Name: Pablo Härri
Winery: Col d'Orcia and Ferrero, Montalcino
Number of years in business: >25
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
1) Total respect of the local influence. The soil conditions and the microclimate of a certain growing area has to be transmitted to the bottle. I hate global wines. If in a wine you don't detect a link to the territory it comes from, it is an anonymous wine without any interest. 2) The humility to admit that winemakers can't improve the quality, just maintain. Especially on premium red wines the quality is made in the vineyard. If a grape is picked at 100 points, a good winemaker can make a 95-point wine, but never 110.
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?
See above. The ones that show deep and interesting characters of a variety combined with the territory. Good examples are Burgundy, Barolo and, obviously, Brunello di Montalcino. No names in general for winemakers, but I don't like the colleagues that give a personal impression to whatever wine they make, sort of standardizing them. How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard that wows you? I obviously love to go out to the vineyards and check the condition of the grapes. It is mandatory during harvest time, because chemical analysis can give you a help, but the taste of the grapes can only be monitored by our palate. The quality of the fruit and of the tannins is really crucial for the wine quality later on, and there is no lab analysis that can substitute for our palate. A vineyard that definitely fascinates me is our Poggio al Vento, it has something mystical/ magical.
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?
I obviously love to go out to the vineyards and check the condition of the grapes. It is mandatory during harvest time, because chemical analysis can give you a help, but the taste of the grapes can only be monitored by our palate. Especially the quality of the fruit and of the tannins is really crucial for the wine quality later on, and there is no lab analysis that can substitute our palate. A vineyard that definitely fascinates me is our Poggio al Vento, it has something mystical/ magical.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years?
I don't know if it is my personal story or if it is the general evolution, but I would definitely say that over the years I learned to appreciate the finesse and the elegance of the wines. Years ago I was impressed by big, jammy, heavy wines. Today I'm looking more after a balance that marries power and elegance.
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
Difficult question for me, being a vegetarian! With our Tuscan wines that tend to have a slightly tannic/acidic balance I tend to suggest the historical Bisteca Fiorentina, but I know it from what I'm told, it's not a personal experience! Personally I'm quite happy with good cheese or with Porcini mushrooms for example.
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?
It definitely is not the moment to make great changes, but rather to consolidate. The only minor adjustment that we plan is to include a small percentage of Petit Verdot in our Nearco blend (that now is Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah). For the traditional Brunello di Montalcino, future vintages will profit from the newer vineyards that have been planted with our clonal selections, with very promising first results.
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?
As above. Often critics, instead of making qualitative tastings, make quantitative tastings: more color more points, more tannins more points, more body more points, completely lacking to evaluate balance, finesse and elegance. In the end you have a 99-point wine that is close to being undrinkable, at least you need a glass of water after to osmotically balance your palate!
What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
I appreciate good very dry bubbles, green Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino, especially from Gallura.
Do you collect wine? If so, what's in your cellar?
Unfortunately yes, though I'm getting better ultimately. The result is to have a few 100 bottles of wine that for sure were very good many years ago... This is a dangerous disease: you touch and look at your jewels many times, but every time it is a pity to open it, so you leave it until it's over-aged...
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?
Broad question, more about economics than winemaking! I think that we are definitely fortunate to produce a rare and appreciated wine like the Brunello di Montalcino. It is unique, can't be imitated, and has strong appeal. Wines that have to fight with market and marketing strategies are facing a difficult time.