COUNTRYSIDE AND VINEYARDS
- Rovescala and its neighborhood
Oltrepò Pavese, were we live, is a triangular strip of land south of Milan and the Po river, in Lombardy.
Unlike flattish Lomellina, it is made of hill after hill, until it becomes the Appennini mountains.
The region runs alongside Piedmont, close to Emilia, and, just at one point, almost touches Liguria.
Having time available, and no problems with bends, it is a beautiful itinerary to follow to the sea.
We are on a ridge almost on the eastern border: looking towards east it’s already Piacenza county, towards west you discover a pleasant view of the hillcrests and valleys of our territory.
Martilde is entirely within the borough of Rovescala; at frazione Croce, the first hamlet you meet climbing towards the village. The winery is at an altitude of about 200 m, with an area of almost 17 hectares , mostly devoted to vineyards. Only a small part of land towards the valley floor is left as a meadow.
Rovescala is a small town with a long lasting tradition in wine making. It is the birthplace of bonarda, and ancient papers from the municipal council show that as early as 1192 a local count had a flourishing and well known production.
Every year, all Sundays in March, there is a fair, “The Spring of wines”. Most of the local winemakers (including us) take part to this event, for tastings and selling.
There are several other participants, like cheese or preserves producers, and some sideshow, but wine has the true and undiscussed leading role.
Martilde’s land is distributed on both sides of the provincial road that goes up to Rovescala. Our finest plot is “Zuccarello”, on a small hill in the sun and breeze all day long; from there we derive our best wines.
Exposure to sunlight is: north east, east, north west, west.
All classified as DOC, vineyards vary in age: some more recent and others extremely old, close to 90 years. We have always tried to keep the ancient ones, beautiful nature monuments, putting some new vines in, so that they will not be standing alone and will get the right degree of competition. But it is not easy task, as they have different needs.
The younger vineyards (up to 15 years old) have a density of about 5000 plants for hectare.
Supports are wooden poles, more expensive and difficult to maintain, but supple and pleasant to look at.
Pruning is guyot, one shoot and max. 10 buds.
The soil is mainly calcareous-clay, only slightly changing from different areas. It is good for structured reds and aromatic whites.
In order to obtain a firm, balanced ground apt to favour (along with pruning) a right level of production in the vineyards, we opted for permanent grassing over since 1993.
This was the year in which the first EU regulations for a better quality level and care of the environment were introduced.
Periodically, we cut the grass and leave it on site.
Fertilizing is limited, according to the requirements of the different plots, with organic products. We want to replace only what is lost during the season.
Vines diseases treatments are also done according to the organic regulation. Vineyards are all certified organic, apart from3 hectares, which are being converted.
- Wine grapes varieties
As typical of the area, in our vineyards there is a predominance of red grapes.
A special kind of love and care is given to croatina, the grape from which bonarda, pride of Rovescala, is made. But we are rather pleased with barbera as well, which gives a smooth full wine, with moderate acidity and an inclination for aging.
Pinot noir has always been our soft spot, and to the initial small vineyard of old vines and unknown clones, we have gradually added some parcels of french clones, selected for high quality red pinot noir.
It is a whimsical wine, requiring much care in the vineyard and in the cellar, but that is exactly why it is so intriguing.
Unfortunately, weather changements in the last vintages have made it difficult for us; often it is too hot, and without the right temperature range between day and night.
So, we can’t produce pinot noir each year, but only when we get an appropriate season.
We make only 2 white wines, both of them from the same malvasia di Candia grapes, but very different from one another.
One more conventional, with whole grapes pressed immediately, while the other has a long maceration on the skins.
We don’t buy grapes from others, but process – personally - uniquely those produced at Martilde.
We know and are accountable for the entire life cycle of our products, from vineyards to bottle.
- Seasons and works
A vineyard is a constant source of chores and duties. There is always something to do, apart when it is snowing or during the last phase of summer, when the only thing left is checking and waiting for the right moment to begin vintage.
It is indeed shortly after vintage that we tackle the first item of the long list of works: pruning.
As a rule, it should not take place until the middle of november, when vines have shed their leaves and are settling for winter.
These plants are peculiar creatures and, seeing them during the cold season, naked and twisted, it is almost impossible to visualize all the lusciousness of green leaves and shoots you will witness later in spring.
Pruning is a very fulfilling experience, as each vine is a unique being, which requires different choices, according to your aim.
After pruning there is maintenance work, replacing poles, trellises, anchors and so on.
On the onset of the colder weather, you can fertilize with some organic compost young or particularly thin and needy vines.
There is the cleaning of water draining channels and the ploughing of soil in new plots (this is important up to their third year of age, to allow development of an adequate root system). When it snows, you finally rest.
Or move to the cellar, where you are bound to find something to do.
Before Easter (the spring moon, really), when the pruned vines begin “to weep” (with small droplets of sap leaking from the cut ends) it is essential to have them well tied to their line.
Their small fragile buds are easy to damage, fixing the main shoot. Young vines must be secured to their stake in different places, so they can grow up straight and tidy.
In spring there may be fertilizing (if it has not taken place in winter), and the mowing of grass begins; an operation that will take place over and over again during the next months, especially in a rainy year.
The grass should be kept short, in order not to reach the main line where the vine is tied, subtract excessive resources, or create a humid microclimate during summer. This latest condition is bad for vines as it fosters fungine illnesses.
Very soon, green shoots begin to grow, and they have to be tied up, several times, as they grew longer, with new leaves and tendrils.
When shoots are about 10 cm long, a temperature of 10° Celsius has been reached, and also 10 mm of rain have fallen, an old rule says it is time to begin treatments for grapes illnesses (mildew and peronospora). These will follow the climatic trend of the season and the different stages of grapes development.
We follow the rules for organic farming.
Vines will have in the meanwhile passed from the first fuzzy leaves to blossoms and a first trace of clusters. The berries, at the beginning of summer, get to be like “pepper grains” and afterwards real fruits, which will colour while the season advances.
You get less or more productive years. If production is too abundant, you can cut off a certain amount of grapes, to avoid masses too close together and balance the quantity each plant is carrying.
No vine, young or old, can bring to the right degree of ripeness an excessive amount of bunches.
When the end of July is reached you have about 15 days (generally) before starting thinking about harvest of the early varieties. So, you can keep in shape getting all the cellar equipment clean and ready.