Avignonesi and the spray of light: terroir shines in Montepulciano
THE POWER OF LIGHT AND SUMMER
Biodynamics is all about harmony. Harmony of nature. Everything that we do in biodynamic viticulture is aimed at preserving and enhancing the natural propensities of our territory in the not-so-natural monovarietal plantation that is a vineyard.
No filter. No synthetic products to disturb the spontaneous growth of weeds between the rows of vines or to scare away the insects that live in the vineyard or kill off the microorganisms that inhabit the soil. No chemicals to alter the plant’s natural growth. All natural.
That’s why we are biodynamic. In our hearts we believe that it is only in wines from biodynamic or organic vineyards that one can truly begin to taste the effect of terroir. Place and grape. Nothing else.
The 2 main biodynamic preparations we use in the vineyards to promote a healthy, natural balance are horn manure and horn silica. The first gives strength to the root system of the plant and structures the soil, while the last boosts the photosynthetic ability of the plant as it is a catalyst of light, and is therefore helping the vine’s vertical growth.
We have several times talked about how we prepare the horn manure at Avignonesi, burying dung in cow horns during the winter.
This year we have for the first time produced our own horn silica as well.
Horn silica, also known as preparation 501, is composed of finely ground quartz crystals.
The crystal, as you can see on the picture, should be of a good shape and clarity.
Our agronomist Alessio Gorini has personally overseen the grinding.
He first put the crystals in a metal mortar to grind them up into grains the size of sand corns. In order to obtain an even finer powder the grains are then placed between 2 glass plates that are pressed together and moved in circles until the quartz has turned into a very fine dust.
This dust or fine silica is then mixed with water and filled into cow horns that are buried underground for 6 months. Unlike the horn manure, which spends the winter under ground, the horn silica is buried in early spring, so that it spends the summer months in the horns, accumulating light, warmth and strength.
When it is unearthed in autumn it is ready for use. It is stored in glass jars, in plain sunlight.
Horn silica is a powerful preparation. As little as 4 grams per hectare/1 gram per acre is enough to treat the vineyards.
Similar to the horn manure, horn silica must be dynamised in rain water before it is used. It is sprayed onto the vines in the early morning hours in a fine mist that drifts over the leaves of the plants, much like the morning dew.
As mentioned earlier, this spray enhances the photosynthesis of the leaf and as such complements the activity of the horn manure, which works mostly on the roots of the plant. It can be considered a sort of “spray of light”, that regulates the plant vigour and improves the quality and resistance of leaf surfaces and fruit skins, thus helping to reduce susceptibility to diseases.
We usually treat our vineyards with horn silica twice a year, once in spring, right after flowering, and once in autumn, before harvest, but this obviously depends on how the season unfolds weather wise. In some vintages, such as 2014, where we didn’t see as much sunlight as usual during the summer, we treated the vineyards with extra horn silica to help them absorb as much light and sun they could.
This is another thumb rule of biodynamics: Observe nature. Learn. Understand. When possible, treat preventively to help the vine become strong and resistant, instead of intervening when a problem has already occurred.
Terroir speaks; we listen – and we are rewarded with wines which speak of place and grape. Nothing else.