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September has come and it brings the ritual of the vintage: in Masseria San Francesco is always time to reap the benefits of the work of a whole season, the fulfillment of all the efforts and the care of those who produce their own vine in a handcraft and natural way.

It’s this the moment when the winemaker has to walk among his rows and to taste the grapes of the vine in order to know the perfect time for the grape harvest, which inaugurates the beginning of the process leading to the transformation of grapes into must and, at the end, of must into natural wine.

This is a journey as fascinating as delicate, especially for natural winemakers who categorically rejects the use of chemical oenological products, in full respect of nature.

It’s not easy to cultivate the right grape and obtain a good natural wine in the winery: the particularities and the difficulties of obtaining this product make it really rare, precious and, as we will see, characterized by delicate processing steps.


The vintage is nothing but the harvest of grapes, the moment when the winemaker has to use his whole experience in order to understand when these have reached  the proper maturation at the The vintage is strictly carried out by hand enabling, with much more attention and precision than the grape harvest machine, the health and mature clusters to cut them with the appropriate shears and put them in not too big boxes, to prevent squashing.

At this point, the boxes are quickly bring to the cellar with the tractor, to rule out the hypothesis of unwanted macerations and fermentations: the firm clusters with the skin intact are the sine qua non for making a a good natural wine.


Brought to the vinery, the grape is inserted in a destemming machine to separate grapes, the berries, from stalks, the twigs that hold them to the plant.

This practice is essential to ensure that some particles of the stalk remain in the wine produced, affecting its flavor in an unpleasant way.

We proceed now with the pressing, that step that by using a crasher machine goes on to break the grape berries in order to cause the spreading of the colorful must.


After the pressing of the grapes, these can be collected into big where the fermentation starts, meaning the transformation of grape juice into wine, which happens when the sugar turn into alcohol.

In the case of the vinification into a wine, before the fermentation it si necessary to separate the skins from the must, through spontaneous settling and subsequent removal of the clear must from the deposit formed in the bottom of the tank.

In the case od the red wine fermentation, the must is left to fermentate with all the residues resulting from the pressing that will be able to giving to the wine more intense colors and stronger structures. To add color to the wine, operations of fulling ( the marc cape is broken with a stick to oxygenate the must) and pumping (a part of the must is taken from the bottom to pour it directly on the cape) are periodically carried out

Usually in this phase the majority of the vineries adds SELECTED yeast, which of course provide the start of the fermentation, but that impoverish the wine from a aromatic and olfactive point of view, giving rise to commercial and standardized products which by no means express the “terroir” of their origins.

In Masseria San Francesco, the rule is that nothing must be removed from the wine and nothing must be added to it. The natural philosophy of Petracavallo wines prevents the use of added yeasts, letting the wild yeasts of the must work to start the fermentation in the most natural way possible.

Sure, the natural vinification represent a very risky and full of uncertainties technique, but it’s the only way to obtain a totally natural wine, like the one grandad made.


At the end of the period of fermentation one proceeds with the process of racking, which consists in purifying the vine from solid residues and from the pomace left on the bottom of the vats and transfer them into the barrels, where a second fermentation and an additional transformation of the residual sugar take place.

If the white wines do not need a long ageing, instead things are very different for the red wines, since the phase of ageing can last up to 5 years, depending on the type of organoleptic properties that are intended to achieve.

At this point the wine is ready to be bottled. After the wine is inside the bottle, the oxygen that is left between the neck and the crock is also eliminated. Closed the bottle, wine is kept for a limited period before being sold and drunk.

These are just the main stages that allow us to produce natural wine in Masseria San Francesco. Our experience teach us every day how a quality wine can be obtained only from a thorough job among the vineyards and and a careful work in the cellar, trying to intervenes as little as possible in the perfect balances of Mother nature.

The withholding of chemical substances and industrial forcing is the emblem of Petracavallo culture that aims to make unique wines, inimitable, always typical respecting their territory and always different from the conventional ones that characterize the majority of the wine trade.

Vito D'Onghia

Author Vito D'Onghia

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