The Sangiovese harvest has begun in Montalcino: This weekend, Fattoria dei Barbi owner and winemaker Stefano Cinelli Colombini will be hosting tastings of the newly pressed wines and guests will experience the “Birth of a Brunello” (see link above for details).
This weekend, Stefano and his cellar team will be “racking” the new wine for the first time. The term racking refers to the transfer of the wine from one tank or cask to another tank or cask.
Racking is something that will happen a number of times over the course of the wine’s evolution. The initial fermentation — alcoholic fermentation — is usually conducted in stainless-steel tanks. Once fermentation is complete, the wine will be racked to another tank for malolactic fermentation (whereby malic acid is transformed into lactic acid). The wine might remain in a stainless-steel tank for short-term aging. And then in the case of Brunello, where cask aging is required, it will be racked to large oak barrels where it will age until bottling.
But no racking is more important than the very first racking when the winemaker has the first opportunity to taste the results of a year’s work in the vineyard. It’s an extremely exciting and compelling moment for everyone involved, from the vineyard workers who tend to the vines throughout the vegetative process to the enologist and cellar team who assist Stefano. No lab analysis can compare to that first taste of the new wine.
It’s a magical moment when Brunello is born, the first taste of one of the world’s most long-lived wines.