How to Produce Wine While Respecting the Environment: the Commitment of the Cecchi Family
In recent years the commitment to energy and environmental sustainability has become an increasingly important point for many companies. Particularly for the Cecchi Family, this has become their identity-making heritage for decades, as well as a real commitment.
For the Cecchi family, environmental sustainability uses vocation of the local territory as a starting point, explains the General Manager of the company, Leonardo Raspini "vocation or suitability, means producing in areas where agricultural production can be easily achieved, without having to resort to excessive input and creating imbalances which could then have a profound impact on environmental sustainability." Raspini continues: "Vocation is the first reason why we feel sustainable. For this reason, we planted native varieties in Chianti Classico, where Sangiovese is king. The same applies to the Maremma, San Gimignano and Montefalco ".
The premise is the importance of safeguarding a unique area such as that found in our country. This spirit has driven all the investments made, thus far, by the company, whose goal is to promote this land through bottles of wine.
The wine is the final product, but it is part of a broader concept and procedural ecosystem that must not only take into account the market but also respect the territory in which it is produced.
Tradition and innovation in the Chianti Classico
Chianti Classico is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, where vineyards and olive groves coexist with forests and arable land, allowing the development of a balanced ecosystem. Biodiversity is very important in agriculture because the cultivation of varieties of different species, depending on the environment and weather conditions, causes each species to adapt to a particular ecosystem.
If respecting the ecosystem has guided business growth, today, environmental impact is a prerogative that the current owners, Cesare and Andrea Cecchi, have decided to pursue in order to protect the future of the surrounding ecological habitat.
The word sustainability, therefore, incorporates two very specific guidelines: on one hand, the protection and improvement of the company, agricultural and environmental assets; and on the other, the recovery and use of new technologies that allow for minimizing energy consumption and the natural resources necessary for production.
The production and business center of Castellina in Chianti is a structure created in the Sixties, which over time has been the subject of continuous improvement investments to enable the company to acquire a modern logistics center without invading the landscape with unnecessary overbuilding. The improvement investments have also focused on structural renovations such as insulation of the plant with technologically advanced materials that have enabled significant energy savings in the cooling process of the wine cellar and storage of the finished product.
The importance of water use
Water, such a precious asset, was one of the first natural resources that concerned the company. This explains the presence of a completely innovative system using phytoremediation for the treatment of waste waters of the wine cellar, which allows for the regeneration of water used, thus, protecting the natural environment. "Saving water even during the cultivation stage, and not just in the wine cellar, is another of our primary goals," explains General Manager, Leonardo Raspini. "Wasting water is an issue that we care about as much as wine, and in any case, even outside the context of production, we should consider that even today, one person out of five on earth does not have enough drinking water."
Research and experimentation
Innovation without research is like a three-legged chair; for this reason, every step forward that the company has decided to make in the course of its history was preceded by experimentation, such as the use of new clones in the field, finding the right soil and climate conditions and types of farming and management of the vineyard, the search for the most suitable wood varieties for aging wine, the use of advanced technology systems for the winemaking process and the continuous sampling of results from the experiments implemented. "In the Castellina winery, we will do an energy study to understand which are the most critical areas in terms of energy consumption to then reduce heating energy consumption to a minimum," explains General Manager, Leonardo Raspini.
The study of soils
"In Villa Rosa, an estate on the slopes of Castellina in Chianti purchased in 2015, we are renewing some vineyards. We have already performed a soil study to understand the different types so that, in late summer 2016, we will conclude a part of the restructuring of the vineyards without altering the framework of the same. Therefore, we will not be moving the soil excessively; indeed, we are going to preserve the greatest treasure of a farm: the soil. "
In addition to keeping soil movements to a minimum, it is important to improve soil structure by supplementing it with organic matter. "It is what we are doing at this time. This will lead the plants to be self-sustaining. This does not mean that we will stop additional treatments or interventions aimed at managing the vineyard. However, in this manner the plant will grow with greater environmental compatibility, and, according to our studies, will develop a higher potential for defense against external agents.
In this sense, minor interventions help plants react autonomously with a lower impact, in agricultural terms. We are at the beginning of this path, but this already enables us to be certified with the Tuscany region as Agroqualità producers.”
