A trip to Dievole

An extremely interesting and relaxed chat at Dievole with the technical staff: Alberto Antonini (consulting oenologist), Giovanni Alberio (on-premise oenologist) and Lorenzo Bernini (agronomist).

“At the beginning of 2012, when I first started consulting at Dievole,” Alberto Antonini tells us. “there was a lot to do”. The change in just three years is amazing and in the following we will try and explain why.

A brief history
In 2012, Alejandro Bulgheroni, an Argentinian entrepreneur, decided to invest in Tuscany, more specifically in Dievole. He has an extensive background in agriculture and the energy sector. Over the past 50 years, he has developed significant enterprises in the agricultural industry, guided by the principles of environmental preservation, investment in people and job development, blending innovation and tradition, and the creation of healthy, high quality products.
Therefore, a dynamic team with a new philosophy in the vineyards and in the cellar was brought to manage the production of Dievole, a private estate that dates back to 1090, under the supervision of the winemaker Alberto Antonini.
The wines of Dievole, have always been well known and appreciated throughout the centuries.
The main changes took place when an important family from Siena, the Malavolti, bought the property in 1540 and kept it till 1870. The Malavolti family gave Dievole the appearance it has maintained till today. After, several families owned Dievole for the following 100 years and the last, before the present ownership, was a Swiss family who built a new cellar, renovated the vineyards and restored the villa and the houses on the estate.

The technical team
Alberto Antonini, who has a longstanding experience in Italy and throughout the world, is the consulting oenologist. Alberto has also consulted for estates part of the Marc de Grazia Selections portfolio and has known Marco and Sebastian de Grazia for many years.
Giovanni Alberio is the on-premise oenologist. He studied oenology at the University of Milan and has worked in Australia, California, New Zealand and in other countries.
Lorenzo Bernini is the on-premise agronomist. Lorenzo has an extensive experience in the Chianti Classico area and has also worked for estates part of the Marc de Grazia Selections portfolio. Furthermore, Lorenzo has been working with Sangiovese clones selected in the Chianti Classico area since 1992. He wrote his thesis on the results of an experimental project (the first on this subject at the time) on the comparison between Sangiovese clones.
It is an extremely dedicated, enthusiastic and technically knowledgeable team!

The zone
Dievole lies in the heart of the Chianti Classico, in Vagliagli, 12 kilometres north of Siena. This area is particularly suitable for viticulture due to its microclimate and soils that confer minerality and flavours to the wines. The soils are the classical ones of the Chianti Classico, they are calcareous (which is very important for the quality of the wines), marly, sandy and clayey depending on the plot. This mix of different elements contributes to make wine with lots of varying characters that combine to create great possibilities for complexity at Dievole Chianti Classico. There is extensive woodland among the vineyards ensuring biodiversity of insects and of plants. The altitude varies from 300 to 450 meters above sea level.

The vineyards

1. Some info
The total vineyard surface is 80 hectares, divided into 16 plots.
80% of the vineyards are planted with Sangiovese, the other grape varieties are the indigenous ones of Tuscany, such as Canaiolo, Colorino and Ciliegiolo. The vineyard density is 5,000-6,000 vines/hectares. The age of the vines varies from 8 up to 50 years in some vineyards.

2. What has changed in the vineyards
Viticulture is now strictly organic with great attention to the soil and to the vines. The vineyards are in the second year of conversion to be certified organic. The definite certification will probably take place starting from the 2017 harvest. The certification procedures are followed by ICEA, an Italian certification body.
The first step was to regenerate the structure and the microbiology of the soil. The vineyards were tilled along the rows of vines so to cut the superficial roots and make the root system develop deep into the ground. Cover crops were planted on the aisles, in particular leguminous plants and plants of the Mustard family. These plants greatly favour the soil microbiology due to the symbiosis of micro-organisms with their root system. This mix of vegetation will eventually regenerate itself. Although the soil will still need some time, a concrete change and improvement can already be seen: there is life in the soil now, the earth is soft and can be easily crumbled (we experienced this ourselves!).
The training system of all the vineyards was cordon spur. In the new vineyards it is guyot and, where it is possible, cordon spur is being changed over to guyot. Guyot is much more suitable for Sangiovese as the layout of the clusters is better, favouring aeration and consequently protecting the vines against pests and disease. The canopy management is easier and the grape yield throughout the vintages is more even in guyot trained vines in comparison to cordon spur trained vines.
“The vines only need good ventilation and good natural nutrition, the plants can defend themselves” says Lorenzo Bernini. In fact only copper and sulphur base products are used, weed killers and fertilizers have been banned.
A future project is also to go back to the “multi-variety” vineyards according to the old “recipe” of the Chianti Classico, which is to mainly have Sangiovese vines with a small percentage of Canaiolo and of Colorino. The advantages of having these varieties in the blend of Chianti Classico is that the tannins of Canaiolo are very silky and supple and that Colorino gives an additional touch of colour and of fruitiness to the wines.
The clones are all selected in the Chianti Classico. “The ideal would be to be able to have clones from a selection massale of very old vineyards of the estate….Alberto Antonini tells us (selection massale is the French term for selecting the best vines in a vineyard and propagating them through cuttings).

