By Stefano Rodi
Corriere della Sera
December 12, 2014
(translation by our blogmaster)
Being a pioneer is never easy.
It means opening a new path. But the part that’s probably the hardest is the fact that you have to do it under the skeptical eyes of everyone around you.
It’s always been like this and this is exactly what happened in Franciacorta when it came to the production of organic wine.
Growing grapes with the use of chemical products, measuring and limiting consumption of water and fuel, farms caring for the biodiversity of the soil, striving to absorb significant amounts of CO2, and acquiring credibility and international accolades were notions that were met by dismissive grins and pity.
“You’ll make rotten wine,” was what Silvano Brescianini heard people say.
In 1991, together with a group of friends and entrepreneurs who came from different lines of work, he took the reins of one of Franciacorta’s historic wineries, Barone Pizzini, an estate with 140 years of history behind it.
In the late 1990s, the new managers set out to switch over to organic production, which already had a few pioneers in Italy but none in Brescia province [where Franciacorta is produced].
But after the initial skepticism, the effort to be a pioneer was repaid by the many who followed suit. The philosophy of making wine that respects natural balance calls not only for care for the environment and the land where the grapes are grown. It also calls for high quality in the wines that are produced.
“Organic farming is the means but quality is the end,” says Brescianini who now serves at the winery’s general manager while Ugo Colombo acts as its president.
Soil that is rich with biodiversity not only guarantees proper management but it also makes for vines that grow more healthy and produce better grapes, the first necessary condition — although not the only one — to make great wines.
The rest is up to the winemakers who work in a new facility that was opened in 2007 and was designed with two key principles in mind: the reduction of impact on the environment and complete transparency for visitors, who can watch each phase of production.
“We thought about how restaurants have open kitchens. At our winery, you can see how wine is made.”
The winery produces roughly 320,000 bottles each year and this year its Franciacorta Rosé DOCG was selected as the best organic wine in the world, a prize awarded in London by one of the most revered wine competitions, the International Wine Challenge.
It’s always better to drink well and in moderation then to have poor quality wine on the table.
“It’s also a question of culture and even nutritional education,” notes Brescianini.
“We do everything we can to reduce the cost of food but then we eat poorly without knowing what we’re eating. The level of information on the ingredients and the traceability of the products is very low. As a country, it’s in our interest to reverse this tendency and aim for quality in the food we eat.”
And clearly in the wine we drink as well.