Pievalta: Biodynamic farming practices

Our new Pievalta profile series continues…

biodynamic wine italy

Biodynamic Viticulture

“Balance and beauty, harmony and dynamism, luminosity and warmth. These are adjectives that can be used to describe the Marches (Marche) countryside. But they can also be used to describe the Marches’ favorite son, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. After being bewitched by the ancient rapport between this grape and this place, we decided we would begin farming Verdicchio using biodynamic practices.”

“We don’t transform grapes into wine. We simply accompany the fruit as it become wine. We always stay one step behind and we don’t intervene or use shortcuts that would interrupt its harmony with the place where it is made. Instead, we let the grapes express themselves freely. Anyone who travels through these hills will see and taste this.”

—Alessandro Fenino
founding partner

Biodynamic viticulture means bringing life into the vineyard by helping it to reactivate the forces that put it in relation with the sky and the earth. We work exclusively with natural preparations and organic and vegetal compounds so as to facilitate the formation of fertile humus and revitalize plant growth. This is the only way, in our view, to create a wine that truly expresses the unique character of the place where it is grown and the vintage.

Biodynamic practices

We till the soil between every other row and then plough it again at the end of the harvest. We plant these rows with essences (mostly legumes) that will be mowed and worked back into the earth in the spring (cover crop).

When we plant and then later when we mow, we spray the vineyards with preparation 500, which is one of the fundamental tools of biodynamics, the so-called “horn manure.” It gives the soil the impulse to form its humus, the layer of soil colloids that teems with microorganisms and imparts fertility to the soil.

Before flowering, and in any case before the summer solstice, we spray the vineyards with preparation 501 (or horn silica).

In order to protect the vines from disease, we use only sulfur and copper and the latter is used only in a maximum dosage of 3 kg per hectare per year (half of the maximum amount allowed in organic farming.

Organic certification

Organic farming is certified in Italy by entities that have been accredited by Italy Ministry of Agriculture. Our wines have been recognized as “organic agriculture” products by CSQA. This is why we freely share the results of the analyses of our wines. They prove that our wines are free of pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides.

We encourage you to take a look at the chemical analyses of our wines.

Pievalta: Vineyards and Winery

Our new Pievalta profile series continues…

verdicchio tufo soil limestone

Pievalta: Vineyards and Winery

Pievalta farms 26.5 hectares of estate-owned vineyards with two principal growing sites on either end of the Esino River Valley. Each has its own soil types and each gives a different character to the wines.

The winery and 21.5 hectares of its vineyards are located in Maiolati Spontini township, along the left bank of the Esino River where the soils are predominantly clay and limestone. The vines were originally planted in the 1970s and have been updated with greater density and modern training. The wines sourced on this side of the river are known for their minerality and freshness and fruit character.

The other vineyard is on the right bank of the Esino in San Paolo di Jesi in the hamlet of Follonica. This high-elevation, steep-sloped vineyard is well aerated and its soils are granitic sandstone. Locals agree that this is one of the best subzones in Castelli di Jesi. Here, the wines are more austere and more rich in flavor and they are known for their power.

The vineyards are farmed organically and biodynamically using legume cover crops between the rows and biodynamic preparations that facilitate the formation of fertile humus and bolster plant growth while respecting the terroir.

Despite the great challenges it poses from an operational standpoint, nearly all of the work carried out in the vineyards is done by hand, like bunch pruning, de-shooting, and disbudding.

The approach is aimed at achieving the highest level of quality within the context of a given vintage. Techniques include: Limited pruning, mine-sourced sulfur and copper applied in a maximum dosage of 3 kg per hectare per year (half of the maximum amount allowed in organic farming), no fertilizers or irrigation, picking times that vary from parcel to parcel and hand picking in small crates to ensure that the grape skins do not break.

In the cellar, we attempt to preserve the work we’ve carried out in the vineyards. We accompany the grapes as they are transformed into wine by making sure that our technical intervention is always one step behind the expression of the terroir and the grape variety.

We work by doing as little as possible, thus allowing the grape variety and terroir to express themselves.

It’s been many years since we used any animal additives in our wines, for example, and since 2009, our products have been vegan certified.

