• In Maremma, innovation in the vineyard and environmental sustainability

    Giuseppe Mantellassi, Benedetto Grechi, Marco BruniThose who follow us on social networks have already noticed we posted a few articles regarding this project. A couple of weeks ago, we launched an innovative project which implies the use of new technologies and solutions so as to reduce the environmental impact in the vineyard and in the cellar.

    Who’s taking part?

    The project was born thanks to a call for bids by Regione Toscana. We applied as group leaders, with the involvement of other local wineries: Fattoria Mantellassi, Fratelli Bruni and Azienda Montauto. On top of them, there’s also the support of  Consorzio di Tutela del Morellino di Scansano Docg. The project, curated by Daniele Schirru, a very talented agronomist who over the years specialised in project design, includes the collaboration of two very prominent academic institutions: Università della Tuscia and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa under the scientific direction of professor Fabio Mencarelli. In other words, this time Vignaioli del Morellino di Scansano who even by themselves comprise a nice team of over 150 members, have enlarged their team. After all, as Benedetto Grechi, president of the cooperative, pointed out, “it is only as a team that we can approach the market, these days”. As Vignaioli, teamwork is part of our DNA, just like working for our territory. It was, in conclusion, the most natural step to take.

    What does this innovative project for the vineyard consist of?

    The project is starting these very weeks and will last two years. During this period the technologies studied by Prof. Fabio Mencarelli and his team of researchers will be applied. The innovations can be divided into three basic groups:

    1. ozone, in the vineyard and in the cellar
    2. drones
    3. sensors and Arduino (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry, we explain it below)

    trattoreHow ozone works in the vineyard and cellar

    Ozone is a gas whose formula is O3: it is formed by three atoms of oxygen. Its interest, in our case, is based on the fact it can serve to disinfect and sanitise the leaves. It also induces the plants to become more resistant. The idea is to treat plants and grapes with ozone, so as to keep them healthy without chemicals. In this way, as ozone leaves no residuals, it will be possible to “treat” the plants without damaging the environment. Quite the contrary. Once used, ozone becomes oxygen. Moreover, as ozone doesn’t leave residuals, it will be possible to treat the vineyard even close to the harvest, with no risks for customers.

    Attention, though: as ozone is not a “stable” gas, it is not directly diffused on the plants but the prototype currently being used includes the use of ozoned water. Different tools are currently under study.

    At the same time, ozone can be used in the cellar to reduce or eliminate the use of sulphites and to disinfect and sanitise rooms and tools used for vinification and maturation. Once again, the fact ozone leaves no residuals will allow to easily recover the water used in these phases. Even in this case, therefore, the management of resources will be optimal.

    Antoine Harfouche e droneUsing drones in the vineyard

    Over the past few years, an interesting branch of agricultural sciences is being developed which uses technological instruments such as drones in the fields. Through drones it is possible to monitor the vineyard at much lower costs than in the past. Indeed every vineyard differs from the other in terms of soil, exposure to the sun, location. In fact, sometimes there can be differences even within the same vineyard: from one line to the other the type of soil can change, or the level of humidity, just to name two elements.

    The drone used in this project is capable of mapping one hectare of vineyard in just 6 minutes. Through a hyper-spectral camera and a 3D scanner it takes a picture of the vineyard, plant by plant, acquiring info in terms of vigour, hydric stress and other physiological data. The maps created by the drone are then assembled so as to form a mosaic with the total of the vineyard, thanks to the placing of  ground control points.

    scheda arduinoSensors and Arduino boards help monitoring the vineyard

    On top of the drone, we’ll use other low cost microsensors linked to an Arduino board. Arduino is a board which, connected to sensors and other tools, allows to create prototypes for hobby or professional use, as in our case. It was invented in Italy and is now popular all over the world. It is named after a café in Ivrea where the founders of Arduino used to meet to discuss this project. For instance, if we use it at home, it can allow us to create a system through which you can automatically turn on the lights at dusk. In our case, instead, the Arduino boards are connected to microsensors and will be used to create micro-climatic stations in the vineyard. These will collect all the data on a SD memory card (like the ones used for cameras) and will then communicate them via Bluetooth to the workers, even at a distance. It will also be possible to collect data through a NIR spectrometre connected to a computer.

