Drip. Drip. Drip.
The first few beads of rain trickle down the windowpane next to me as we make our way to the La Buccia Nera Winery. The ride up is a scenic beauty—the lush green of the thick forest coupled with gloomy skies accentuating the fog cast over the distant mountains paints a more breathtaking landscape the higher we twist up the hill, and I can’t take my eyes off the view.
Once we reach the winery at the top, we are welcomed by one of the owners of the winery and, to wait out the rain, are taken into the cellar, where all the wine is undergoing fermentation in huge stainless steel vats. Although the first bottle of Buccia Nera was sold just ten years ago, the production of wine at this location dates back to 1926, so the company and its vintners are quite experienced in oenology. Our guide narrates to us the meticulous winemaking process in great detail—from the picking of the grapes to the bottling of the wine…every single detail and measurement has to be precise for the wine to be ideal, and much more chemistry is involved in the process than I had initially thought. For example:
- The right amount of yeast has to be added for some oxygenation of the wine, but too much will cause the wine to go bad.
- Too much sugar produced by the grapes can inhibit the yeast from producing alcohol.
- Leaving the wine at too low of a temperature will impede all the sugars from converting into alcohol, but having too high of a temperature can cause unwanted microorganisms to grow in the wine (yuck).
It amazes me how much time and effort it takes just to please the taste buds!
Once the rain lets up, we are led out to the acres and acres of the vineyard just in front of the winery, where the tiniest bunches of grapes are just starting to peep out on the plants. Our guide goes through the growing process with us and emphasizes the organic nature of this certain winery, which to me is a comfort knowing that I’m drinking pure wine and no artificial pesticides and chemicals. And again, growing grapes for wine is a precise concept. Soil content and conditions must be specific for the right grapes to grow properly. Different grapes are harvested for different wines, and the sweetness of the wine depends on how long the grapes are left on the vine. So, again, I’m left amazed at the amount of planning and devotion that is put into what is one of the biggest aspects of Italian culture.
Finally comes the long-awaited part of the trip: the winetasting. We’re given four glasses of four different wines each. The first, Donna Patrizia, a 13% alcohol white wine, is made with three different types of grapes and has a 3-month aging period. Just from the wine’s scent, I can already tell that the alcohol will sting my senses, but tasting the contents of my glass reveals that there is also a fruity tang to the wine. The red Syrah, produced from grapes of the same name, has a 12.5% alcohol content and ages in the bottle for 12 months before it is sold. This one, instead of having a sweet complexion, has both a peppery scent and taste. In my opinion, the spice is too strong and throws off my senses. Sassocupo (Chianti) is a red wine that is older and has a duller red and higher alcoholic content than the prior. This one is my favorite; the subtle spiciness coupled with dark berries that gradually rolls down my tongue and the muted alcoholic tinge that follows create a warm sensation in my mouth. The last, Vin Santo, is a dessert wine and the most alcoholic of the four. The warm amber color of the liquid immediately tells me that the wine is produced from very mature grapes and will be very sweet, and I’m right…in fact, it is too sweet, and I’m reminded of syrup that I generously dribble onto my pancakes for breakfast—simply drinking it is overwhelming and practically disgusting.
With each new wine, and paired with different foods, I’m starting to more easily recognize different hints of flavors that are unique to each, and the taste becomes much more pleasant once I can pick these up. All in all, I enjoyed this new experience. Getting to learn about the winemaking process in detail gives me more of an appreciation for the taste, and I’m getting better at not wincing every time the alcohol hits me.