Allegrini 2018

Vines, value and artificial intelligence: the challenges of the next 10 years for the Sicily of wine

From “Sicilia en primeur” 2023 Antonio Rallo, Alessio Planeta and Alberto Tasca envision the next frontier to face together in order to grow together

Deepen and improve the knowledge of famous and forgotten Sicilian vines, with the scientific research support; increase the value of Sicilian wine, with each winery and company having to assume, individually, responsibility for a common goal; work as a team to make the use of artificial intelligence socially and environmentally convenient. In the journey to “Sicilia en primeur 2023” (preview of Sicilian wines that began today and will culminate in Taormina on May 13th) here are the challenges that the Trinacria of wine could set itself as future ten-year goals, following a path in stages that saw it grow and change drastically, at the pace of decades, in the last 30 years: the creation of Assovini Sicilia, a network that brings together the virtuous companies of Sicilian wine, dates back to the end of the nineties of the twentieth century, the birth of the Doc Sicilia to 2011 and to 2020 the official and formal establishment of the Fondazione Sostain, which has implemented a long experience in the field of ecology started a long time ago.
Sicily, in short, as a unique example in Italy of collaboration to improve an extraordinary land, enclosed in the motto “una apis nulla apis” – “a bee alone is not a bee” and which they had intuited,
back when no one would have yet thought about it, the three protagonists of the oenological rise of the island: Diego Planeta, Giacomo Rallo and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita.
And now we asked the heirs of the three great Sicilian wine families, who gave impetus to this “revolution”, to make a creative effort to try to imagine the new challenge to be faced and to be achieved by 2030.
Antonio Rallo, winemaker at the helm of the historic Sicilian brand Donnafugata and confirmed president of the Consortium of Doc Sicily wines, addressed the agricultural issue, arguing that it will be critical to focus on the “study of Sicilian vines, both the forgotten and the known ones, with new selections of biotypes and new clones. As a result, the best possible material is made available to Sicilian producers in order for them to produce the best Sicilian vines in the future”. Sicily contains an extreme variety of soils as well as autochthonous vitis vinifera and relics, which, combined with the heterogeneity of microclimates, leads to reaching 100 days of harvest in the harvest period: an incomparable richness that could be better exploited, starting from the already launched project “Enhancement of viticultural germplasm” promoted and supported by the Consortium of Doc Sicilia in partnership with the Department of Agriculture of the Sicilian Region, the University of Palermo and the Regional Center for the conservation of viticultural and agricultural biodiversity “F. Paulsen”. Furthermore, a Doc Sicilia, which now has 8,000 winemakers and 530 bottlers who “produce in accordance with the Denomination of Controlled Origin”, according to Antonio Rallo. In 2022, 86.5 million bottles were packaged, and the data show a +8% increase in the first quarter of 2023 over the same period in 2022, another important sign of the health of Sicilian wine. Which must now focus more on the critical issue of value, emphasizes Alessio Planeta, at the helm of the family business, one of the most well-known in Italy (along with his brother Santi and cousin Francesca). “If we imagine Sicilian wine as a pyramid, with the wines of Etna and the references of historical regional brands at the top and the references of social cooperative wineries at the bottom, the common goal should be to work throughout the pyramid to increase the value of the various segments”. Alessio Planeta imagines acting on two fronts: for the apex, developing, in addition to Etna, the partly unexpressed potential of many other small and large denominations and areas (such as Vittoria, Pantelleria or Menfi, for example), making them enter the new fine wines of Italy; instead, for the base of the pyramid, “enhancing two characteristics that currently give us an advantage on the market: the diffusion of the organic vineyard and the traditionally white soul of Sicily”. Of course, these are objectives that concern more corporate strategic policies, but there is a part of the wine story that helps in this sense and that can (and must) be developed collectively, to sing a single and united voice that is received positively by the players in the sector and, finally, understood and accepted by the consumer. The Doc Sicilia was created with this goal in mind, and it has already resulted in unimaginable progress, such as doubling the price of bulk wine in ten years: however, this is clearly only the beginning of a necessary path towards growth in terms of quality of the entire sector as a whole.
Alberto Tasca d’Almerita goes a step further, as the eighth generation of the Tasca family to lead the Sicilian excellence cellar and president of the Fondazione SOStain. Based on the progress made to date in terms of regional collaboration, his projection appears to be an almost visionary one that extends beyond the wine sector to embrace an instrument that has sparked contemporary debate: artificial intelligence. “Let the furrow dug by our forefathers serve as a cornerstone: working as a team, united, to face the challenges that will inevitably arrive. I believe that the most recent steps towards sustainability have opened up new frontiers, new collaborations among us, and numerous discussion tables for new issues, all of which are fundamental and auspicious. The next challenges - specifies Alberto Tasca - will be important: there is talk, even outside our sector, of artificial intelligence, and I believe that it will bring about significant changes in the world of work in general. It is possible that by applying it to protocols and systems of sustainable rules, they will be able to accelerate processes with significant benefits”. To summarize, it will be necessary to continue to collaborate and keep an open mind about all of the opportunities as well as the potentially problematic consequences.
Meanwhile, in 2023, the trump card of Assovini Sicilia, the network that brings together the virtuous companies of Sicilian wine, led by Laurent Bernard de la Gatinais, and the Consortium of Sicilian Wines is to deepen the development of food and wine and high-end tourism. The luxury market has never known a crisis, and it is thus that segment of tourism that many look to in order to break free from the general economic stagnation. Sicily has all the credentials to attract such investments, owing to its rare multifaceted cultural richness, which includes history, literature, architecture, art, landscape, and, of course, food and wine tradition, all of which guarantee unparalleled and out-of-the-ordinary experiences outside of that one of the large groups. The day after tomorrow, in the largest botanical park in Europe (owned by the Faro family) Radicepura, in Giarre, Roberta Garibaldi, professor of Tourism Management at the University of Bergamo, president of the Italian Food and Wine Tourism Association, Lorenzo Maraviglia, general manager of the San Domenico Palace Four Seasons Hotel, Benedetto Puglisi, co-founder and scientific director of the Master THEM in Tourism Hospitality & Event Management of BeAcademy, trying to find a sustainable solution capable of bringing together the two roles in the world of wine : that of ambassadors and, at the same time, custodians of culture and territory.

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