A Toast to the Bounty of Summer

This time of year, we’re especially inspired in the kitchen; our local markets are bursting with the season’s freshest fruits and vegetables, and it seems that nothing more than a light touch is needed to turn such exquisite raw materials into a healthy local feast.

This is the same philosophy that guides the winemaking principles of Barone Pizzini; an appreciation for the bounty of the land and a respect for the raw ingredients that has inspired the company to lead the way in organic production of Franciacorta, as well as biodynamic production of Pievalta in Le Marche.

Not surprising, then, that many of the restaurants around the country that include Barone Pizzini in their wine programs also espouse this dedication to local sourcing and appreciation for highlighting the flavors of each changing season. Great news for those of us who are committed to sustainable dining, but less inspired in the kitchen!

ABC Kitchen, New York City

The New York restaurant scene has embraced the “local” food trend in a big way – but ABC Kitchen takes this commitment to a new level. In addition to Chef Jean-Georges’ focus on organic seasonal produce, meat, fish and dairy are sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible; herbs and microgreens are grown on a rooftop garden; and beverages – from wine to coffee and tea – are organic and fair-trade. Even the dining room includes recycled or reclaimed materials – we’ll toast to that!

Coppa, Boston

coppa veg
Seasonal fare at Coppa, Boston

Not traditionally viewed as a foodie haven, Boston is making a name for itself as a culinary destination in its own right, thanks in part to a rising generation of outstanding chefs, including Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston’s South End. Pair your Franciacorta with a seasonally updated menu of pizza, pasta, outstanding charcuterie and fresh produce sourced from “local friends.”

Market 17, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Proving that the country’s biggest cities do not have a monopoly on locavore dining, Chef Lauren Shields at Market 17 has made Fort Lauderdale a regional leader in sustainable dining. The native Floridian is convinced that consumer education is the key to encouraging more people to make responsible food choices. Owners Kirsta and Aaron Grauberger – a brother and sister team of sommeliers – are pleased to share their dedication to sourcing in an extensive beverage program, with plenty of biodynamic and organic options, including Barone Pizzini Rosé.  

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Celebrate Biodiversity with Barone Pizzini

Vineyard mountainsThis weekend, June 25 and 26, lovers of Barone Pizzini can experience the biodiversity of the region with a “passeggiata” in the vineyard, led by a wild herb specialist and followed by a tasting of three organic Franciacorta wines in the cellar, constructed according to green building criteria.

As the first certified organic Franciacorta, Barone Pizzini is dedicated to keeping their lands free of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can damage the living flora and fauna that contribute to the richness of their vineyards and the surrounding region.

But you don’t have to travel to Lombardy; there are plenty of ways to discover biodiversity in your own backyard – urban or rural – wherever you are. Here are just a few ideas for your summer nature exploration – and where to enjoy a bottle of Barone Pizzini while you’re at it!

  1. The Pine Barrens, NJ

This sprawling stretch of forest in the center of the nation’s most densely populated state has the distinction of being the first National Reserve. Due to its uniquely diverse plant and animal life, it was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1988. Head to the Winslow Wildlife Management area for hiking trails, blueberry and huckleberry picking, and the “blue hole,” rumored to be one of the homes of the legendary Jersey Devil. Then calm your nerves with a bottle of Barone Pizzini Franciacorta from nearby Maro Brothers in Williamstown, NJ.

  1. Daniel Island, SC

This 4,000 acre island has long been a natural oasis within the city of Charleston, SC. Undeveloped until the 1990s, it is now home to a planned residential community, but still contains hundreds of acres of parks. Enjoy your fill of flower walks, biking, and fishing along the Wando River, and then stop by Sauer Grapes for a cold bottle of Barone Pizzini.

  1. Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore Bird Club offers a rich summer program for amateur ornithologists. Catch glimpses of flycatchers, American Kestrel, Wood Ducks and more among the gardens and wetlands of Patterson Park, a verdant space in the center of Baltimore. With or without that elusive rare sighting you’re hoping for, finish the day off right with a visit to the Wine Source for a bottle of Barone Pizzini.

