Allegrini 2018

Climate change, sustainability, native grape varieties: Michel Rolland’s words to WineNews

“Good wines can be made everywhere, great wines only when there are the conditions. Never stop in front of problems: there’s always a solution”
Michel Rolland among the vineyards with Marco Caprai and Julien Viaud

Climate change, sustainability, indigenous grape varieties: these are some of the main themes that have animated the debate in the wine world in recent times. Important issues, which concern the future of one of the most important sectors of Italian agriculture. Never to be faced with pessimism, and with some certainty: that you have never to stop, that the best solution it’s always be sought, in all conditions, and that if good wines can be made anywhere, great wines can only be made with the right conditions.
This is the thought of Michel Rolland, one of the greatest, if not the greatest oenologist of our time, the first true flying winemaker and, with forty years of career behind and hundreds of wines designed and assembled in 24 countries around the world, that WineNews met in Montefalco, in the heart of Umbria, among the vineyards of “Mister Sagrantino”, Marco Caprai,
at the head of the winery that has relaunched this great wine in the world, and that in a pioneering way began to invest, over 20 years ago, in research and sustainability.
"It is obvious that the climate is changing, certainly we will have to, in the near future, in a time that I do not know to quantify, change our way of thinking - explains Rolland - the manufacturing processes, perhaps the vines. But - he points out, half-jokingly - don’t expect this from me. Certainly if the climate, in the next 20-25 years, will continue with this trend of change, we will have to intervene. We have no references, we don’t know how much to change and when to stop. What we can say today is that in the last 10-15 years we have made the best wines ever, because the climate has helped us. Soon perhaps the climate will become too hot or too dry and there will be trouble, but today we, who make wine, are not in trouble at all. According to Rolland, however, it is too negative the vision of those who think of viticulture completely distorted by the climate in the coming years.
"I think it’s too pessimistic , because we can’t say that currently the climate is a problem, on the contrary, I think that, in the last 15 years, the climate has helped us to make better wines than those made in the last years of the 20th century. The climate that we have at the moment, at this stage of evolution, I think it’s positive. Surely if the temperatures continue to rise, and the rains to drop, we would face problems, but if we consider what we can do today, there is no need to be pessimistic, and pessimism by the way, is not in my nature. Of course we have to think, reflect, that it is always a good thing, but I think that this is not the time to make changes. It is possible to imagine what could happen in the future and find solutions, because when there is a problem you have to adapt. I am not a pessimist, I do not think that there are currently insurmountable problems due to climate change. Nonetheless, we still need to think seriously about what will happen in the next 15-20-25 years.”
Thinking of the Belpaese, in any case, some argue that the great variety of historical and native vines, and the great diversity of the territories places Italy in a situation of advantage, compared to other countries, in terms of ability to react to climate change.
“I love native varieties very much, because I think they are of great interest in the world of wine,” explains Rolland, “and they allow consumers to discover things they didn’t necessarily know. Here we are in the homeland of Sagrantino, which is a vine that has character, that has to be a bit “civilized”, but is a great vine. It cannot be denied that there are currently great wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, that we know well, with Merlot, that we know even better, such as Masseto, but this does not prevent us from making ever better wines with native varieties. I think that the future of wine lies in the diversity, so we need to continue to make good wines, great wines with varieties known and recognized worldwide, known by consumers around the world, but I also think that Italy has a great card to play with local varieties, there are many in Italy. Not all wines are yet very good, we need to improve them, but if we work well I think it’s possible.”
Interesting ideas and reflections, coming from an open mind in the vision, that in many years of career has learned a lesson, above all: “you must never give up, and always be very curious, these are the two mottos of my life. I make wines in 24 countries, sometimes in very complicated conditions, extremely difficult, but I always go ahead. I’ve never abandoned a project, you never have to abandon it, because you have to find a solution. There is always a solution to a problem. Of course, it’s not possible to make great wines everywhere, but good wines, yes, and this is the rule of conduct of my life: I’ve always tried, wherever I was, to make good wines, and if there were conditions to make great wines, to make great wines”.

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