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…spontaneously fermenting

Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part IX – "Time to Press!"

Here you will find a transcript from my phone call to Jørgen in Italy (the leader of this project). I apologize in advance for this really looking like an exact transcript of our conversation (warning, this post gets a bit technical):

Igino Garberoglio next to the press

Igino Garberoglio next to the press

Friday & Saturday, November 13th & 14th 2009

“Analysis was done to check if fermentation was complete. Checked the skins. Not much flavor left nor color, so we decided to press and remove the good wine and free run juice. Only the free run juice will become the wine in our bottle. The last 150 liters from each tank will not be used nor will the wine from the press be used, approx 500 liters. The skin was quite dry after the free run juice was removed. The free run juice was placed in one cement tank of 4000 liters (this decision was made after speaking with natural and non natural wine producers). No pump-overs nor “racking” since the very beginning (except removing the free run juice). No “botti grandi” will be used because the tannins are very mature, not aggressive AND THEREFORE WE DON’T WANT TO EXPOSE THE WINE TO ANY UN-NECESSARY AIR. Because of good grape maturation, the tannins are sweet and good.”


“The alcoholic fermentation is not totally complete yet, about 4 grams of sugar left and the wine is still fermenting . The lactic acid is at zero (the Malo is at 1.46, THIS IS QUITE LOW), so the malolactic conversion has not yet begun. The VA (Volatile Acidity) is at 0.26 which is very low and good.”

“The natural sulfur from the fermentation was analyzed (the analysis was done by hand in the lab to be totally accurate). If sulfur had been added during the wine-making process, you would be able to check this by machine, but since we didn’t add any, it must be analyzed by hand. The result was 26mg per liter where 12mg is free SO2”

“The wine has a very high extraction equal to 30.97 grams per liter. A good Barolo, for example, would be between 29-33 grams per liter. Remember that this wine will be bottled as a Vino da Tavola, not a Barolo!  Jørgen also visited Mr. Aldo Vajra (of Azienda Agricola G.D Vajra).  Aldo Vajra used to be a teacher at La Scuola di Enologia in Alba (The School of Enology in Alba, Italy). The analysis was brought to him because the PH and the total acidity levels were a bit low (PH 337 and total acidity is 6.3). Aldo explained that these readings were because of the very high measures of potassium (a salt, which lowers the total acidity level). When the cellar gets cold, the potassium with the tartaric acid form crystals which will fall to the bottom of the tank. When this happens, the acidity level will rise again as the level of potassium decreases. Since this is our first wine, we are analyzing more often then we will when we make wine next year. We are nervous about our first baby! Aldo also said “Sei appostissimo! Non ti preoccupare!” – translated means “Things are perfect!  Don’t worry!”

Irma Garberoglio tasting our wine

Irma Garberoglio tasting our wine

Tasting (drinking) of the wine: “it’s balanced and leaves the mouth very clean and fresh. High and mature tannins. A liter of wine was consumed this evening by Jørgen and the “Carussin” family  and the wine was fantastic!! The “Carussin” family were surprised that the wine was so clean. Even the color was deeper than expected.”

“The plan now is to (the tank is closed and still fermenting)  leave the wine alone until the malo acid converts over to lactic acid which could happen this week or in early spring as the air warms a bit.”

We have decided to bottle the wine (hopefully next year) using the same system as used for Moscato d’asti so as not to expose the wine to any air when bottling.”

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte

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Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VIII – "All Well!"

Here’s an update from Jørgen regarding our wine:


Sig. Felice

The “Felice” Nebbiolo wine is fermenting perfectly now.   As of today, it’s been macerating on the skins for 3 weeks.  Only one day with (3) pump-over’s.  With 2 pump-overs the next day, and two more the following day… that’s it for the pump-overs.

Then Wednesday of last week (14th of October), the cap was pushed down.  Wooden  4×4 planks were carefully placed on top of the cap, pushing it down a few centimeters, then the must was topped off.  This technique helps the cap stay below the surface to avoid unwanted (volatile) aromas.  The wooden planks were of a special type of wood found in the local river.  This type of wood is not normally found in the area, and is important to mention that it’s neutral and adds no flavors to the wine. The planks were wet with the wine and dried before use.

