The production techniques employed in cultivating Nerello Mascalese grapes significantly impact the quality and characteristics of the resulting wines. We will explore three prominent cultivation methods: Alberello, Cordone Speronato, and Guyot pruning. By understanding these techniques and their implications on vine development and grape production, we can gain insights into the artistry and precision involved in nurturing Nerello Mascalese vines and crafting exceptional wines.
Alberello – photo 1 – The Traditional Bush Vine: Alberello, meaning “small tree” in Italian, is a traditional cultivation method that has been used for centuries in Sicily, particularly in the Etna region. It involves training the Nerello Mascalese vines as self-supporting bushes without the use of trellising systems. In the Alberello system, each vine is individually pruned and trained, allowing it to grow freely in a bush-like shape. This method maximizes the exposure of the leaves and grape clusters to sunlight, promoting optimal ripening and flavor development. The low bush vine canopy also offers protection against wind and reduces the risk of disease by enhancing air circulation. The Alberello technique requires meticulous vineyard management, as the vines must be pruned carefully to maintain their bush shape and balance. The limited yields per vine result in concentrated flavors and nuanced aromatics in the grapes, contributing to the complexity and elegance of the resulting wines.
Cordone Speronato – photo 2 – also known as “spurred cordon,” is another popular training system used for Nerello Mascalese vines. This method involves training the vines along a horizontal wire, with short spurs or arms emerging from the main cordon. In the Cordone Speronato system, the vines are pruned to retain a few permanent arms or spurs along the cordon. These spurs bear the fruiting canes, which produce the grape clusters. The horizontal positioning of the vines allows for better exposure to sunlight and facilitates even ripening of the grapes. This training method offers advantages in terms of vineyard management and efficiency. It allows for easier access to the vines for pruning, canopy management, and harvesting. Additionally, the Cordone Speronato technique can accommodate higher vine densities, optimizing the use of available land. The yields obtained from the Cordone Speronato system are typically higher than those from Alberello, but careful vineyard management is still necessary to ensure balanced yields and grape quality. The resulting wines often showcase a balance between fruitiness, acidity, and structure, reflecting the potential of Nerello Mascalese when cultivated using this method.
Guyot Pruning – photo3 – Balancing Vigor and Yield: Guyot pruning is a technique commonly used in various grape-growing regions, including those cultivating Nerello Mascalese. It involves training the vines with a single fruiting cane and a renewal spur. In the Guyot system, during winter pruning, one or two strong canes are selected to serve as the fruiting canes for the upcoming season. These canes are trained along a trellis wire, while the previous year’s cane is pruned back to form a short renewal spur. This pruning method offers a balance between the vigor of the vine and the yield it produces. It allows for better control over the vine’s growth and vigor by limiting the number of fruiting canes. The focused energy of the vine promotes the development of high-quality grapes with concentrated flavors and optimal ripeness. Guyot pruning requires regular maintenance and monitoring to ensure proper canopy management and balanced vine growth. It provides winemakers with flexibility in controlling yields and optimizing grape quality, allowing them to craft wines that showcase the unique characteristics of Nerello Mascalese.
The techniques of Alberello, Cordone Speronato, and Guyot pruning offer distinct approaches to cultivating Nerello Mascalese grapes. Each method presents advantages and challenges, ultimately influencing the quality, character, and potential of the resulting wines. Whether it’s the traditional bush vines of Alberello, the horizontal elegance of Cordone Speronato, or the balanced vigor of Guyot, these cultivation techniques contribute to the artistry and diversity found within Nerello Mascalese wines, captivating wine enthusiasts with their exceptional flavors and expressions.