Franciacorta has always taken pains to develop a form of viticulture that promotes equilibrium with the environment by preserving natural resources and enhancing their value, and in recent years it has done so with increasing vigour and conviction.
These efforts are concretely expressed in everyday agronomic practices and cultivation choices, starting from the planting of the vineyard. The guiding principles are to always act in a way that favours the principles of environmental sustainability. It is therefore a priority to assess the immediate and future effects of each intervention on the territory (new plantations, modelling), particularly from environmental as well as economic standpoints, to improve knowledge of the soil and the terroir with regard to its potential, limitations and obstacles. This will also make it possible to optimise production while respecting the resources by applying knowledge and encouraging the use of eco-friendly materials and, when possible, renewable energy sources.
Reduction of inputs is a must for viticulture in Franciacorta. In other words, reduction of interventions and reduction of inputs in vines are the recurring theme within a form of viticulture is focussed on ensuring quality not only in terms of the organoleptic and analytical profile of the grapes, but also from the point of view of sustainable production. In this context, several concrete experiences have come together: grassing tests with seeds that would reduce processes and the movements of working machines through the vineyard, and promote an increase of organic matter in the soil, and other experiences related to the study of biodiversity, with the aim of conserving and increasing it. The subsoil holds the roots, a balanced and ecologically healthy ecosystem, to allow for optimal root activity, which is a prerequisite for efficient and healthy plants.
One activity being carried out by all the winemakers is the consolidation of agricultural practices that reduce their impact. Features and planting patterns appropriate to the soil type, together with prudent management of the areas beneath and in between the vines (grassing, organic matter supply) help eliminate or drastically reduce fertilisation. Proper canopy management reduces the accumulation of moisture around the clusters, hindering the proliferation of many fungal diseases of the vine. All this results in a significant reduction of inputs to protect the plants, reducing both the number of treatments and drastically reducing the necessary dosages. The adoption of equipment for modern and efficient distribution serves the same purpose, as it is designed to maximise the efficiency of applications.
In addition to the more strictly agronomic aspects, Franciacorta can boast of different experiences relating to cultivation that tend towards sustainability and “taking care” of the territory, for which it has received national and international awards.
“Terre della Franciacorta” project 2011 saw the launch of the project “Terre della Franciacorta” (Lands of Franciacorta), which was initiated by the Consortium and the 18 municipalities of Franciacorta and the Cogeme Onlus Foundation with the aim of preserving the land and making the most of its special characteristics at all levels in order to offer improve the experience of the inhabitants and the growing number of tourists in the area. The Terre of Franciacorta project, as defined by the production regulations, represents an area of 262 sq km inhabited by more than 146,000 people.
The cornerstone of the Strategic Plan for Franciacorta is the enhancement of the cultural and environmental heritage of the area as a lever for creating a sustainable economy, connecting Franciacorta with other areas both nationally and internationally. The goal is to consider the Franciacorta area from every angle, including the planning, landscaping, agriculture and economic perspective. It is a voluntary act between the participating partners that is not required by law but is of great significance as a pact between public and private actors that have put aside their own interests for the sake of a shared interest in an area.
COMMON REGULATION FOR SUSTAINABLE USE OF PESTICIDES This was the first concrete act taken the Terre della Franciacorta Association, and was the result of a long discussion between the representatives of the municipalities, the ASL and ARPA, and coordinated by the Consorzio Franciacorta, which offered the best skills available in the area through the agronomists of its Technical Committee.
It is a single regulation on the use of crop protection products that standardises the methods for distributing them in the vineyards, especially where urban contexts coexist with agricultural activities.
Once again, Franciacorta showed itself to be a pioneer: although there had already some instances of municipal and supra-municipal regulations, this was the first time that an article was written to describe distribution rules for specific contexts in detail.
The winemakers of Franciacorta set themselves some rules that were more restrictive than those dictated by law. This time the goal was to give practical proof of a common will to practise a form of viticulture that, while not disregarding operational needs, is fully attentive to the health of the environment.
Going a little more into the details, the regulations exclude some types of plant protection products for prudential reasons even though they are legally allowed, impose stricter controls on the quality of the distribution through more frequent functional controls of operating machinery, and discourage the use of less efficient distribution machines, imposing more limiting rules in relation to the most advanced equipment. They also stipulate the use of buffer strips for vineyards adjacent to urbanised areas, the size of which is adjusted according to the types of machines being used and according to the orientation of the rows.
Ita.Ca, the first italian model for measuring the carbon footprint For a long time, Franciacorta has worked towards sustainable production systems and environmentally friendly viticulture. The emission of greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, is an environmental impact resulting from all production activities. It is an especially vital environmental issue for agriculture, which lives on soil, water and air.
Agriculture and the processing of products are also activities that, at least in part, require energy and are therefore dependent on fossil fuels. Every effort must be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to safeguard the environment and the economy.
Therefore the Franciacorta Consortium has created a surveillance tool to monitor and measure companies’ greenhouse gas emissions in order to provide guidance and make production more sustainable. Ita.Ca® consists of a method for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from wine growing and manufacture, obtained by adapting the IWCC (International Wine Carbon Calculator) to the Italian context, through a cooperation between Studio Agronomico SATA, Milan University and institutes from other countries (Australia in particular). The goal of Ita.Ca® is above all to identify the emissions of greenhouse gases within the wine production supply chain (field, cellar, marketing), measuring them and expressing them in equivalent CO2 emitted.
Three areas have been identified in this regard.
