My name is Jacqueline Ouellet and i’m a 33 year old wine connoisseur and adventure enthusiast from New Brunswick, Canada. I was fortunate enough to secure an internship with world renowned wine maker Mario Bollag. Mario, along with his talented wife Athena, and two daughters, graciously invited me into their family estate to get an insiders view. The estate itself is about 10 minutes from the heart of Montalcino, and was established in 1996. It houses breathtaking panoramic views of Tuscan hillsides from sunrise to sunset. The landscape can only be described as living in a painting and goes on for as far as the eye can see. Terralsole is known for it’s elegant but powerful Brunelli di Montalcino but they also produce some complex Super Tuscans and IGT’s.>in hopes to get a better understanding of the world of wine making. I’ll be documenting my stay by having periodic interviews to get an insiders glimpse of what it really means to live life on a vineyard here in Tuscany, Italy.
Mario, I’ve read your biography and all the amazing things you’ve accomplished thus far. I look forward to conveying your storey to readers but for right now what I really want to focus on is the 2016 harvest. Do you think it will be a good vintage?
Mario: We just finished harvesting this morning (Oct 6). It went better than expected in the sense that we were worried about the rain a few weeks ago. It pushed the harvest back a week in the ripening process. We were lucky to get the north winds known locally as “Tramontana”. It dried up the field and, in turn, the grapes. The result is a vintage of good quality. It lacks certain concentration to be a five star, but I would definitely give it a four star rating.
I read on your website that you applied for organic certification. Tell me more about it.
Mario: In order to get organic certification there are strict criteria a vineyard must meet. It takes three years for a vineyard to become fully certified. We are in our second year of conversion to make Terralsole 100% certified organic. We have always used sustainable methods so consumers won’t see a change in the wine they’ve come to love. Obtaining this certification will just make it official.
What do you drink when you’re not indulging on your own wine?
Mario: I like bubbles but if i’m having red I stick with old world wines. I prefer Burgundy over Bordeaux. But then again, if I get a hold of a good German riesling (one with good balance) I wouldn’t refuse it.<
In your opinion, what makes a great wine?
Mario: For me, a great wine is based on balance, elegance, structure, and having a good level of acidity. These also qualify a wine as being an excellent food wine. Our wines are great on their own but they really shine when paired with food.
What is one aspect of winemaking that might surprise people?
Mario: I think most ppl consider winemakers to be artists, but I don’t see it that way. I see winemakers as people who are genuinely passionate about turning grapes into a beautiful bouquet of flavours and aromas. Winemakers enhance whatever is in a vintage to shine the best way possible. We are not creating it, like artists do, just recognizing what is in a specific vintage and letting it shine through. Like an orchestra who takes a composition and makes it as beautiful as possible with the instruments they are given. The grape is the composer and I’m the conductor.
What vintage are you most proud of?
Mario: All vintages have their unique qualities that i’m proud of. The one that sticks out in my mind is 2003. Critics from all over forecasted it wouldn’t be a good vintage and winemakers would have trouble producing quality wine. The weather conditions were difficult but we ended up making some of our best wines that year. It was very satisfying as a winemaker to be able to accomplish what we did that year and to prove the critics wrong.
What’s the best time of year to visit vineyards in Tuscany?
Mario: I would say either May/June or September/October. May and June are when the buds bloom. The vineyard is full of flowers and it’s really a beautiful time of the year. September and October are not as hot but we still have good weather. It’s also an exciting time of the year because it’s when we harvest. There’s an energy in the air and always something going on. We have two guest houses on our estate and are always happy to provide tours and host fellow wine lovers. More information on tours/tastings and accommodations can be found on our website.