of the past year transformed into wine; and knowing that already, even before factoring in the good and the bad of the vintage. What I like least about my work is that the high quality of wine is not always rewarded. Small producers have more difficulty emerging on the market at the expense of the big producers.
Think back to October 2014. What is different about this year?
The first thing that comes to my mind is that the harvest period last year was late compared to this year’s by about 7-10 days. That means working more must in the cellars at once. Last year at the beginning of this month, we had Barbera fermenting but were still waiting to harvest Nebbiolo. And in between that was the enormous expenditure of energy that comes with the Truffle Fair. But this year, Barbera was done fermenting earlier, and so were the various harvests for Nebbiolo. So that meant a lot less chaos in the cellar.
What is the most challenging part of your work this month?
The most challenging part is definitely managing the cellar. If you make a mistake here, all your work from the past year is wasted. It takes a year to produce good, healthy grapes but just a moment to damage the wine. We follow the vinification in the cellar very closely and meticulously.
And finally…tell me a little bit about life outside of the winery! What do you enjoy doing when not working with wine?
With a family-run winery, you carry it with you always. Even during your free time, you always have a running stream of thought about what you could be doing and how you can improve. I’ve developed a great passion alongside my work, and that's wine tasting. I’ve taken various tasting courses, and I like to try and discover new things. But like any other person, I have different hobbies. Like a true Italian, I love soccer, and when I can I go to the stadium to support my favorite team, or otherwise watch it on TV. I like traveling and meeting new people; I always try to carve out a month of time each year to “escape” from the winery.
Last but not least: going around on my moto, which is the best way to enjoy the roads and landscape of the Langhe.
Blogging Piemonte group
About every month, the Blogging Piemonte group will meet to talk and decide on a topic we’ll all write about, from food and drink to travel and life in Piemonte. Follow along with the hashtag #BlogPiemonte!
Read up on what the others have to say about A Day in the Life in Piemonte (check back as it's updated!):
Snaps from the World of Wine in Piemonte, by Uncorkventional
Where is a Line not a Line? In Italy, on Once Upon a Time in Italy
Sloooooow down, by Wine & Truffles
A Morning at the Markets, by Turin Mamma
Why I'm Always SO Tired (my life in 8 minutes), by A Texas Mom in Torino
Are you a blogger who lives in Piemonte and writes in English?
We'd love to have you join Blogging Piemonte! Just send me an email at diana.zahuranec [at] winepassitaly.it.
It doesn't matter if you also blog in another language, as long as you post the Blogging Piemonte articles in English.
I love Piemonte’s food and wine, the city of Turin, and my proximity to the Alps! My goal and challenge is to see as much of the region as possible using public transportation, but if you have a car I’d appreciate the ride. My intro to wine was at the Univ. of Gastronomic Sciences, and I love visiting family wineries, plus discovering Piemonte's craft beer scene. I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite wine, but Nebbiolo never disappoints (from Barbaresco to Ghemme). As for beer, the Birrificio San Michele makes an incredible beechwood smoked brew.