Yesterday, I was in Rome, teaching story basics to first-year script writing students at the national film school at Cinecitta`, home of the great Fellini, Rossellini and others. Today I am back in Tuscany among my vines happily wondering if I should have been a little more careful in what I wished for.
I have spent the last 3 years since purchasing the property, returning the vineyard to as much health as possible: raising the fallen vines and repairing the trellises, pruning for vigorous growth and the reestablishment of healthy roots and trunks, leadering (rooting sections of long vine trailers in the ground) to create new vines in the gaps left by the dead , keeping the brucchi (grapevine caterpillars) at bay, and training the vines as much as possible toward the time I could at last make wine from their grapes. Well, the vines are TOO HEALTHY! I now need to stop saving the vines and pruning for health and need to now prune for healthy grape clusters. There are too many stems, too many leaves, and actually, too many grape clusters. All this, with the Napa Valley sort of fogs we have on mornings like this one, will lead to the dreaded oidio (mold) that is the bane of sangiovese's existence.
Sangiovese, the primary grape of Brunello and of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and of Morrelino di Scansano and of Chianti, already comes with a characteristic handicap -- tightly packed clusters -- so they need a lot of air circulation. That is what I'll spend the next few days providing by removing all branches that do not have clusters on them and all lower leaves that are damaged by brucchi or touching the new clusters. This is mainly a pinch and a flick of finger and thumb, but it is repetitive and time consuming work. Later, as the clusters grow, I will thin them so no two touch each other and make sure they hang correctly.