Yahya El Harchaoui is our vineyard manager (and we could not do without him!). Yahya made his way from Morocco to Tuscany 16 years ago now (which is another story) and he has worked at Montecalvi for most of that time. To say that he knows the place well is somewhat of an understatement.
How did you come to Greve in Chianti? What brought you to Tuscany?
I was looking for a new opportunity away from Morocco. My older brother was working for a winery in Greve (he still does) and he persuaded me to come to Greve. So I did, and I have been here ever since. I feel very at home in Greve. The Grevigiani are good people — it is a strong local community and they have been very welcoming — I even play football for one of the local teams.
How did you first get involved with viticulture?
Shortly after I arrived, a friend who was working at Montecalvi mentioned that they needed some help in the vineyards protecting newly planted vines. I just stepped in to help for a few days, but at the end of the project they asked me if I would like to stay on. Stay on?! I was thrilled. Three days later I began working at Montecalvi and have never looked back.
Montecalvi has become certified organic. Why do you think this is important?
I was very happy when this happened. Using chemical products is damaging not only for the soil and the vines but also for all of us who work here. Now we do not use any fungicide or herbicide or pesticide. It makes things more challenging, but it is much better for the vineyard, for us, and for the wine.
Tell us about Le Terrazze vineyard. What is involved in looking after such an old vineyard?
Le Terrazze vineyard was planted in 1932 and is one of the oldest vineyards in Tuscany. A lot more work is required because the vineyard is on steep stone terraces so everything has to be done by hand (including carrying everything up there!). We have just begun an ‘Old Vine Project’ at Montecalvi where we are renewing these old vines. We have been taking a number of cuttings from the vineyard and these will be planted over the next few years. This preserves the heritage and adds to the biodiversity in the vineyard.
Guru pruner Marco Tessari visited Montecalvi recently to introduce some new pruning practices. What did you think? What did you learn?
It was a great experience and we learned a lot. It is called ‘gentle pruning’. The idea is to reduce the number and size of pruning cuts and to prune so that the flow of water and nutrients through the vine is unimpeded. This will improve the health of the vines, making them more resistant to disease and the vines will live longer and be more productive.
Any final thoughts?
Montecalvi is a wonderful place and I am very proud and happy to be a part of it!