    All these data, collected through these  Internet of Things devices, will make it possible to build a provision map, which will include all the indications on how to set the tractor so as to intervene only when and where necessary.

    Minimal environmental impact, maximum economic sustainability

    Environmental sustainability is essential. It allows us to ensure that future generations will have a future that is as healthy as possible. Yet paying attention to the environment, in order to be a long-term strategy, must also be economically sustainable. This is why the innovations we’re experimenting these days in the vineyard and which we hope will be of use to other wineries too in the future are important. By reducing the use of chemicals, helping plants only where and when it is necessary, we reduce the environmental impact and reduce costs too. In other words, paying attention to the environment means being more efficient too. This finally is an advantage for the consumer, who will be able to drink a good, environmentally friendly wine at accessible prices.

  • Work in progress at the winery

    lavori in cantinaThese days, in the vineyards, the vines already boast fully formed bunches of grapes. This is the time of the year when the grapes grow and slowly start to change colour, abandoning their green appearance. While we follow this growth in the vineyard, step by step, we’re also getting ready in the cellar.

    A few years ago we launched a project called “Non svendere le tue uve” [Don’t undersell your grapes]. It was meant to help small independent producers outside our winery forced to sell their grapes to “bottlers” for a very small fee just to earn some money.  We offered to buy them ourselves. At a respectable price. The right price for high quality grapes. There was one condition: that these small producers, though not being part of our cooperative, would follow the same strict rules our members follow. Our goal was simple: offer these small independent producers a reason to work well, giving value to their work even in terms of money. Because work must be paid and by giving value to the people, you also give value to the territory of which they’re part.

    il nuovo silos

    the new silos

    Yet as a cooperative our work of course needs to focus on our members. This is why after years in which the number of members was set, we chose to open our cooperative to new members. As of this year, we have accepted new members who will now contribute with 100 extra hectares of vineyards, adding to the total extension of the Vignaioli del Morellino di Scansano vineyard (with a 20% expected increase of production).
    At the same time we chose to give the opportunity to smaller members who were already part of the cooperative to extend their vineyards as well: those who have less then 3 hectares are offered the chance to increase their vineyard, making their production more viable. This will allow us to keep under our 4 hectare per vineyard average – a small vineyard, a guarantee of a higher quality for the grapes. Most of all, this will allow us to continue our role of supporters of the local economy and the population of this area – a role we hold very dear.

    And in order to receive the extra grapes that will come from the new 100 hectares, we’re currently working to create a larger area for the collection of the grapes. So as to be ready for the 2016 harvest.

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  • On Wineloverspage, American blogger Cornelius Duarte presents our Vin del Fattore

    Blogger Cornelius Duarte recently wrote about our Governo Toscano IGT Vin del Fattore on  Wineloverspage.com. Here’s the beginning of the post, just to stimulate your curiosity and appetite for more.

    Back to the Future in Italian Wine

    scansano2-photoIn the past when the grapes were picked the farmers left the less ripened grapes on the vine. The ripened grapes were picked and fermented. After a 6-8 week period the remaining grapes were picked, crushed and then added to the already fermented grapes to start a second round of fermentation and even aid the malolactic fermentation. The results were a more complete usage of all of the grapes and a softer and fruitier wine that was ready for drinking in a shorter period than the normal Morelino di Scansano. For the poorer farmers, the latter was an important thing.

    Read the full article here.

  • Easter in Maremma – the sacred, the profane and the foodie

    Easter is coming up and brings a long list of traditions, some explicitly linked to religion, some less. And since it’s a custom in Italy to celebrate the holidays around the table, here’s a short report on how we celebrate Easter in Maremma, in ceremonies and with food too.

