Christmas letter By Susan Gelpke
What has been happening on the Fattoria Corzano e Paterno in 2014Christmas Letter
Christmas Wishes from “Fattoria Corzano e Paterno"
It was a glorious year for flowers. I cannot remember a year quite like it: the grass never yellowed, the blossoms bloomed on and on and the temperature remained perfectly comfortable. A perfect scene, a perfect climate, one would think. Indeed, it would have been enviable had we lived anywhere but in Tuscany this summer.
Warm, hothouse temperatures coupled with seemingly ceaseless rain encouraged fecundity. Fruit trees, vegetables gardens, vines and fields planted with cereals were all in competition to multiply. Nature, capricious as she is, was generous with her offspring but the gift she gave to vegetation she also extended to insects and fungi: more life.
We have always been scrupulous in only treating our vines when difficult conditions require intervention, even more so now that we are an organic farm (we will receive our certification in October, 2015, after the requisite three year waiting period). This means that each and every vine requires assiduous attention. Those who work in the vineyards visit the plants at least nine times throughout the year to help them through their different stages of development. From early winter’s pruning until the final harvest they remain under watchful eyes and in careful hands. But all this vigilance takes time, energy and investment.
Because the temperatures were never really high the maturation process was very slow. We realised by mid summer that with the abundance of grapes and the slow maturing process that we would have to begin an intense campaign of diradamento (fruit thinning). This encourages the vines to invest all of their resources into bringing fewer grapes but of a higher quality.
At the beginning of September, the white grapes had been harvested. The decision about when to begin with the reds became critical. Still by mid September the grapes had not ripened sufficiently. Morale was low in a year that seemed ill starred for red wine making. But then, towards middle of the month, as if having teased us, the sun suddenly emerged from behind the rain clouds and luminous days became luminous weeks. Hot, sunny days, cool nights and a welcome breeze dried the vines and conserved the subtle perfumes of the grapes. It is difficult to describe quite how anxious a time it can be when you must decide when to begin the harvest. So many factors have their roles: temperature, humidity, maturation, weather forecast have to be weighed against instinct and years of experience. The vital thing is to recognize the moment when all of these conditions are favorable and in harmony. When the red harvest did begin it was a frantic race with time and weather to bring the grapes to the press before conditions changed once again.
Joshi has described the wines to me in this way: the whites have extraordinary fruitiness this year, with the right level of acidity; the reds have less structure but have extraordinary balance. ‘Lunga and cara’, he calls this harvest; ‘long and
costly’, so much careful attention, so much hard work but thanks once again to those caprices of Nature - which can work for and against us - a successful vendemmia.
The cellar is the next port of call. Arianna confirms that because of the cool weather the white wines this year are promising to be aromatic with a wonderful bouquet. The reds were blessed to have those last sunny weeks before the harvest and she believes that they will develop into fine, silky wines.
Ari tells me that we are now the proud owners of a legendary Grenier Oak Open Fermenter, a 4,000 liter conical oak tank. It is a landmark addition to the cellar. She adds that we have just assembled the 2013 wines and, in spite of that being another challenging year for other reasons, we are very happy with the results.
Oil: for those who have a special love of olive oil this has been a tragic year; for the first time in our farming experience we did not have a harvest. Had the winter been cold enough or the summer hot enough the conditions that are ideal for insects and fungi would not have existed. Those who produce olive oil are used to the fly that plagues the olives each year but normally the percentage of damaged fruit does not exceed 10%. This year it was almost completely lost.
The weather conditions affected our cereal production for the sheep as well. The humidity encouraged disease, especially in the oats, and we had to abandon them.
One might think that with all of the verdant fields growing high with grasses and plants that the stables would be the one sector where the weather was not a problem.
And that is no doubt true of most sheep. The only problem is that we have Sardinian milk sheep and they hate being wet and so are not happy to graze in damp fields. This, naturally, affects the volume of milk production. So even at the stables there were challenges to overcome.
The dairy continues from strength to strength. We could certainly sell many times over the amount of cheese that we produce. Ever resourceful and inventive, this summer Toni went to Somerset in England to learn how local dairies produce their legendary Cheddar cheeses. She brought back some of those ideas to experiment with on our production.
The farm shop has been extremely busy this season with sales and with wine and cheese tastings. Three thousand visitors (circa) passed through this last season alone to sample our products and to visit the dairy and wine cellar.
Joshi has been traveling a great deal this year to promote wine sales. Beyond Europe he has visited the U.S. and Asia visiting existing importers and looking for new markets. He tells me these trips have been successful and rewarding experiences, that he is learning to navigate the city of Hong Kong and that Australia is exciting.
Like the shore line and the sea, the seasons fluctuate: hot or cold, wet or dry, verdant or stunted. More often than not one set of variables compliments one sector while another set of factors will bring good another sector another year. This year had the unique quality of being problematic for nearly every aspect of farm work. But that does not mean that all is gloomy. It simply means that we had to find ways of combating these unpredictable times. The wine harvest, in the end, was a very good one thanks to the careful management of the picking. Instead of harvesting olives this year we have gone to great lengths to prune the trees for next year’s profitability. It is a pity that we could not produce more cheese but we are just starting with the new milk and conditions will certainly improve over the next months. It continues to be the rewarding life for us all with more personal satisfaction and more international recognition for our products and an ever-growing family to insure it for the future.
In May 2014 a small film team with a drone camera spent a few days on Corzano e Paterno. The result is a wonderful view of the two hills from earth and sky featuring the farm’s main characters. http://vimeo.com/m/99948731
For those who know the farm and family and have visited us over the years, as well as for those who are new to our family farm, I thought it might be interesting to know what the new generation, those who were born and grew up here, are doing.
The current tally of children born to family members living on or near the Corzano e Paterno is growing. They do not all participate in the farm work but spend has much time as they can with us and are an important part of our family group:
Till has two daughters: Tosca, 13, and Nada, 11, both at school.
Aljoscha and Antonia have five children: Eli, 28, who lives between India and Spain and designs and markets clothing. Tim, 26, is finishing his architecture studies in
Berlin. The twins, Oscar and William, 22: Oscar graduated from university in England with a biology degree this year and William finished his enology and viticulture studies in Torino. Rocco, 17, is in school in Florence.
Arianna and her companion Stefan have two little boys: Constantin, 2 ½ and Alexander, 8 months.
Sibilla (Punzi) and her companion Aran have Max, 2 ½. Aglaia works in the organization of film festivals.
Pascal and Kirsty have three children: Anna, 26, who is finishing her Masters in the Montessori system in Rome; Oliver, blade smith and hot air balloon pilot, 22 lives here; Rudi is doing his work training for his architecture degree at an firm in Switzerland.
Julia, Jessica and Dylan, children of Wendel’s son Wenzi come regularly. Julia is studying and living in London; Jessica is a costume designer for film and Dylan is studying music in Wales.
From the Gelpke and Goldschmidt families we send you are warmest wishes for holidays enriched by the company of family and friends and perhaps even a toast with a bottle of wine from Corzano e Paterno.