Taking a sustainable approach to making wines, it is eye opening to understand the green practices that Italian wine brands - Mezzacorona and Stemmari - have adopted
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: December 18, 2014
Taking a sustainable approach to making wines, it is eye opening to understand the green practices that Italian wine brands – Mezzacorona and Stemmari – have adopted.
Respect for your environment is a topic which is blazing many conferences at the moment. From politicians to young school children, everyone is pondering about how to become more sensitive towards the ecosystem.
On the other hand, ‘sustainability’ is also becoming a fad, adopted by many companies, just to add something under the CSR pages of their website. So when we met Lucio Matricardi, Winemaker at Mezzacorona and Stemmari wines, I realized there are some genuine companies out there who have made sustainability a weapon, not only to rebuild what is lost, but also to expand business profitability.
Founded in 1904 by a group of 20 vintners in Italy, Mezzacorona became a structured organization through the formation of Gruppo Mezzacorona in 1970s. In 1986, Gruppo Mezzacorona enhanced its presence in the United States by creating its own importing company, Prestige Wine Imports Corporation, headquartered in New York City. During the same period, in as early as 1980s, Mezzacorona created its own green initiative and sustainability project with “The Protocol for High-Quality Wine Production in Trentino”. In 2002, Mezzacorona expanded yet again, investing $150 million in replanting and rebuilding the Stemmari estates in Sicily.
Bringing back basic theories, which we probably learnt in those science classes, the group not only makes wines, but ‘green’ wines which decreases my carbon footprint too as a consumer! “Mezzacorona strongly believes in respecting the land and the life of the farmers. And so, every choice and decision has been taken based on this belief. Being a village surrounded by vineyards, sustainable practices were a landmark of our farming since the very beginning. In the 80’s we experienced and tasted state of the art techniques to reduce the use of chemicals in the field, example, through the use of natural pherormones and positive insects and birds,” he said. He also cites the example of planting trees close to the vineyards as they can help avoiding erosion of the land
Under the skin
Not to say that Mr Matricardi has moved away from traditional winemaking, but they do tweak things here and there to make a balanced vine, and increase its natural capacity to protect itself by:
a. Increasing the thickness of the skin and so the physical properties and structure of the berries for protection against rain, wind and sun burn
b. Increasing the quantity of natural preservative compounds such us tannins and pholypfenol into the skin
c. Preserving the acidity - another natural way plants use to protect themselves
d. Utilising different type of cover-crop based on the specific need of the variety and of the composition of the soil (legume for nitrogen) in vineyards
e. Hand pruning and controlling yields
f. Introducing new clones with less sensitivity to diseases
But does being sustainable make business sense, or is it just an expensive CSR project? It definitely seemed so after we found out the many advancements Mezzacorona did at the facilities of Stemmari.
The vineyards are treated following the concept of “sexual confusion,” a modern biological system used to fight harmful insects by limiting their reproduction through pheromone over-stimulation, avoiding extra treatments. Mezzacorona adopted innovative irrigation systems, which maximize the use of water resources – for example, drip irrigation system. The company created more than seven artificial rainwater reservoirs to guarantee the supply only if and when needed. Waste water is collected and treated with biological purifier (based on active mud technology) before going back to the rivers.
Seventy percent of the Stemmari winery is underground, which helps reduce the need for air conditioning to keep the cellars cool. Photoelectric and solar panels produce over 2 million kilowatt hours per year – making Stemmari 100 per cent energy independent! Mezzacorona strives to reduce its carbon footprint by using dry materials that are lighter and/or produced locally, while also making effort to recycle and sort garbage responsibly.
Also, when the vineyards and winery were built, Mezzacorona carefully built around natural riches to preserve non-cultivated species of flowers (200 species of orchids exist on the property), orange groves, almond and olive trees.
For the nurturing hands
Taking the concept of sustainability from the product to the people, Mr Matricardi says a profound thought: “Sustainable also means to guarantee a fair income to its guardians/farmers. That said, sustainable farming must have in consideration the economical value of its production. We established a cycle of farming that is not only healthy for the people, but is even generating income in one of the wealthiest farming land in Italy.”
Can sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand? Absolutely! Says Mr Matricardi, “If luxury means a state of great comfort and elegance and good life - that is exactly what we do in the vineyards! We guarantee “comfort” by receiving all of what the vines need from the environment itself, treating them in a balanced way and give motivation to the grape growers and guaranteeing them good income in order to make sure that the passion of grape growing is passed generation to generation.”
Raise a glass of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio to nature…