These overall sustainable practices can bring the vineyard closer to biodynamic or organic management conditions. "I really like the term organic as it is used by Anglo-Saxons," continues Raspini. "Namely, to indicate organic matter, because organic means starting from the ability of the soil and plants to live in a more environmentally integrated way, which also happens to be the Cecchi family philosophy."
"We even implement sustainability procedures in the wine cellar, or during the winemaking stage. For example, in the Cecchi Family bottling line, we have developed an oxygen control system. There are times where oxygen can get in contact with the wine, altering its aging ability. For this reason, we made an investment to monitor every step of the bottling machine accurately. This will allow us to use lower sulfur levels and obtain not only a more sustainable wine, but also more enjoyable wine. "
The Val delle Rose technological winery in Maremma
The Cecchi family has invested heavily in Tuscany, their land. In 1996, they purchased the Val delle Rose estate in Maremma, embarking on a road aimed at enhancing and disseminating the image of a rich land, suitable for growing quality vineyards.
The Estate was chosen because of its exposure and the high vocation of its land. From then on, the commitment of the Family has created a constant evolution, so that Val delle Rose lived through a small agricultural revolution, due to both the technological investments and the expansion of the vineyard area.
In order to reduce the environmental impact and energy consumption, after concentrating on the arrangement of the agronomic portion, the company began construction of a new wine cellar, finished in 2011, and now equipped with the latest technology, which allows for excellent processing of the harvested grapes.
At Val delle Rose, tradition combines with efficiency and innovation thanks to a fine oenological technology
The latter is aimed at enhancing the properties of the grapes, making the product qualitatively superior. Science and machines within the company should not be used to force or alter a process, but rather to enhance its inherent quality.
The Val delle Rose wine cellar project was designed from the outset to respect the environment and the territory, for this reason, it was built underground to obtain stable temperatures throughout the year without further waste of electricity. Specifically, the barrel room was built underground to avoid changes in temperature, as much as possible, and thus facilitate maintenance and temperature control.
There are also innovative phytoremediation systems, designed within a modern and efficient facility, which allow reuse of the water used in the wine cellar, in the fields.
The whole system is powered or works by gravity, without resorting to the use of pumps or electricity.
The result is a technologically advanced and innovative wine cellar compatible with environmental protection requirements. In addition, each year the wine cellar is updated to always achieve maximum efficiency and produce quality products.
Towards more sustainable materials
Regarding sustainability: applying the right procedures in the vineyard and in the wine cellar is not enough, it is also necessary to use materials that do not harm the surrounding environment.
Increasing attention has been placed on product packaging. "We, like many other companies, are moving towards sustainability in this sense. Because we produce a large number of bottles, we try to reduce the weight of the glass of our bottles, in order to save in terms of sustainability. In the production process, for some product lines, we focus on selecting lightweight bottles weighing a maximum of 360 grams (compared to 450 grams in the past). Thanks to this, we can say that in recent times, we have reduced our glass use by approximately 1,000 tons of glass," explains Raspini.
"Obviously in the wine cellars there will always be a product range that will have more expensive packaging, but the vast majority of our products will increasingly be produced by using recycled materials."
Respecting the environment also means organic wine: Chianti Natìo
Organic agriculture gives high priority to the preservation and balance of systems and natural cycles, avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals in the vineyard to fertilize the soil, combat pests and plant diseases.
The Cecchi family's commitment to operate respecting plants, the earth and people, created organic Chianti years ago, Natìo, whose name references nature without artifice.
By law, all the organic wines must derive from organic farming, and originate from vineyards where no synthetic products and only products found in nature are used. "Even during the winemaking stage the integrity must be maintained, since no change of the chemical-analytical profile is permitted" explains Leonardo Raspini. In addition, the sulfur levels should be maintained at lower limits than conventional wines: Natìo starts out organic from the vineyard and is kept organic in the wine cellar, until bottling."
As for the future, the Cecchi Family wants to continue down this road of sustainability, respect, research and innovation. Raspini concludes: "There is no innovation without research, ongoing research. What we want to do in the future is study how to design future vineyards to ensure that we always produce a high quality wine without neglecting the precious value of the environment around us."