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Wines good for the earth: IT CAN BE DONE!

(Lorenzo Biscontin)

Last Oct. 11th Cantine Vitevis cooperative organized the conference “Good wines for the earth” in Vicenza, with the participation of speakers who dealt with the issue of sustainability from different points of view.

The ideas shared were many and interesting, above all because concrete examples and experiences of how and why to realize the path towards sustainability in the wine sector were presented.

Here we report the salient points, but it would be impossible to summarize them all in the space of an article and therefore we recommend going to the on-demand room of our metaverse where you can find the recording of the conference.

From a historical point of view Aurelio Bauckneht recalled how urea was chemically synthesized for the first time a hundred years ago, but it still remains one of the most used fertilizers in agricultural despite the fact that alternatives more sustainable from an environmental point of view are available already for some time.

A clear indicator of the inertia that exists in changing consolidated business practices, regardless of the technical feasibility of the change.

An inertia that can be dangerous with respect to the progress towards sustainability made by the society as a whole, exemplified in the amendments to articles 9 and 41 of the Italian Constitution approved this year which insert biodiversity and ecosystems between the things protected by the Italian Republic and the sustainability in the realization of the private economic initiative, or rather the company.

Sustainability therefore risks becoming a tsunami for companies that are not ready.

Giulio Somma in the following speech cited numbers that show how the wine sector is aware of the growing importance of sustainability: if in 2017 Equalitas certified wineries were only 17, in 2022 they became 200.

An important growth, but an absolute number still low if compared with the 40,000 companies that bottle wine in Italy.

He then recalled the three pillars of sustainability, namely the environmental, social and economic one and the danger of the abuse of these concepts in business communication. Hence the responsibility that journalists and opinion leaders in the sector have in avoiding the spread of greenwashing.

Linked to the issue of sustainability, Somma pointed out the research that highlights the consumer’s request for transparency on production processes. Requests that the wine sector is responding only partially.

Sara Norell, responsible for the assortment of wines for the Swedish monopoly, one of the most sensitive markets to the issue of sustainability, then intervened via videoconference.

Norell recalled how the conviction of wanting to be at the forefront of sustainability issues is shared by both Systembolaget employees and consumers.

For this reason, 25% of the wines in the Swedish monopoly stores are organic and the share of sales of wines packaged in sustainable packaging other than wine is 60%.

The goal of Systembolaget is to help reverse the curve of climate change, thus going beyond “simple” environmental neutrality, and since March of this year, sustainable wines have been marked by a specific brand on the label.

Norell’s recommendation to wine producers is to continue the path of certifying their sustainability, trying to standardize the Equalitas and VIVA standards.

Davide Raffaetà‘s speech was the most concise, but in a certain sense the most impactful. Through a short video he showed how the adoption of simple cultural techniques based on the reduction of tillage and the contribution of organic matter to the soil allow to increase the storage of carbon by the soil, giving agriculture the ability to effectively contribute to inversion of the climate change curve.

Speaking of sustainability communication, Rosella Sobrero also recalled the risk of greenwashing, which leads to emptying all messages, even the correct ones.

To avoid this, it takes continuity and consistency in talking about sustainability, in order to become credible for audiences. Therefore, no proclamations, but tangible actions and results. Again clarity and transparency are crucial, together with empathy, to involve people and get messages, which must not only concern the successes achieved, but also the goals not yet achieved.

All these principles have found application in the sustainability pathways created by Cantine Vitevis, which began in 2013 with the introduction of electronic campaign records and which will lead to the creation of the sustainability report in 2023/24.

A path presented by Alberto Marchisio, General Manager of Vitevis, who illustrated the many projects that involved the members of the winery. From Equalitas to GHG certification for CO2 sequestration in the soil, which today allows the production of 3 million “carbon neutral” certified bottles, up to checks on the use of water and fertilizers on 100 hectares of Pinot Grigio.

Vitevis is also certified as a control body for its winegrowing members and this makes the cooperative’s role in disseminating the principles and training on sustainability practices in the area even more effective.

As the President of Vitevis Silvano Nicolato recalled, in the opening greeting, the 4 wineries united in the cooperative involve 1,350 winegrowers who cultivate 2,800 hectares of vineyards, for a total of 50,000 tons of grapes, 12 million bottles produced and a turnover of 65 million euros.

Therefore, the social dimension also plays a role in guiding those technical and managerial innovations capable of reducing the environmental footprint of viticulture in a lasting way.

The conference ended with Carlo Petrini who defined the wine sector as the spearhead of the agri-food sector, then the example and the driving force for the others.

According to Petrini, innovation and tradition are not two opposing concepts, but two aspects in constant dialectic that feed each other.

Hence the three good practices that a winery must implement:

1) The management of the limit, because infinite growth is not achievable and there is a limit within which the company develops in harmony with the physical, social and economic environment.

2) Maintain and strengthen biodiversity, because it increases the resilience of the whole territory and therefore it is not so much, or only, an ethical choice, but a strategic choice for the durability of the company itself.

3) Respect for the territory and the populations that inhabit it as a whole, even for those who are not involved in the wine business.

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