- Primary scope: emissions from fossil fuels consumed by the company or in any case by any activity directly attributable to it (heating, transport, machinery, carbon losses from the soil, etc.);
- Secondary scope: emissions from electricity produced elsewhere, but transported and consumed on the farm;
- Tertiary scope: emissions attributable to material production processes acquired externally and to waste disposal.
Several Franciacorta companies monitored with the Ita.Ca® model have requested and obtained ISO 14064 certification (which measures their carbon footprint), which confirms the model’s compliance with international standards. Once the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions are identified in each company, it becomes possible to define corrective measures to reduce the emissions of the individual businesses. Some are easier to implement because they do not require investment but rather fall within the scope of operational choices; others are more demanding, requiring time and investments, such as structural changes in the company. This sparks a virtuous cycle that creates awareness concerning energy consumption and emissions among business. The results have been extremely positive: in 2011 there was a reduction in emissions of nearly 3,000 tons of CO2 equivalent for the area investigated in comparison to the base year of 2010.
The first of its kind in Italy, the basic calculation was carried out on a very significant proportion of the Denomination’s land area. In the 2010-2011 period a number of companies representing approximately 60% of the vineyard area of Franciacorta DOCG were monitored on a voluntary basis: 1,585 of 2,714 hectares, with a total production of 11,018,793 bottles out of the estimated 18 million. It was found, among other things, that the production process (in the vineyard and winery) showed an overall beneficial effect, as in well-managed vineyards, the natural process of photosynthesis absorbs CO2, removing more from the atmosphere than is emitted during the production and transformation activities.
Franciacorta’s negative balance of CO2 equivalents per bottle produced can thus be considered virtuous, and results in a credit of 1.08 kg/bottle.
Franciacorta was the first, and to date is the only, region in Italy, and is one of just a few in the world, to adopt a system for measuring carbon emissions across the territory.
Sustainable defense against vine moth using the mating disruption method The vine moth (Lobesia botrana) is an insect that can cause severe damage to vines, albeit in a fluctuating manner that it is heavily conditioned by weather. It attacks the cluster at different times of the season (with flowers and cluster size at different stages of maturation), producing 2 to 3 generations per year.
The damage results in a loss of production in terms of both quality and quantity, both directly and indirectly, in that the cluster also becomes predisposed to attacks of rot.
Traditionally this pest has been fought with insecticide treatments, but even repeated treatments may be ineffective in case of massive infestation.
In order to reduce or even eliminate insecticides, which over time lead to imbalances in the ecosystem of the vineyard by reducing the populations of useful insects that serve as competitors to those that harm the vines, in recent times there has been a growing interest in the technique of mating disruption. This involves distributing sex pheromones in extremely high concentrations throughout the vineyards to disorientate the male moths, preventing them from recognising the female signal. The consequent reduction in mating wipes out production of subsequent generations, making this pest completely harmless.
The mating disruption method is economically costly but very much in line with the principles of sustainability, which have been a priority for Franciacorta viticulture.
In 2014, the total planted area treated by mating disruption spanned approximately 500 hectares and a steady increase is expected in the next few years. The work was coordinated by the Franciacorta Consortium in collaboration with the Centro Studi Agrea, and has made it possible to provide growers with useful information about the current size of the moth populations through an efficient real time warning system via email and text messages, and also provides confirmation of the effectiveness of the method.
Biodiversity in the vineyard: from research to production Among the many organisms that live in the soil, arthropods are an important part of biodiversity, and are regarded as reliable indicators of soil quality, because they are sensitive to physical and chemical changes in the soil, as well as human vineyard management techniques. The soil has been described as the most complex and diverse ecosystem in the world, where one quarter of the living species of our planet are to be found. This has promoted research on the biodiversity and function of the soil, that is, the effects of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems, which have a positive influence on production systems.
Investigations initiated in 2014 in collaboration with SataStudio Agronomico, UNIMI and UNIBS have led to the publication of two scientific papers in compliance with international standards. The reliability of the results is backed by sound statistical analysis. Before publication as open access resources, the papers were peer-reviewed and then became part of the body of international scientific literature.
Franciacorta covers an area of 2615 hectares, dotted with 120 wineries. 100 samples from 100 different vineyards were investigated over a time period of 5 years. The study led to the identification of a total of 19 groups of arthropods present in the various areas under vines of Franciacorta and made it possible to define their relations (i.e. their tendency to appear together under similar conditions). It was shown that organic matter, soil humidity, temperature and pH play an important role in the behavior of each group, and that organic farming has a very positive impact on the development of these organisms. But not just that: the highest levels of arthropod diversity were observed in patches where organic farming had been adopted for the longest time.
The study involved numerous vineyards and estates in Franciacorta in order to understand the dynamics of the insect populations as a consequence of the cultivation practices and their repercussions on the health of the vines. This enables growers to adopt less impactful interventions to protect their vineyards from specific pathogens, while it also highlights the importance for the producers of a vision that focuses on respecting the natural balance and an awareness of its environmental and agricultural benefits.
The expansion of organic farming in the Franciacorta is a result of the growing awareness on the part of individual estates that wine quality is not measured simply by its sensory characteristics, but has a broader scope. It encompasses the respect for resources that are essential for life – water, air, earth – which we must leave as unblemished as possible for the generations to come. In any case, through its activities and projects, in recent years the Consortium has contributed to raising that awareness, through state-of-the-art scientific research in the field of viticulture. Currently, Franciacorta is the designation area with the highest proportion – over two thirds – of organic vineyards.