Up until 1987, before I acquired the Ca’ della Vallade vineyard, the idea of “terroir” for me remained a seductive yet rather vague term. Before that time, I had only worked with grapes from the south-west sector of the hills which run from the Colle di San Giorgio at Brazzano to Monte Quarin near Cormòns. I remember my apprehension when I was hoping for good news about my investment and began to get a close look at the new wines. What a let-down! For sure, in one vat I had some excellent Chardonnay, but the Verduzzo refused to mature, and as for the Tocai…it was so rough that I wouldn’t even have considered bottling it. And again, the Cabernet Franc, harsh and herbaceous. And yet the Chardonnay was better than the one I produced in Brazzano.
The following year I pruned back harder, and did some work on the land. I fermented the Chardonnay in two new barrels; it came out well while the others did not. So, the following April, when a neighbour with three hectares of land bordering on our own put it up for sale, I bought it, but not before having ripped out the Tocai, Verduzzo and Cabernet vines from the patch I had bought before. And the Chardonnay I obtained from here was even better than the first. This is easy to explain; the vines interact with their surroundings. The Collio hills are made up of overlapping strata of marl and sandstone which were laid down in a shallow sea where underground currents caused different sediments to be laid down; this gives rise to a variety of soils with different characteristics which can change over a distance of only a few metres. This vine is grown in colder and warmer climates than our own; in the Collio, we have a temperate microclimate where the south and south-west slopes which look out towards the Adriatic just a few miles away are warmer than the south-east and east-facing slopes, and much more so than the north-east slopes which face the mountains and which are lashed by the Bora, a chilly easterly wind.
In colder zones, just as in the warmer ones, the vines are grown traditionally only on the most suitable slopes, those where they can be productive. Here, the vines will live and produce on all of the slopes, but make great wine only in certain precise places. The Chardonnay likes a cooler climate and comes out more salty and aromatic. So, I decided to specialize in Chardonnay in that vineyard, simply because it was the one which came out best from there. We do a separate batch of wine for each separate patch of vines and the wines we obtain show marked differences due to a range of different factors: age, position, the way they are trained and their genetics. By exploiting this knowledge, we are constantly bringing on and improving our vineyards.
The Chardonnay comes from vines of different ages in Ca’ delle Vallade, where the microclimate permits a later harvest, taking advantage of the lower temperatures, and from the south-west slopes of Monte Quarin where the harvest starts some days before, but where the soil is still very similar to that in Vallade. The grapes are harvested by hand and are carefully checked in order to eliminate any which are possibly mouldy or damaged. The bunches are laid in small plastic crates in order that they arrive perfectly intact in the cellar. The bases of the crates must be perfectly dry. Grape batches from different fields are processed separately and notes are kept of significant factors arising so that even much later we can retrace the history of each wine from the vine to the bottle; we consider this to be the greatest asset of Borgo del Tiglio. The pressing is done very gently and the musts that are obtained are fermented in small barrels made of French oak, some of which are new. At the end of the refining process which lasts for 9 or maybe 10 months, after numerous tastings, the definitive cuvee is decided upon. Naturally some of the wine is discarded. The volumes are low and the final bottled production works out at around 20 to 30 hectolitres per hectare. Considering that the fields contain 7,300 plants per hectare, the yield per plant is particularly low. In the best years we select the best barrels to be bottled separately as Chardonnay Selezione.