The cellar:  what has changed.
In recent decades Tuscan winemaking has tended to adopt the practices of Bordeaux. This explains the influx of varietals from that region. This trend is over at Dievole, and it involves much more than returning to autochthonous varietals. It is what Alberto Antonini refers to as “Bordon’ts”: over maturation of the grapes, over extraction, and over oaking are to be avoided. Viticulture and winemaking must be focused on the perfection of Chianti Classico, its terrains and varietals. This is how it is at Dievole!
Today only indigenous yeasts are responsible for the alcoholic fermentation which takes place in truncated conical vats of Slavonian oak (capacity 80 hectolitres). Barriques were replaced by large non-toasted French oak casks (capacity 40/43 hectolitres). This choice was made in order to preserve the typicality of this extraordinary terroir and is in the tradition of Chianti Classico. With these vats there is less contact between the wood and the wine, slowing micro-oxygenation and divulging less wood flavours (this applies in particular to the non-toasted oak used at Dievole). The wood ages more slowly and remains vital for a longer time. Also, racking is less frequent (in comparison to barriques that have a much lower capacity) so that oxidation of the wine is much better controlled. Only hot water is used to clean the cellar, the vats and the casks --no detergents or chemical agents-- and a tiny quantity of SO2 is used in the wines. “The wine practically makes itself!”  Giovanni  Alberio tells us.

The philosophy
The objective is to enhance the unique characteristics of the territory by producing a “true” Chianti Classico.
The key word of the new ownership is “respect”. Respect for the 900 years of Dievole, respect for the territory and respect for the men and women who have been working the land of Dievole for generations.
The mission of Dievole today is to interpret the territory and to bring it into a glass of wine.

Chianti Classico: harvest, vinification and ageing
The harvest is strictly manual in baskets and in boxes. In 2013 it took place at the beginning of October. The clusters are carefully selected in the vineyard then destemmed and soft-crushed. Spontaneous alcoholic fermentation takes place in the Slavonian oak truncated conical vats. This natural fermentation and maceration with the skins lasts for 13-14 days with temperature control (28 degrees Celsius in “easy” vintages and 26 degrees Celsius when the vintages are more “difficult”), during this phase the must is delicately pumped over. The wine is then racked off into the large oak casks where a natural malolactic fermentation takes place. At the end of malolactic the wine is separated from the lees and it is racked back into the same cask where it rests for 14-16 months. Finishing in the bottle for at least three months. The wine from each vineyard is vinified and matured separately.

Chianti Classico 2013
The 2013 vintage was good. The springtime was cool and quite rainy. The end of the summer was warm and sunny with a wide day-night temperature range. The grapes ripened well and the grape yield was good.
The characteristics of the soil and of the terroir are evident in this elegant Chianti Classico: it is vibrant, with an excellent acidity which is perfectly balanced with the tannins, it is mineral, sapid and with fruity and floral notes that are typical of Sangiovese. The tannins are “alive”, tightly knit and silky. It is an extremely pleasant wine to drink.

Suggested food matches
This wine is naturally a perfect match with Tuscan dishes, but it is also very versatile, so that it can be successfully matched with a large range of recipes of the international cuisine.

Serving Temperature: 18°C

Production of the Chianti Classico 2013: 80,000 bottles (but the number of bottles will increase).

The Agriturismo
A luxury resort has been open at Dievole for many years. At present restructuring works are under way. There is an excellent restaurant and wine tastings in the cellar are organized.