Felice Vines

Felice Vines

We’re still waiting for malolactic to start and since we didn’t add anything (no sulfur nor selected yeast), it should begin more easily on it’s own. If it doesn’t start now on it’s own, it will start in the springtime. Potential alcohol at this point is around 13.7%  (this is considered low in the area  compared to the other Nebbiolo’s  in the 2009 harvest).   Jørgen visited two other producers and tasted their fermenting Nebbiolo’s. Our Nebbiolo was the most fruity and expressive according to him 🙂

Everyday approximately 10 litters has to be added to the must and topped-up because of the CO2 compacting the cap. The small cement tank has been “svinato”, pressed and the wine from this tank (the same wine of-course) is now being used to refill the to big cement tanks.  Now it’s only the two big cement tanks. Igino Garberoglio is checking on the wine 3 times a day.


Jørgen Ljøstad

Jørgen is overseeing our project since he now lives in Italy. Born in Norway in 1974, Jørgen Ljøstad in my opinion is one of the greatest palates Norway has today.  His interest in wine blossomed while working at the Michelin-starred Bagatelle in Oslo, Norway from 1997-2000.  He studied for and passed his Sommelier exam in 2003 (which, believe me,  is quite difficult in Norway).   He then worked for 22 months in a well-known cellar in Barbaresco.   When Jørgen came back to Norway, he landed a job with a well-established importer, Moestue Grape Selectons where he remained for a year and half until the Wine Monopoly head-hunted him. He went to work for the Wine Monopoly where he was the Portfolio Developer responsible for all wines from Italy, Portugal and Spain.  In 2007 Jørgen left the Monopoly to co-found the Norwegian-based import company Non Dos AS.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VII – Basarin Harvest


The very steep Basarin vineyard

Monday October 5th, abortion 2009

Today we woke up around 7:30 to harvest the last of the two vineyards, doctor the Basarin.  The Basarin vineyard is located in Neive, (Barbaresco commune) and is owned by Vittorio and Marco Adriano of the Azienda Agricola Adriano.  The vineyard  is quite steep at 40% and is facing South East.  In total we harvested 2863 kilos of grapes from this vineyard which took us around 3.5 hours.


2009-10-05_20812009-10-05_2082Compared to the Felice vineyard, it was easier to harvest because the grapes were more easily accessible on the vines and there was a little less selecting necessary because overall, they were healthier than the Felice grapes. The Nebbiolo vines in this vineyard are actually clippings from the Felice vineyard and were planted here in around 1993 (compared to 1971 for the Felice). Due to the difference in location and soil and overall “terroir”, we found the grapes from Basarin to be more structured, with more tannins and acidity than the Felice grapes which were more feminine and elegant.



77 Year-old Sig. Adriano helping with the harvest


Frederik Kolderup doing his part

As soon as the fermentation really begins and the alcohol starts to go up a bit, we will pump over (gently) and blend so that the two vineyards are fermented together. In our opinion they will better integrate if they are blending during fermentation rather than blending post fermentation. The idea here is to get the elegance and femininity from Felice and structure and tannins from Basarin. So far we are very pleased with the fact that we’ve had spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfur!

After our lunch break, we put the grapes into the destemer and pumped the grapes into our second cement container of 25 hl. Before doing this, we added about 500 liters of fermenting must from Felice as a starter. The 25hl tank quickly filled up so we pumped the rest of the grapes into a 750 liter open top plastic container, exactly like the one Frank Cornelissen uses in Mount Etna.  To this plastic container we also added about 50 liters of the fermenting Felice vineyard juice.

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container

Basarin grapes pumped into 7000 liter plastic container


Fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice


Jørgen tasting the fermenting Felice Nebbiolo juice

We also took the opportunity to taste the juice from the first cement tank containing the Felice grapes… Very good indeed! Hints of alcohol starting to show (most likely only 1% at this point). It was super sweet and even had some mild tannins already.

