Amarone improved by pergola training

Italian winemaker Masi is turning back the viticultural clock and converting its vineyards to the traditional pergola training system to improve berry quality for its Amarones.

Masi pergola trained vines

Masi’s pergola-trained vines in Valpolicella

Following a study over the past three years, the pioneering producer in Valpolicella is abandoning Guyot vine training – Europe’s widely adopted cane pruning system – and moving to high-trained pergola trellising for its best sites in the region, meaning that it is returning to the viticultural approach of the ancient Romans.

Explaining the reason for the switch, Masi’s winemaking director Andrea Dal Cin told the drinks business that the pergola trained vines produce berries with more anthocyanins, and fewer tannins, while the historic approach also removes the risk of overripeness in the bunches.

In particular, at the height of summer, the recent three-year viticultural study showed that the shady pergola-training system means that grapes can be up to 20 degrees Celsius cooler than the same berries grown using the Guyot approach. This is an important difference in the warmer hillside Valpolicella vineyards, which are used to produce bunches for drying on racks to create concentrated Amarone wines.

“We found that with the pergola [trained vines] on the hillsides we never get any burnt berries because we are shading the grapes, and the anthocyanins were higher in the unstressed pergola grapes because there was less colour bleaching,” explained Dal Cin.

On the other hand, the berries from Guyot trained vineyards had less colour, but more tannins, due to thicker skins produced by the grapes to protect themselves from the greater sun exposure.

Masi Guyot trained vines

Masi’s Guyot trained vines

In terms of picking dates, grapes in the Guyot trained vineyards are harvested 15 days prior to those from the pergolas, due to the slower ripening process because there is less sunlight interception to the bunches.

Crucially, the slower ripening period, along with the absence of sun-burn, produces berries that are suitable for a longer drying process – or appassimento – which is key to creating a concentrated and high-quality Amarone.

Consequently, Dal Cin stated, “Our aim is to get to 100% pergola trained vineyards on the hillsides.”

This, he added, was despite the added cost: pergola training costs 40% more than Guyot because all the management in the former system must be done by hand, and the vine density is lower with pergola training: 3,500-5,000 vines per hectare compared to 4,500-10,000 for Guyot.

Nevertheless, Dal Cin stressed that cooler valley-floor vineyards are often more suitable for Guyot training systems, because the grapes need increased sunlight exposure to ripen fully. Furthermore, the system allows for more air circulation, which helps reduce rot-inducing humidity – a risk in the sheltered valleys.

Dal Cin also said that the majority of grapes in Valpolicella are grown using the Guyot training system, with 80% of the DOC grapes managed this way, although a smaller 55% of vineyards employ Guyot within the Valpolicella Classico zone.

For the future, Masi is embarking on a new study to see if it can increase the polyphenol content of the pergola-trained berries.

“We are seeing if spraying the bunches with calcium will improve the thickness of the skins, because if we can do that, then we can have more anthocyanins and other polyphenols [from the thicker skins], which can help us have an even longer appassimento,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Retail Manager

Friarwood Fine Wines
SW London, UK

Assistant Manager

Seven Cellars
Brighton, UK

Key Account Manager

MMI Dubai
Dubai, UAE

Head of Supply Chain

Lanson International UK Ltd
London W1, UK

National Account Executive

Home Based working in Central Belt. Glasgow/Edinburgh, UK

Global Brand Manager - Ableforth’s (Bathtub Gin etc)

ATOM Supplies
Tunbridge Wells, UK

Trade Sales Manager

Wine Source Group
Central London, UK

Prowein 2018

18th Mar 2018

The City Wine Show

London,United Kingdom
13th Apr 2018

Prosecco Springs

London,United Kingdom
26th Apr 2018
Click to view more

The Global Rosé Masters 2018

Deadline : 19th March 2018

The Prosecco Masters 2018

Deadline : 19th March 2018

Click to view more

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

the drinks business is proud to announce the inaugural Global Malbec Masters 2017

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

the drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Sparkling Masters.

Click to view more