    Processions and religious rituals

    The Holy Week is by definition full of ceremonies that recall the main episodes from the Gospel, preparing the faithful to the Easter celebration. These traditions start with Lent, and reach their climax in the days preceding Easter. In Maremma this also applies to the veccia (la vicia sativa), a spontaneous legume that is traditionally planted at the beginning of Lent and, cultivated in the dark so it becomes white, it is then brought to church on Good Thursday to embellish the altar. Among the religious celebrations taking place around Grosseto’s Maremma, there’s the procession with the dead Christ, which is held in various villages, from Castel del Piano to Porto Santo Stefano, from Santa Fiora to Tirli including of course Scansano too. During the procession, with the funerary background of the marching bands, the faithful hold Christ in their arms. Other representations recall the Passion and the Via Crucis, as in Roselle or Montorgiali. To this we must add the celebrations on Easter Day, for instance that in Porto Santo Stefano where at dawn, during the procession, they walk across the village and bless the sea.

    The blessing of the eggs

    In Maremma, among the rituals preceding Easter there’s also that of the blessing of the eggs, on Good Saturday. There’s always been an association between eggs and Easter. In fact, even before Christianity, egg represented the rebirth of nature, the passage from winter to spring. As in many other occasions, Christianity drew from pre-existing traditions and made them its own. Indeed, even in our days, the symbolic value of the egg is still popular beyond Christianity: boiled eggs appear, for instance, even on the table for the Nowruz (new day), the new year celebrations that in Iran and Afghanistan coincide with the spring equinox .
    And in a poor and farmers’ culture as that of Maremma, the abundance of eggs in spring thus became an emblem of richness, a good omen.

    Easter breakfast

    schiacciata dolce tipico della Pasqua in Maremma

    Easter sweet bread in the version by Tamara Giorgetti on her blog Un pezzo della Mia Maremma.

    As in the rest of Italy, it is traditional to celebrate in Maremma with a rich Easter breakfast. On this occasion, the table is laid nicely for breakfast, a meal these days we often consume too quickly. The best plates and cutlery, reserved for important occasions, are pulled out of the drawers, and lots of delicious food appear on the table: eggs, capocollo and other cured meats, and schiaccia (also called schiacciata elsewhere in Tuscany), a sweet, but not too sweet focaccia, which is perfectly matched with cured meats and is prepared with lots of eggs. Schiaccia is a cake requiring a long leavening (according to some recipes you need 24 hours!), it’s a sort of sweet bread aromatised with anise. However, as often the case with recipes like this one, every village and every family has their own variation. For instance, in the Maremmans‘s blog, Paola presents the recipe she managed to get asking friends and relatives; Tamara presents another version on her blog Un pezzo della mia Maremma in which she starts from poolish, while Giovanna kneads the dough five times, as explained in her blog Acquacotta e Fantasia.

    How about Morellino di Scansano?

    Well, for those who want to continue the day with a nice Easter lunch, or perhaps are planning a nice trip outdoors on Easter Monday, there are plenty of recipes. For instance with lamb, as customary. We collected a few nice recipes in this other post, with matching wines for each recipe. Or there’s fresh egg pasta, as with tortelli maremmani, which perhaps are not typically related to Easter but then it’s always a good day for tortelli!

  • Oscar del Vino: our Sicomoro nominated Best Wine with Excellent Quality and Price

    We ended 2015 with a splendid tasting at Hotel Cavalieri in Rome, organised by Bibenda and guided by Daniela Scrobogna. It was a success: plenty of people came to taste our wines and discover the piece of Maremma we brought with us to Rome on that occasion. They asked many questions to our own Benedetto and Sergio, there was lots of interest throughout the tasting for our wines and our territory.

    Now a new year has begun, a beautiful news has arrived from Rome. We’re proud to announce our Morellino di Scansano Docg Riserva Sicomoro 2011 was selected by the Accademia degli Oscar 2016 as a candidate for a category we hold very dear, the Best Wine of Great Quality and Price. Having always worked hard to offer great quality at an excellent price, this nomination has a special meaning to us, as you can imagine.

    This is why we ask all those among you who read these pages to vote so that our Sicomoro can win the Oscar for Best Wine of Great Quality and Price on Bibenda‘s website. You can do so from this link. The winners of each category will be announced in late April. Thank you all for your support!

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