Great scores for Pievalta from Ian D’Agata and Vinous Media!

We are thrilled to share top Italian wine reviewer and educator Ian D’Agata’s impressions of our wines on Vinous Media July 2015!

Pievalta 2010 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva San Paolo
91 points

Vivid golden yellow color. Flint and smoke notes complicate citrus fruits and apple on the nose and palate. Smooth, rich and round, this shows a much more glyceral mouthfeel than the 2012 version. Finishes thick and long, with a saline element and a persistent hint of marzipan.

Pievalta 2012 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva San Paolo
90 points

Pale gold-tinged yellow. Aromas of green apple and nectarine are complicated by vanilla and clove. Clean and fresh in the mouth, showing noteworthy bite to its lively apple and pear flavors. Finishes smooth and long, with a hint of caramel.

best verdicchio italy marche

Barone Pizzini now certified by CSQA, the leading organization for food and farming certification

Barone Pizzini now certified by CSQA, the leading organization for food and farming certification, a new frontier for the Franciacorta organic pioneer.

A friend of Biodiversity in Franciacorta: Barone Pizzini is at the top of the list.

Provaglio d’Iseo — A new first in the history of respect for nature, the environment, and health for Barone Pizzini, an organic pioneer in Franciacorta since the 1990s and today a champion of biodiversity: The historic winery has become the first Franciacorta winery to obtain Biodiversity Friend certification, the leading standard for biodiversity certification in agriculture, sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and created by the non-profit World Biodiversity Association.

“Respect for life in every form,” says Barone Pizzini CEO Silvano Brescianini, “is at the heart of every one of our choices: From the turning point that made us the first organic producer of Franciacorta to the will to guarantee transparency and reliability to the consumer through parameters that ensure a healthy environment. Our commitment in this field has been supported by the analyses carried out for Biodiversity Friend certification. With our decidedly high marks from the outset, we know that we are on the right path. But we never lose sight of the fact that organic farming and biodiversity are not ends unto themselves but rather means to achieve quality in our wines.”

The level of biodiversity in Barone Pizzini’s vineyards was measured using specific “evaluations” related to the quality of the soil, water, and air. These also included evaluations of “actions” like fertilization management and farming practices that help to restore the soil’s fertility; the use of renewable energy sources; and solid measures for conserving energy and reducing green house emissions.

Thanks to the results, Barone Pizzini was promoted with full honors by CSQA!

“We are very proud of this achievement,” says Brescianini. “It’s the start of our road toward always getting better. We are a living organism and an integral part of an ecosystem where we hope to preserve organic variability by maintaining balance and without squandering our resources. We really appreciate the work that CSQA does, especially its approach to monitoring the quality of the environment in its totality, an approach that isn’t limited solely to the wine world.”

From the CSQA website:

CSQA is a certification and inspection company formed in Italy in 1990 from a long established and prestigious institute of biotechnology.

The certification of the Italian farm food sector begun with CSQA, which was the first institution to be accredited by the National accreditation body (Accredia) and authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture for the monitoring of products with Registered Designation of Origin (PDO, PGI, TSG).

Innovation has always been a cornerstone of CSQA’s mission and as such, has remained in its DNA, making it a pioneer in facing issues that are later established at international level .

Whilst CSQA was set up to provide ISO certification to food companies, including quality and management systems, based on prevention and continuous improvement, it not only focuses on food safety and sustainability, but also onbusiness continuity and information security.

As sustainability has become more of an emerging issue, CSQA became the first certification body in the world to certify a farm to ISO 50001 for energy management.

biodiversity friend

Pievalta: A short history of the winery

best verdicchio jesi castelli

The Pievalta winery is located in Maiolati Spontini township, Ancona province, in the Marches (Marche), in the heart of the Castelli di Jesi. It’s a land renowned for its small, walled medieval villages and for the production of wines made from Verdicchio grapes.