Vini di Vignaioli: the organic & biodynamic grape growers fair in Parma

vini di vignaioli

Above: The logo of the Vini di Vignaioli (Grape Grower Wines) fair gets straight to the point. Human + Grape Bunch = Wine.

Week before last, the Pievalta winery poured its wines at the Vini di Vignaioli fair held outside of Parma.

Vini di Vignaioli means “grape grower wines” and the concept behind the event is that presenters must be organic or biodynamic grape growers who don’t use chemicals in the vineyards or in the wine cellar, including cultured yeasts.

Unlike Italy’s other “natural wine” fairs, the tasting is not held during the same period as Vinitaly (the leading wine trade fair in Italy), when similar events — Vini Veri and Vinnatur — compete with each other for attendance.

In many ways, it’s a unique (and more low-key) fair that tries to embrace the ethos of the grape grower as farmer and lover of the land.

Pievalta has biodynamic certification but certification is not required for participation in the fair (see below).

The admission policy is based on the charter of the Vins Naturels association in France (with whom the fair is affiliated).

The charter, as translated by the association, follows.

A charter defining what makes a wine “natural.”

Preamble: A winemaker member of the Association of Natural Winemakers does what he says and says what he does. He is a farmer, filled with passion for his terroir and his craft, and this philosophy of farming shows through in his daily life.

a) Viticultural practices

Organic certification is desired.

In its absence, the applicant agrees in writing to abide by the rules of organic production (EC regulation 834/2007 as amended).

b) Winemaking practices:

A natural wine is one where the grapes were grown with minimal intervention and manipulation, and must follow the following rules:

– Manual harvesting only;

– It is forbidden to add cultured yeast to the grape must or the wine;

– Nothing may be added to the wine, except SO2 (sulfites) within the following maximums of sulfites allowed:

– 30 mg/l for sparkling and red wines,

– 40 mg/l for dry white wines,

– 80 mg/l for white wines with residual sugar > 5 g/l ;

– Minimal manipulations of the finished product.

Wines that do not meet the above listed criteria may not use the Association’s name in communication or marketing of any kind.

There is no internal surveillance done to ensure these conditions: this is only a charter of good conduct, which is signed by all winemaker members without exception, and based solely on trust.

An interview with BP vineyard manager Pierluigi Donna

Barone Pizzini vineyard manager Pierluigi Donna was born and raised in the heart of Franciacorta and has worked with the winery group since 1998. He recently took time out from his work in the vineyards to chat (electronically) with blogmaster Jeremy Parzen.

pierluigi donna agronom

Jeremy Parzen (JP): Barone Pizzini is not a biodynamic estate. But you often bring up biodynamics when you talk about your approach to farming.

Pierluigi Donna (PD): Biodynamics proved to be the right choice for its Verdicchio at the Barone Pizzini group’s Pievalta estate in the Marches.

The Franciacorta team is has also embraced the biodynamic method as a shared foundation. And it’s also very active in new research projects and study of all forms of intelligent vineyard management. So the door is open and the experiments and studies continue.

So it adopts certain elements of biodnyamic philosophy but it integrates them with an intuitive approach, evaluating them without adhering to strict dogma.

That’s why were talking about biodynamics here: there are certain aspects that are core to the movement but they’re not exclusive to this philosophy. They can also be interpreted and applied judiciously within the context of more conventional approaches to grape growing.

JP: What makes grapegrowing in Franciacorta different from other wine-producing regions?

PD: One of the things that sets Franciacorta apart is the general level of preparation and the energy of the technicians and wineries. There is a lot of dialog and a healthy exchange of ideas between Franciacorta winemakers and this has led to growth in the Franciacorta wine culture.

This makes the winemakers take a moment to stop and reflect before they carry out any work in the vineyards. And the result is respectful viticulture and a general will to contain the impact on the region while maintaining high levels of quality.