Harvesting Nebbiolo in Basarin Vineyard in Barbaresco from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part VI

Sunday October 4th, 2009

Sunday was another quiet day – Cleaned the destemmer and prepared for tomorrow’s second harvest.


2009-10-04_02009548Lunch at Carussin where we drank another wine made by Igino Garberoglio– a 1985 Barbera d’Asti bottled the year that his grandson Luca was born. If you are following these latest posts, you know that the wines of Igino are not labeled, but this was a special label he made for this bottle.  Most likely not stored in the best of conditions since it was in the dining area of the Carussin  house. This being said, it was still quite fresh,  acidic and full of life with slight oxidative notes – very drinkable indeed.

2009-10-04_02009553We also had the chance to taste a spontaneously fermented Moscato d’Asti from 1984 made by Bruna’s uncle Carlo. Bottled in the then typical 720ml bottle (compared to today’s 750ml wine bottle). Smelled of steel, oxidized honey and hints of caramelized lemon peel. Similar flavors were found on the mouth with still a slight sparkle left. A bit over the top, but interesting to taste none the less. This was stored in the Carussin cellar.

After lunch went back to check on our freshly fermenting wine and moistened the cap – the “protective” layer of grape skins that forms on top of the grape juice. As the juice begins to ferment, it expands and the cement tank which was about 80% to the top has now risen to about 95-98% full. As wine ferments, carbon dioxide is released.  To confirm the wine has begun fermenting in the early stages, one can light a candle or match and bring it down towards the fermenting grapes and it will burn out due to the lack of oxygen. Once the wine really begins to ferment there is no mistaking as the bubbling sound will be quite loud!


Igino pushing down the cap a bit to keep it moist

After moistening the cap, Igino pulled out another of his wines – a Brachetto vinfied dry and without bubbles!  Normally a Brachetto is a sweet sparkling wine that has about 5-6% alcohol by volume and is very enjoyable with fresh strawberries. This version was completely dry and had no bubbles. Very interesting indeed with the typical Brachetto aromas of wild strawberries and Campari but very dry and around 12% alcohol.

Igino's wonderful spontaneously fermented wines - dry Brachetto on the right

Igino's wonderful spontaneously fermented wines - dry Brachetto on the right

We then headed back over to Carussin’s and cleaned the containers for the harvest of Basarin tomorrow morning.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part V – Fermentation!

Fredrik, AKA "Frisbee" checking out the freshly fermenting Nebbiolo must!

Fredrik, AKA "Frisbee" checking out the freshly fermenting Nebbiolo must!

Saturday October 3rd, 2009

  • Fermentation begins spontaneously after 24 hours!
  • No added yeasts!
  • No added sulfur!

Yeeehaaa! It couldn’t have been easier than simply sourcing healthy grapes that have been grown in an organic manner, hand harvested/selected and crushed. The rest we left up to mother nature! Simple! Pump up the volume and click the “Fermenting Nebbiolo Sounds”  below and hear for yourself!

Fermenting Nebbiolo Sounds


Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part IV


Friday October 3rd, 2009

Signage on dirt road on the way to vineyard

Signage on dirt road on the way to vineyard

Felice Grasso greeting us after harvest

Felice Grasso greeting us after harvest and looking proud

Today we’re on our way to harvest the Felice vineyard in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio (Barbaresco commune), owned by Felice Grasso. Our part of the vineyard was the part that was higher up. We were to harvest approximately 0.7ha.

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day. Fortunately we had the help of about 4 others, so in total we were 7 people up until lunch time. The grapes were beautiful and extremely healthy. There was barely any rot, 2009-10-02_1981I would say less than 0.5% (perhaps even less). The grapes were juicy, balanced and extremely healthy. Jørgen, one of the leaders of this wine making project, had harvested this vineyard before, but it had been around 10 years ago. In his opinion, it was one of the finest vineyards in the Barbaresco area producing extremely elegant wines.

