While in Montalcino last week, my visit was fortunate enough to coincide with our newest bottling of Rosso del Palazzone, our vino rosso. Not only is this is a fun wine to drink, as it blends both horizontally across our 3 vineyards, as well as vertically across different vintages, it is also amazingly interesting to watch it be bottled.
The bottling process is fairly simple and standardized these days, though I don’t want to confuse simple with being easy, as it still demands a lot of hard labor. After the bottling machine is sterilized, empty bottles are lined up single file on a conveyer belt, which runs through the machine. The first step the bottles encounter is a water cleanse, where they are lifted upside down bottle by bottle to give a deep clean, followed immediately on the line by an apparatus that shoots them with a pressurized blast of air to dry them instantly. Moving down the line, hoses come down around the neck of each bottle, filling them with wine (but not with air). Their final step on the conveyer belt is to be corked.
Because the corks need to be compressed to fit into the wine bottle and keep out the air, they start out almost twice the size of a cork that most of us know from having just opened a bottle. After corking the wine, the bottles leave the bottling machine, being lifted gently by hand and placed in crates. In the crates, we give them a chance to dry completely on the outside before loading them onto the other side of the conveyer belt one more time, to have their labels and seals affixed.
The bottling machine that we use can produce up to 1,500 bottles per hour, which given our production, means we were able to bottle all the Rosso del Palazzone in one day. This year’s bottling, which totaled 6,666 bottles, is an equal part 2009 and 2011 grapes, all 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The 2009, which has aged over two years in our large Slavonian oak barrels and therefore has already met the minimum barrel aging requirements to be considered a Brunello, gives the wine its classic Brunello characteristics. Adding in grapes from the 2011 vintage softens this wine and makes it approachable and very drinkable right now, without need for further aging.
The Rosso del Palazzone is currently available in Italy and will be in America and other markets in early summer.