Wine cellar of the future
“The idea of an eco-sustainable winery is an idea that is not only consistent with current times, but inevitably projected towards the future. It is something more: the link between generations. "
There are wine cellars constructed to tell stories of the men and women who have been carrying out their work with determination and resilience for years. Wine cellars that speak to us about blessed vintages and others that were less productive. Then there is San Polo’s wine cellar which is all of this and much more. A wine cellar created with the desire to keep the passion that has been handed down for generations, but with an eye always looking towards the future. Inspired entirely by the principles of eco-sustainability and sustainable architecture, it completely blends in with the surrounding landscape.
The particular beauty of the landscape surrounding San Polo could not be tarnished by the construction of buildings that would compromise its natural harmony. We decided a virtual tour was an excellent way to explore the cellar, built according to the principles of sustainable architecture, and with the clever use of the earth’s generous natural resources.
Modern and functional, our cellar was built in synergy with nature. Sustainable architecture means knowing how to interpret, through innovative construction techniques, ways to cleverly take advantage of environmental resources. In fact, the building’s cooling process occurs in a completely natural way. In the ageing area, the convex shape of the suspended ceiling directs the air to the sides of the room, which facilitates contact with underlying coils where cold water flows, allowing for the subsequent cooling. The microcirculation created as a result of these convective motions promotes a healthy environment and prevents the formation of moulds.
The cellar’s underground position allows the temperature to be kept constant throughout the year and greatly limits energy consumption. The structure’s tunnel shape fits perfectly into the Podernovi hill, and also allows for a logical and natural journey for the wine, from receiving the grapes to the vinification.
Placed outside and directly above the wine cellar, the vents take advantage of the area’s constant natural ventilation. They are made of lightweight aluminum, orient themselves according to the direction of the wind’s currents and, as a result of the Venturi effect, extract the hot air produced during fermentation.
This labyrinth of pipes runs along the entire structure and supplies a natural source of humid, cool air which is used to moderate the temperature of the cellar where the wine is ageing. The humidity, extracted from the hill’s soil, is introduced into the ageing cellar where the wooden barrels are arranged on special vents which automatically close when the desired environmental parameters are achieved in the cellar.
Made of hygroscopic tuff, it carries out an important regulating action in the barrel cellar. The porous stones absorb or release moisture, equilibrating the cellar’s environmental conditions.
The concrete tanks, with a vitrified lining, date back to the cellar’s construction. We take advantage of the cement’s thermal properties and there is no true “exchange” or contact between the cement itself and wine during fermentation. The tank has a coil filled with liquid that controls the temperature so that we can prevent excessive temperature increases. During fermentation, the temperature naturally begins to rise inside the tank and cement has the capacity to maintain warmth for a long time. The coil inside the concrete walls is not obstructive, unlike versions made with a thermal plate. And from a hygiene standpoint, cleaning is also easier and more effective.
Stainless steel tanks
Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks for a fresh and modern take on winemaking. Stainless steel is an inert material in terms of gas exchange and this feature means we can produce a pure wine which highlights the grapes’ innate qualities. We use stainless steel when our goal is to extract the fruit’s aroma without the vessel’s interference or influence, the opposite objective of using wood and amphora. In San Polo the stainless steel tanks are used for the production of Rubio. The wine is kept cool and there is no microoxygenation, which allows the development of natural fruity aromas without the need for compounds used for refinement or evolution. Stainless steel is an excellent conductor of heat and these tanks are perfect when it is important to control the temperature quickly and easily.
The barrels produced with French wood can hold 500 and 600 litres and 10 hectoliters and certainly leave more of an impact, giving the wine particular characteristics from the aromas and properties of the wood itself, especially in the smaller barrels. The wood’s shape and style become fundamental to supporting the structure of a wine like Brunello di Montalcino Vignavecchia, which ages in 600-litre French wood barrels.
The large barrels made of Slavonian wood have capacities of 10, 20, 25, 40 and 80 hectolitres. They are used for the delicate ageing of elegant and intense wines like Brunello di Montalcino Podernovi and younger wines like Rosso di Montalcino.
These wine vessels, with a history dating back 8,000 years, were crafted with the utmost respect for their natural origin and recently introduced at San Polo for the vinification of Sangiovese. The clay containers are the result of experience and the skilled hands of specialized artisans. They are fired at low temperatures to maintain porosity, allowing abundant oxygenation of the wine. The terracotta amphorae, on the other hand, are fired at high temperatures and have vitrified pores which allow less oxygen to reach the wine. Our approach to producing a wine with amphora and clay containers seeks to minimize intervention in the cellar and maximize the expression of Sangiovese. Whole grapes, without destemming, are put into the vessels and fermentation starts naturally. In this manner, the wine is enriched with the noble components of the skins and stalks at both the aromatic and structural level.