2009-10-02_1980During the days leading up to the harvest and including the day of the harvest, Jørgen had made numerous phone calls to other wine makers to pose the sulfur question.  They pretty much all had the same thing to say: you should use some sulfur at the very beginning to help the fermentation begin in a healthy way. However, we really wanted to make this wine without the use of any sulfur at all, so during lunch we decided that because the grapes were so healthy, we would take the risk and let the grapes begin fermentation spontaneously without the addition of sulfur or yeast.


After lunch, we headed back to the vineyard to finish the harvest. We finished at around 18:00, carefully piled the containers in the truck and headed to the scales to weight the grapes. We had harvested approximately 3600 kilos of healthy grapes from the 0.7ha vineyard. This would give us about 2800 bottles of wine from this vineyard alone. We then drove the grapes back to the winery where we would make this wine. Since the winery was not in the Barbaresco commune (it was in the Asti commune) we could not label this wine as a Barbaresco DOCG. In fact, this wine is going to be a VdT (Vino da Tavola). On a Vdt wine label you are not allowed to put the name of the grape or the vintage.

2009-10-02_20312009-10-02_2054Once back at the winery we started to dump the containers into the small destemer. This machine removes the grapes from the stems and “crushes” them lightly. The grape must was then pumped down a tube into one of the cement containers. We filled the 30hl container and part of a 7hl with this harvest. The must was beautiful and sweet. We partly filled a wine bottle with the must to be analyzed the next morning for the potential alcohol. Now all there is left to do is to wait for the grapes to spontaneously ferment which should happen tomorrow or the next day.

Harvesting Nebbiolo in Felice Vineyard in Barbaresco from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part III


Thursday October 2nd, capsule 2009

I want to apologize for the amount of time it has taken me to post part III of this story. We have major difficulties connecting to a wireless service. But alas, cialis here is Part III. There will be more parts to this story, dosage so be patient as I will post them as soon as possible!


We started the day around 10:00 by cleaning three cement (30hl, 25hl & 7hl) tanks located in a wine cellar dating to around 1880.  We used a high powered water hose to rinse them and a brush to get them really clean.



Igino's 2007 Skin macerated Favorita

After completing the cleaning of the tanks, we sat down for a small break with Igino and he poured his 2007 Favoirta for us to taste. This was a white wine with about 15 days of skin contact so it was orange in color. It sparkled as he poured it into our glass. The wine was not so aromatic on the nose, perhaps it was the glass we used. But on the palate, the wine had  great depth, a medium tannic structure, a slight sparkle and an alcohol in the area of about 14%. The wine was bone dry and really long and quite interesting. He only made 60 bottles. My favorite of his wines so far.


Jørgen unloading the plastic containers

After lunch, we took 160 plastic containers (with a capacity of 23 kilos each) and dropped them off at the “Felice” vineyard so that we would have them ready for our harvest tomorrow. The vineyard is in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio, Barbaresco and is perched up a small hill behind the house of Felice Grasso, the vineyard owner.  It was planted in 1971 when he got married. The vineyards are cared for organically.  A small amount of copper and sulfur (the Bordeaux mix) was applied three times throughout the year. Last time was over two months ago  (by law in Italy you cannot pass through the vineyard with the Bordeaux mix  within 28 days of harvest). We tasted the (free of pesticide) Nebbiolo grapes and they were excellent. Sweet, acidic and tannic. Ready to go!

That evening we had a big family dinner with everybody since Igino’s wife Irma was celebrating her 73rd birthday!

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte

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Natural Wine Making in Piemonte Part II

Wednesday October 1st, 2009

So we landed at Linate Airport (Milano) at around 11:46 this morning, and Jørgen was outside waiting for us in the rented FIAT 16. It was 26°C  degrees and sunny; a welcome change from the 8°C degrees and rain in Bergen.