JP: What’s your top growing site for Barone Pizzini?

PD: That’s like asking a father which is his favorite son. What I can tell you which site “graduated” this year.

The Roccolo vineyard “graduated” with honors this year as the Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Nature… with a little help from his brothers and sisters, of course!

San Pietro in Lamosa monastery: a historic monument & supporter of a chemical-free world

san pietro in lamosa franciacorta

Above: Last year, the ancient monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa in Franciacorta was the site of a conference devoted to the effects of pesticides on the health of residents in farming communities.

As winery manager Marta Piovani put it in an email to me yesterday, “the monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa is an ancient one and our winery is relatively young. But we have something in common: respect for the environment.”

In October 2012, the beautiful 11th-century monastery – which sits at the edge of a marsh in the same township where Barone Pizzini is located, Provaglio d’Iseo — hosted a conference devoted to the ill effects of pesticides in commercial farming.

The monastery’s support of this cause aligns with the winery’s mission: to improve the quality of wine and to protect the farming community to which it belongs by farming organically, without the use of chemicals.

Not only does Barone Pizzini farm organically, but its mission (and that of its sister winery, Pievalta, in the Marches) is also to promote awareness — through its wines and approach to viticulture — of the harm that chemicals can do to a farming community.

So if you’re heading to Franciacorta this weekend for wine tasting, please stop first at the monastery to explore one of the great monuments of Franciacorta and a wholehearted supported of a chemical-free farming community.

Wine writer Kyle Phillips wrote an excellent post on the monastery a few years ago for About.com.

Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

organic farming

Above: A photo taken recently of vineyards at Pievalta in Castelli di Jesi.

Is the grass on the other side of the fence really greener?

I often ask myself this when I see vineyards where a certain hierarchy is in place, where the grass is cut low like an English lawn and the space between rows is perfectly neat.

In other vineyards, there are sign of green manuring between the rows and orange stripes where herbicide has been applied in between as well.

But if you come to Pievalta this time of year, you won’t find anything like that.

The grass is high between the rows and there are field beans and spontaneous flowers popping up.

We leave the grass high between the rows in order to avoid peronospora. Only in the last few days, because of the bad weather, we have begun to clear the space between the rows in the youngest vineyards and to till under the grass between the rows of the older vineyards.

When you farm organically, you don’t use the chemicals and machinery that are needed to keep the space in between rows so tidy.

—Silva Loschi
general manager
Pievalta

Barone Pizzini, one of the oldest in Franciacorta & an organic farming pioneer

barone pizzini organic farmingFounded in 1870, Barone Pizzini is one of the oldest wineries in Franciacorta and it was the first estate in the appellation to practice organic farming. Ever since its conversion in the 1990s and the organic certification of all its vineyards in 2001, the winemaking team at Barone Pizzini has remained faithful to its belief that chemical-free farming is essential to the production of high-quality wines.

In the 2007, the estate opened the doors of its new eco-friendly cellar and winemaking facility. Every stage of vinification is carried out with the lowest possible impact on the environment and with the lowest possible carbon footprint. The team at Barone Pizzini is convinced that this approach is vital in achieving the fullest expression of each growing site’s terroir.

Among the various practices employed by the winery to lower energy needs, the estate’s solar energy panels can supply up to 55 kilowatts. And in recent years, Barone Pizzini became one of the first Franciacorta wineries to adhere to a carbon offset protocol. Its carbon footprint is measured annually by the Italian agricultural consulting firm Ita.Ca.

The vineyards cover a total surface area of 47 hectares (roughly 116 acres), divided into 25 parcels in the municipalities of Provaglio d’Iseo, Corte Franca, Adro and Passirano. The average altitude is 200 meters above sea level and the average age of the vines is 15-20 years. The estate’s growing sites are among the best in the appellation and are noted for their morainic subsoils and glacial deposits, the hallmarks of Franciacorta’s unique terroir.