“Fruity, deep, good acidity. The interesting result of old vineyards with mixed grape varieties.”
– Chiara Penati
Oltretorrente is a small, independent, artisanal, family-run, boutique winery set on top of the smooth hills of the Tortona region, in Piedmont.
It was 2010, after several years spent in working for other more conventional wine realities, when my husband and I decided to start our own wine adventure.
The Oltretorrente estate covers now 7 hectares where we have been protecting and maintaining very old vines planted even a century ago (five hectares of vineyards are 20 to 100 years old), in order to make wines that can embody all the history and biodiversity they come with. The vineyards face both North and South and have an altitude of about 300 meters; their slope is such that we can only use a caterpillar tractor and when it rains too much we have to reach the plants on foot.
Our big aim is a balance between saving and preserving the legacy old farmers left us and making high quality wines from these old vineyards with an organic approach, which is the best way to express the history, the soil, the identity of this area.
We decided to harvest each cru separately to preserve the characteristics of the different environments with fermentations, macerations and ageing that are not standardized by grape variety and not the same every year.
Old vines need more work during pruning to correct their system of growing in a way that promotes vine longevity instead of grapes production, posts are often weak and must be substituted and of course yields are lower, but nothing more than the original genotypes of the area (instead of clones from nurseries) can give an authentic expression of terroir, by wines that are unique and not reproducible elsewhere. DOC legislation considers yields that are double-sometimes three times the ones we choose to have from our vineyards (3 to 6 tons per hectare instead of 12).
Since we started our activity we have always worked to restore natural soil fertility by planting grass in soils that were hoed for many years and so kept without any grass at all. After having physical and chemical analysis of the soils, we diversified herbal essences among vineyards. Organic agriculture would allow us more use of copper than what we do but our desire is to approach biodynamic agriculture and so we are diminishing the quantity of copper per hectare every year (Steiner philosophy has also always been our belief in the fields of human medicine and pedagogy). We have to say that it is not too difficult to follow this path because the area of Colli Tortonesi is naturally quite healthy from vines diseases and with a strong vocation for vineyards production.
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