Pievalta was founded in 2002 thanks to the vision of the Barone Pizzini winery (Franciacorta). At the time, the historic estate in Lombardy was thinking of investing outside its own appellation. The winery’s CEO, Silvano Brescianini, had already recognized the great potential of Verdicchio as one of Italy’s most important indigenous grape varieties. And so he decided to gamble on the Marches, a region rich in history and natural resources and one of Italy’s most beautiful landscapes.
Barone Pizzini asked a young Milanese enologist who had worked a few harvests at the winery in Franciacorta to manage this ambitious project in the Castelli di Jesi appellation.

Alessandro left Milan and headed to Maiolati Spontini where he began to study Verdicchio and immediately fell in love with it. From the outset, he farmed the estate organically and in 2005 it was only natural that he would begin a biodynamic conversion of the vineyards.

Biodyanmic grape-growing means bringing the soil back to life by helping it reactivate the forces that keep it in balance with the sky and the earth.

He grows cover crops between the vineyard rows and he treats them with biodynamic preparations to facilitate the formation of fertile hummus. Through his deep respect for the terroir, he has revitalized the growth of other plants as well.

“We don’t transform grapes into wine,” says Fenino. “We simply accompany the fruit as it become wine. We always stay one step behind and we don’t intervene or use shortcuts that would interrupt its harmony with the place where it is made. Instead, we let the grapes express themselves freely. Anyone who travels through these hills will see and taste this.”

The estate covers 26.5 hectares with 21.5 hectares in Maiolati Spontini around the winery. Many of the vines were planted in the 1970s. Today, they have been re-trellised using modern training systems and higher density. In Maiolati Spontini, the subsoils are primarily clay and limestone. The other vineyard is located in San Paolo di Jesi in the hamlet of Follonica. It’s a high-elevation site with good ventilation and the classic granitic sandstone that makes Castelli di Jesi an ideal place to produce fine wine.

In 2008, Alessandro was joined in Pievalta by Silvia Loschi, his colleague from Franciacorta and his life partner. She manages sales and hospitality at the winery.

Ian D’Agata on Rosé Brut 2010: 90 points

Barone Pizzini 2010 Franciacorta Rosé Brut
90 points

Fairly pale pink. Red fruit salad aromas complicated by flowers and honey. Concentrated and chewy, with fresh red berry flavors complicated by fresh herbs and orange peel. Finishes bright and gripping, with repeating flavors of strawberry and an earthy touch. From 100% organically grown grapes.

Ian D’Agata
Vinous Media

June 2015

franciacorta rose

Profile: Pievalta Winemaker Alessandro Fenino

alessandro fenino and silvia loschi

Above: Pievalta founder and winemaker Alessandro Fenino (left) and his wife Silvia Loschi.

Pievalta winemaker Alessandro Fenino’s road to a life in wine is as unlikely as it is spectacular.

He was born in a working-class neighborhood in the outskirts of Milan, where enology and the world of wine were as foreign as life on the farm. His parents had escaped the hardships of country life in post-war Italy and had moved to the big city where they found work during Italy’s economic boom of the 1960s. His father was an electrician and his mother was shop clerk in a clothing store.

But in 1995, Alessandro took a “leap into the unknown,” as he puts it, when he decided to enroll in the department of Enology and Viticulture at the State University in Milan. In 1997, he had the good fortune to land an internship at one of Italy’s leading organic wineries, the revered La Stoppa estate in Piacenza.

“It was there,” he remembers, “that I decided that I wanted to make fine wine for a living.”

Today, Alessandro is the chief agronomist and winemaker at Castelli di Jesi’s first and only Demeter-certified biodynamic winery, an initiative and accomplishment that he personally envisioned and implemented.

After completing a second internship at Barone Pizzini (where he first began working in sparkling wine), his degree in enology and viticulture, and his (then mandatory) military service, he returned to Barone Pizzini where he began working full-time in the fall of 2001.

In 2002, he and Barone Pizzini general manager Silvano Brescianini founded the Pievalta winery in Castelli di Jesi.

In 2003, the team began converting the estate to organic farming. Then in 2005, after having completed various studies in biodynamic agriculture and attending numerous fairs and conferences, Alessandro spearheaded the estate’s biodynamic conversion.

In 2008, it became the first winery in Castelli di Jesi to obtain Demeter certification.