Asinoi.jpgOur first stop was at Ca’ d Carussin in Asti. Just to refresh your memory, they are the ones who produce the wonderful Barbera d’ Asti Asinoi and Barbera d’ Asti Lia Vi.  Their total production is around 90,000 bottles, 100% Biodynamic, and everything including their Moscato d’ Asti is spontaneously fermented using indigenous yeasts. The only fermentation/storage containers to be seen were made of cement, steel or fiberglass.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the entire Ca d’ Carussin family – Luigi (Garberoglio) and Bruna Ferro and their grown children Luca and Matteo, who were busy in the “cantina” working on the vintage (the harvest) which had just been completed that day.  We chatted with them for a few hours, sipped on coffee made with a very old stove-top Moka while cats, dogs, birds a mouse and of course donkeys (jackasses) wandered around the premises. In fact, Bruna is very affectionate of her animals, especially her jackasses (“asini” in Italian) and went on to explain to me that they are misunderstood creatures. She told me that although we consider them to be “dumb” or simple creatures, they are in fact quite smart and complex creatures who have a knack for sensing danger and won’t do anything  they don’t understand. Hence the name of this wine, Asinoi. A play with words which means “we are jackasses”. Also signifying that the wine is simple, yet complex. Not unlike the jackass.

We then headed over to Luigi Garberoglio parents “country” house and “winery” where we were greeted by Igino Garberoglio, Luigi’s father. We found Igino in his miniature wine-cellar making his own wine. The 75 year-old Igino makes about 200 bottles of wine in a most natural way. He farms organically and uses only a teaspoon of sulfur during the process. He proclaims that he makes “real wine” like he was taught as a youngster. He then bottles without filtration of course and forget about the labels – he has none. He makes this wine for himself and some close friends.

2009-09-30_92009503We had a small two-minute tour of his “winery” and then sat down in the kitchen. He ran back to the cellar and came back with a few bottles of the wine he calls “Borgogno”. He was uncertain of the grape variety, even after analysis. He however was quite certain that it was at least partly Pinot Nero but displaying some aromatics which made him uncertain  – we agreed with his assessment.  He poured the wine and it had a slight sparkle. That quickly burnt off. This was a serious wine with quite complex aromas, good structure and concentration with a long fresh finish. We sipped this wine from traditional wine glasses as we snacked on fresh bread baked in a wood-burning stove with young, un-seasoned salami. It was wonderful.  And so our natural wine making experience has begun!

Now we are heading back to Luigi and Bruna’s house for a nice dinner! I have a feeling tomorrow will be a much harder day then today….


Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte


Natural Wine Making in Piemonte

Tomorrow I begin my adventure in natural wine making as I head to Piemonte to help make a wine from the noble Nebbiolo grape. Our flight leaves Oslo at a (way too early) 6:30 in the morning through Stockholm then on to Linate (Milano).  Our first stop when we finally arrive in Piemonte Wednesday afternoon will be of course to drop off our bags, then immediately out to the vineyards to taste the grapes. We need to see how they are doing!

On Thursday morning, October 1st we will be up at 4:00 in the morning (again!) to prepare the area of vinification by building a temporary roof (picture a tent if you will) and we will clean and prepare the tanks which at this point I have to assume are made of cement or steel (I will fill you in on the details once I know).  We will be harvesting and selecting the grapes  by hand  from two single-vineyards: “Felice” in Neive (harvesting to begin Friday the 2nd of October) &  “Basarin”  in Barbaresco (Friday the 9th of October).  We will crush and the fermentation will occur spontaneously.  We will do all of this and eventually bottle this wine without (hopefully) the use of sulfur.

I don’t know any other details other than the ones I have shared here. I am not the one who has organized this process, but have been fortunate enough to have been included in it. I hope to be able to update everyone on a daily basis with my natural wine-making process, but I can only assume that the farm we will be staying at will not have internet, and therefore my daily progress may have to be posted after the fact, which I intend to do, photo’s included!

Please check back here as I will try and post here as soon as technologically possible!

In the meantime, enjoy some photo’s of the “Felice” vineyard in Neive:


Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), Natural Wine Making in Piemonte