The new concept of managing terroir acknowledges that minor differences in soil and slope naturally occurring across even quite small areas of vineyard do have a measurable effect on the grape tannin and profile aroma, which can be observed, measured and tasted in the vineyard. The zones, once identified are managed as distinct blocks of homogenous grapes, that are harvested separately to produce wines that display distinct differences of quality and style that are essential for the creation of a top class wine.
All grapes are handpicked into 20kg boxes. The picking crew is closely supervised to ensure only top quality bunches are picked and that different vineyard zones are picked separately.
As soon as the grapes are to be processed they are unloaded box by box onto a sorting table, manned by up to 8 people, whose task it is to remove any leaves, poorly coloured berries, any which have suffered damaged through rot or birds as well as any shrivelled berries. This process can be simple and rapid in good years and very laborious in bad years.
The berries must be separated from the stalks and then be crushed into a fermentation tank to release the juice without tearing the green plant tissue, which can introduce harsh vegetal flavours. The skill is in setting the optimal velocity and tightness of the crusher-destemmer, which will varies with each batch of grapes.
No Pumping of must is allowed to avoid bruising or tearing the very fragile skins and releasing harsh or unattractive aroma or textural compounds. The crushed grapes are moved to the fermentation vessel by an elevated conveyer belt.
Indigenous population of wild yeasts starts the fermentation spontaneously. The lack of control at this stage is riskier than artificial inoculations, but the reward is often wines with greater aromatic complexity. The fermentation temperature never exceeds 27ºC and the pump-overs are conducted in a way that maximizes air contact greater colour stability.
A post-fermentation maceration or cuivason – to use the French term, is regarded as one of the essential winemaking tools of Fita Preta Vinhos as it allows prolonged extraction of tannin. Daily tasting determines the length of maceration time.
Pressing is another critical step in the process , it needs to be smooth and based one tasting. The principle is relatively simple: pressing the skins and extract all elements that can contribute positively to the fill the palate of the final wine, without extracting herbaceous, bitter components.
Selecting barrels starts with choosing the best French or Portuguese oak, a process not dissimilar to the process of deciding which grape varieties to use. Then deciding on the oak species to use: Quercus pédonculé – which contributes more tannin, or the Quercus sessile – adding more aromatic elements. With these decisions made, there are further choices concerning the grain and the level of toast. We look for a range that allows layers and an henace complexity in our wines.
Whole bunches are loaded by hand into a press and then a very slow and gentle press cycle begins that extracts a very pure juice uncontaminated with harsh phenolic compounds.
The juice is held in tank at low temperature to allow suspended particles to drop out of the juice by gravity. Fermenting a very clean juice gives a purer wine and fewer requirements for filtering and fining.
A portion of the white juice is barrel fermented to give greater integration of the aroma and structural elements that a barrel gives a fine wine. The wines age on fine lees and have weekly lees stirring to prevent reduction and build body into the wine.