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Sicily, a permanent laboratory about wine sustainability, plans a new future

The project of the Fondazione SOStain evolves. The objective is to make Sicilian viticulture unique in the national and international panorama
Alberto Tasca in the photo by Matteo Carassale

A step forward in the direction of wine sustainability, an aspect that has always seen Sicily as a vanguard, a permanent laboratory on the matter, and a reference Region. Which plans a new future. A year after its establishment, the Fondazione SOStain Sicilia enters the operational phase, with the invitation addressed to Sicilian companies towards the certification process, under the guidance of the scientific committee of the Foundation, according to ten requirements: sustainable vineyard management, prohibition of chemical weeding, protection of biodiversity, use of eco-friendly materials in the vineyard, local raw materials, calculation of Viva indicators, energy efficient technologies, reduction of bottle weight, transparency in communication, absence of residues in wines.
Alberto Tasca, at the helm of Tasca d’Almerita, one of the reference wineries on the Sicilian scene and president of the Fondazione SOStain Sicilia, spoke of “an ethical choice and a compulsory step”, to which companies are called, if they want to protect the ecosystem, leaving it unaltered for future generations. “The peculiarities of our disciplinary - adds Alberto Tasca - are the tailoring linked to the Sicilian territory and the specificity of the measures we apply. In practice, the measurement system of agricultural best practices must take up the national and international ones, while the threshold-values that companies must respect and the research aimed at improving sustainability performance, are based on the characteristics of the territory. We are also working on the subdivision of areas into clusters and extra-vineyard landscapes. Moreover, the governance system set up by SOStain is transparent and not speculative, because the operating and scientific committee are at the service of the companies and the certification body, totally independent, excludes any kind of conflict of interest”.
Sustainability as a holistic project is not only limited to the territory, agricultural practices and the environment but also embraces social and economic sustainability and is strongly based on the exchange and comparison between companies. For Tasca “this is a radical change of mentality for the companies, yet another step forward moved thanks to a cultural change in the Sicilian wine sector, which leads to a new awareness and vision but in practice also to benefits, to a faster decision-making system and generates long-term savings”. Born also thanks to the will of Assovini Sicilia and Consorzio Vini Sicilia Doc, the Fondazione SOStain is the result of years of work carried out in synergy with the scientific and academic community of the Universities of Palermo, Milan and Piacenza. To date, 14 Sicilian wineries have joined the Foundation, 5 have obtained the certification and 50 are under analysis.
“The sustainable vocation of Sicily - says Antonio Rallo, president of Consorzio Vini Sicilia Doc and guide of the Donnafugata brand - is a natural factor, thanks to its favorable climatic conditions and soil variety and biodiversity, with more than seventy varieties of autochthonous vines. Sicily with its 30,000 hectares is the largest organic vineyard in Italy, the first region for organic vineyards in the hills, the second for vineyards in the mountains. We have the duty to deliver to future generations a land in conditions, if not better, at least equal to those who have preceded us”. For Laurent de la Gatinais, president of Assovini Sicilia and of Tenuta Rapitalà, “the road towards sustainability is traced. In many cases, it is a matter of validating and consolidating practices already in place. From unexpressed potential, sustainability can also become a commercial value, if it is communicated with authority by companies, gaining credibility in consumers. It is a strong message to be able to say that Sicily is sustainable”.
Producers are increasingly aware that choosing sustainability as a business philosophy is the right choice to make. “Without the beauty and variety involved in sustainable agriculture, the landscape would be different - explains Arianna Occhipinti, owner of the homonymous winery - The choice to support sustainability reinforces the bond with the winery and leads to changes that are not only aesthetical but also affect the productivity and quality of the wine”. Benedetto Alessandro of Cantina Alessandro di Camporeale agrees: “the sustainable choice for a medium-small winery involves many advantages and opportunities, such as the access to the competence and guidance of the technical-scientific committee, the possibility to make use of European funds which will soon make sustainability a condicio sine qua non”. Compliance with the parameters of sustainability is not only a bonus for farmers but also projects Sicily towards the European Green Deal and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“In the last thirty years - concludes Alberto Tasca - the brand Sicily has gone from a negative perception, to the candidacy, in 2019, as the best wine region in the world. Today, the Sicilian challenge goes in the direction of a Green Sicily. To achieve this goal, we must be united and share this path”.

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