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Harvest: "A fantastic vintage for sparkling wines this year."

Harvest: "A fantastic vintage for sparkling wines this year."
Wine is a work of art!

The most exciting time for a winemaker is harvest time, when all the hard work pays off and all the efforts in the vineyard are rewarded with fruit. It is the moment of harvest that brings together the work of man and nature in a unique story, unrepeatable time after time, which will serve up the qualities and aromas of this vintage in aroma and flavour. This is the moment when the eternal dance of the winemaker and nature moves from the vineyard to a whole new venue in the cellar, where they will both be able to finally demonstrate the mastery, elegance and harmony of their steps all the way to bottling.

Wine is a work of art!

On Thursday morning, owner Simon, oenologist Luka and cellar master Sandi arrive at the winery earlier than usual. The weather forecast is also excellent, it will be a beautiful, sunny and hot day, which means that the harvest must start as soon as possible. "We always make sure that we have a large enough team of pickers so that the grapes are picked before midday, when the temperatures are not too high. The grapes must not overheat, it is important that they are cool when they reach the press to preserve the aromas." The crates are quickly ready, the scissors and refreshments are ready, and the arriving workers park in a coordinated manner so as not to take up the driveway, where a tractor will soon be taking away filled crates of freshly picked juicy rib vine grapes from the vineyard.

The day for the harvest is determined by the oenologist. Sampling starts at the beginning of August, the ripening of the grapes is monitored and, when the balance between sugars and acids is right, it is time to harvest. This year, the harvest is later, about 14 days later than last year, about a week later than in previous years. "The harvest looks fantastic for sparkling wines. The nights have not been too warm, nor have the days, so the acids have been preserved. This will be a very fresh and very mineral vintage," says Luka. "This year we started at the end of August with the pinot noir, at the beginning of September we picked the chardonnay and now it's the last one, the rebula." These are the three varieties from which Medot produces elegant sparkling wines using the classic method.

Simon and Sandi set off with the pickers at dawn to pick the grapes. "The first thing I do every day is to check each tank and monitor the fermentation sensorially," says Luka, as he pours samples into Medot's elegant glasses, looking at the colour, smelling, tasting. He listens before he puts down his empty glass. Because when the fermentation is happening, the jars rustle like sea shells. The oenologist in the cellar will do this from the harvest onwards every day, sometimes twice a day during the fermentation itself, until November, when the wine is stable, after which it will be checked at less frequent intervals. If at any time he noticed that things were not going in the right direction, he would decide on the following oenological procedures.

Meanwhile, in the vineyard, the pickers are already busily filling the 20-kilogram crates, which prevent the grapes from being crushed and squashed, so that oxidation does not occur and the grapes arrive whole and in perfect condition.

Sandi has already delivered the first consignment and within minutes the grapes are on their way to the press. "We press whole grapes. We have a very gentle programme, like in Champagne. We separate the must from the grapes, which are pressed with more pressure and fermented separately. We only use finely pressed must for our sparkling wines because we are only looking for elegance. Rough pressing also produces compounds that do not belong in sparkling wine, which give bitterness, astringency. In some wines you need that because it gives structure, just not in sparkling wines." The gently extracted must for the sparkling wines is immediately cooled to five degrees and transferred to a tank, where it will be clarified at the same temperature for about two days. All the coarse particles in the must will have settled during this time, the coarse lees will then be removed, the wine will be racked and, when it reaches a temperature of between 11 and 13 degrees, the yeasts will be added, and then fermentation will begin, which will take place at 15 to 16 degrees for about two weeks.

Once the first batch of grapes has been pressed, Luka joins the pickers in the vineyard. The sun has already climbed over the hills and the golden yellow grapes are shining more and more among the nimble, quick fingers. Nature has woken up and coloured the peaceful silence with pleasant chirping and buzzing. With a sting here and there wasps will show that they have been disturbed in the midst of succulent delights. There is a short pause, refreshments without a label, and the strategic banter begins. The owner and the oenologist exchange experiences and ideas for this year's wines and sparkling wines, while they are picking grapes from the last rows of vines from the old vineyards of Medot, destined to be made into sparkling wines. "These vines are grafted and selected from the old vineyard's rebula vines, which were planted here by my nonno," recalls Simon. It was righ there that his grandfather Zvonimir Simčič, who earned the title of the father of rebula, added a final touch to his contribution to the preservation of the rebula variety with the first classically produced sparkling wines made from rebula.

As the long-standing director of the Brda Cooperative Winery, he devoted his entire professional life to raising the profile and quality of rebula, creating the bestselling wines of his time, such as the Golden Rebula and the Sparkling Rebula. In Brda, his decades of guidance and leadership of the wine profession are remembered as golden times, but even today there remains a special bond among people of Brda, unlike anywhere else, which dictates cohesion and cooperation.

Meanwhile, in the vineyard, the clock is approaching midday. The pickers are finishing the last row and chasing away their fatigue in light-hearted conversations about the challenges ahead. "This year we have beautiful grapes. This is the last harvest for the sparkling wines." "When are we going to harvest for wine?" "We hope it won't rain, we shouldn't wait because the grapes are so nice. It will all depend on the weather, a week, ten days, fourteen at the most. We will see. It all depends on nature," says Sandi as he chats with the pickers in the back row.

As the sun sets, the last cluster of grapes falls into the last crate for the day and the pickers slowly climb through the terraced vineyards to the top, to Medot's terrace, where a feast awaits them. While they freshen up and wash up, the table is served with slicing and the Rebula journey, a wine that Medot has dedicated to the memory of the nonno Zvonimir. Friendly banter is exchanged around the table, laughter breaks out and the owner makes his way to a special cellar for his »shalam«, as the legendary salami of the region is called. Every house makes its own, and the eternal debate about which is the best and what is the right way to make it can be measured in detail by the most sophisticated professional argumentation. Of course, the answer to this is a mystery, and they will only tell you that for a good shalam, "all the pieces have to fall into place". At Medot, the shalam is handled by the cellar master Sandi, whose father was already known in Brda as one of the best at "this stuff", and who began to build his reputation by using the Italian paratrooper's knife, the bayonet. In the end, everyone agrees that the most important thing for a good shalam is a drying room. That it is the right place. And here in Medot, apparently, it really is the right one. This year, when all the harvests are over and the work in the cellar has settled down, when this year's wine has stabilised, right then, in November, it will be time to roll up the sleeves and prepare a new batch of shalam, one that will brighten up the end of the working day for the pickers next year.

Meanwhile, down below, several metres below the cabinet, in the tanks of the Medot cellar, the freshly racked must is beginning its long, long journey. First, next year it will become wine, then it will be bottled in just the right proportions of rebula, chardonnay and pinot noir, then in the bottles it will ferment, mature and begin to form those delicate, unique bubbles that will form for at least four years, but also five, six or more... Until then, goodbye and good luck, and in the meantime, we will be happy to enjoy the fruits of the past years.

Fotografije: Manuel Kovšca in zasebni arhiv Medot Wines