Allegrini 2018

Wineries, beyond wine: organic agriculture of quality grows between companies and territories

Among individual and district initiatives, more and more wine producers are focusing on ancient grains, fruits, vegetables, honey, saffron and more

Wine, for some territories, is the absolute pillar of the economy and of the social and occupational fabric, with the vine as the main actor of agriculture. Yet, where with district projects, where on the push of single companies, in many places there is a diversification of production, always in the sign of typicality and excellence. A sort of small “return to the past”, in a certain sense. A re-evolution of the winery and of the highly specialized agriculture towards a new vision of the agricultural business which contemplates more productions, mainly from the point of view of production, but also of processing, promotion and distribution of wine integrated with other food and wine products, which traces a different course for the future, embodying in the widest possible sense the concept of “biodiversity”. And if in many Italian territories one of the historical and most common synergies to the production of wine is the one of oil, which is produced in good quantities and of high quality by an important number of prestigious wineries of the whole country, companies and wine territories are rediscovering and enhancing ancient grains and cereals, production of cheese, saffron, honey, fruit, pasta and so on. Among the most structured territorial case histories, there is that of Chianti Classico, where the production of wine has always been associated with that of olive oil, but where, over the years, a real Distretto Rurale del Chianti (Rural District of Chianti) has been created, where the production of pecorino cheese, Tuscan bread, Cinta Senese meat, cured meats such as Finocchiona Igp, confectionery products such as Panforte and Ricciarelli di Siena, both Igp, and so on, is also valorized.
“The economic and territorial program of the District - explains, to WineNews, the president Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi, at the helm of Tenuta Bibbiano - has large parts of the investment dedicated to the integration between different production chains. Wine and oil are already integrated in a structured way, as confirmed by the fact that there are two different consortia that share a large part of the social base, structures and programs. But now we are trying to encourage the development of those productions that are well suited to our territory, so alternative agricultural productions, thanks to the work and study of the Biodistrict of Chianti, but also the chain of cheese and meat, the recovery of gardens, seeds and ancient grains present in the past in the area and gone into disuse for low yield, but that just by integrating with other chains could find new impetus. Some companies are more advanced because they already have the land to do so, others will have to make productive investments, but it is a process of diversification that is taking place. In addition, there is also a major issue of recovery of abandoned areas through these different types of agriculture, which also means combating hydrogeological instability and demographic impoverishment of the territories. It is also clear that the great theme of communication and promotion of these products must be addressed, also in the direction of bringing qualified tourism in the area that can appreciate these agricultural products with high added value”.
Another case history to be told, coming from a world-class wine territory that is also looking at a return to agriculture made up of biodiversity, true but modern, and different, which can generate work, wealth and further set in motion that wine tourism that looks more and more to the experience and life in a territory, is that of Montalcino, land of Brunello, where productions ranging from white truffles to oil, from honey to saffron, from cheese to plums, from pasta to spelt, will soon be able to bear the label “Eccellenze di Montalcino”: the trademark has already been registered by the Fondazione Territoriale del Brunello, a socio-cultural emanation of the Consorzio del Brunello, created in 2016 with the desire to reinvest part of the profits for the benefit of the territory. Here, among others, stands out the case of Castello Banfi, one of the leading companies in the area, which, among other things, is also one of the largest Italian producers of plums, and also produces honey, oil and pasta from high-quality local grains.
“Wine remains the mainstay, and thanks to wine the project “Eccellenze di Montalcino” was born - underlines the President of the Consortium Fabrizio Bindocci - because Brunello producers want to enhance productions considered “minor”, or at least less known, of the territory, from honey to saffron, from plums to pasta, from cheese to ancient grains. Because Montalcino is not only wine, but it is a territory in which there is great attention to biodiversity, and we want to enhance this aspect, with products that must have the right recognition. With quality and excellence that must be tangible and perceived by everyone”.
Clear messages, coming from the voice of entire territories. Among the curiosities, there are also examples of single wineries, also in Tuscany, such as the historic winery of Vernaccia di San Gimignano Guicciardini Strozzi, which also houses one of the largest pheasant farms in Italy, or such as Castello del Terriccio, one of the largest farms in Italy, more than 1,500 hectares in the hills of Pisa, where the production of great wines is flanked, among other things, by the breeding of horses and beef cattle.
Talking about the most emblazoned wine territories, it is impossible not to talk about the Langhe: the fact that wine production is leading is not a matter of doubt, as also witnessed by the Unesco recognition of the “Langhe, Roero and Monferrato Wine Landscapes”. Just as the synergy between great wines and the white truffle of Alba, for example, is not under discussion. Some large wine producers, however, also driven by the growth of the confectionery industry, and in particular Ferrero, have returned to invest and plant hazelnut groves, a historical crop of the territory, as has been done, for example, by Ceretto, one of the most important names in the area.
"But probably the combination to be emphasized more, at the production level, also for a greater affinity to wine, is the one with the great Piedmontese cheeses, starting with Castelmagno”, explains, to WineNews, the president of the Consortium of Barolo and Barbaresco, Matteo Ascheri. Here, too, there is no shortage of case histories, such as that of Elio Altare, one of the most prestigious names in wine and producer of Castelmagno. Or that of Des Martin, a project that has seen a group of important wine producers (names such as Enzo and Gianni Boglietti, Chiara Boschis, Cesare Boschis, Claudio Conterno and Enrico Cordero di Montezemolo, in recent years, invest in the recovery of an entire village, Valliera, recovering the ancient production of Castelmagno from the alpine pastures but not only”.
Among the most advanced synergies between “agricultures”, if not cases of realities that, in addition to wine, produce other typical products, such as buckwheat, apples and cheese, there is that of Valtellina, concretized in the Distretto Valtellina Che Gusto, which brings together under one hat the DOP and IGP wines of the territory, and certified productions such as pizzoccheri, apples, bresaola and cheeses such as bitto and casera, in a path similar to that made in Alto Adige with wine, cheese, cured meats and apples, for example.
Just a few possible cases among the many, to which countless could be added, if one were to take into consideration, for example, the countless wineries that, from the North to the South, from Trentino to Sicily, for their own hospitality and internal catering take care of gardens and orchards, or produce small quantities of cold cuts, cheeses and other products, but still more for their own consumption than for the market. The dimension of which, for new development or for the recovery of different agricultural supply chains, but anchored to that of wine, remains unavoidable. Nevertheless, beyond experiences which, on the whole, are still pioneering, the way for the future seems to be traced. A road that, as often happens, thinks about tomorrow by looking back to the past, when in farms, farmsteads and homesteads throughout Italy, they produced everything that the territory, climate and knowledge allowed them to produce, first for their own survival and then for the market. A mosaic of agricultural “biodiversity” that then, in more recent times, has been a bit lost due to the spread of different specialized agricultures, which, if in many cases has allowed the territories to prosper from an economic point of view, on the other hand has impoverished the diversity of agriculture that, instead, today, in many ways we try to recover, in a virtuous way. With the wineries that have revived and are growing, especially in recent years, agricultural originality made of biodiversity, of great interest, modern, able to give new prosperity to many territories of Italy.

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