This month, #ItalianFWT explores sustainability at Italian wineries. Katarina of Grapevine Adventures is our host for the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers with Her invitation post is here. Read her piece on Climate also on the Montemaggio blog here for a more wide-ranging discussion about these issues.
Thinking about sustainability in Italy, one of the wineries that immediately came to mind was Tasca d’Almerita I first heard of them many, many years ago. In the past decade, I have had the opportunity to meet the owners and to taste the wines amny times. Last year they were awarded Wine Enthusiast’s 2019 Wine Star Award for European Winery of the Year Kerin O’Keefe also mentions them in this article in the same magazine talking about the organic boom .
I had long known that they were one of Sicily’s great wineries with a long and noble past and family behind it. What I didn’t know was how innovative the winery is as well. Tasca d’Almerita is its 8th generation of their history. They have five estates and about 600 hectares of vines in Sicily. They are exported all over the world and are brought into the US by Winebow They also have two amazing resorts and a serious commitment to sustainability. The estates are Capofaro on the Aeolian island Salina, Tascante on Mount Etna, Sallier de la Tour in Monreale, a joint venture, with the Whitaker Foundation on Mozia, and the Regaleali estate which now stretches over 500 hectares in the very heart Sicily. They also have Villa Tasca (formerly Villa Camastra) in Palermo.
I first met one of the two brothers running Tasca today – together with their father Count Lucio – at Vinitaly in 2011. I was translating for the Wine Spectator at meetings they had with groups of 10 wineries from each region. All of the Sicilian wineries that day were impressive but Tasca was something more. Every year I spend a long time at the Tasca stand at Vinitaly. It is always artfully done with interesting materials and with vegetation from Sicily. One year they brought orange trees, another herbs that grown on the island. It is usually so packed it’s hard to get a space to taste but I always taste through all of their wines.
I’d be hard pressed to say which one I prefer because honestly I love almost all of them. One that of course stands out is Almertia Extra brut. It is made from 100% Chardonnay and has the Contea di Sclafani D.O.C designation and hails from the Regaleali Estate. It stays on its lees for 36 months. It has rich, apple flavors with a great almond note. I also love that Tasca has a female winemaker, Laura Orsi on their team at Regaleali. Tasca planted Chardonnay in Sicily in the 1980s, the first to bring Chardonnay to Sicily. Another Tasca wine that has always appealed to me is their Regaleali Rose made from 100% Nerello Mascalese. I drink a lot of rose all year and this one went well with the lovely pizza I had this weekend. I was surprised at its freshness but then I remembered that the estate is located at 400-900 above sea level and therefore the grapes do get to rest from the heat of the hot Sicilian sun.
Tasca is not only at the forefront of Sustainability but they also are trying to make wines without sulfites. I tried a version of their wine Antisa that was made without sulfites in 2015. Antisa means “wait.” It had great acidity, again thanks to the elevation at Regaleali.
Catarratto bianco is a widely planted white grape on the island of Sicily. There are two very common types of Catarratto grown: bianco comune e bianco lucido. Antisa is made with bianco comune. The wine was also under screw cap which was interesting. Tasca tries everything it seems.
Nozze d’oro is another famous Tasca wine. This one is made from 72% Inzolia and 28% Sauvignon Tasca, This Sauvignon clone has been growing at Regaleali since the First world war. It was soft, fruity and beautiful and I am not even a huge fan of Sauvignon. Tearing myself away from tasting wines from Regaleali, I did a tasting of their wines from Etna. I was particularly taken with one of them called Buonora. Made with Carricante, it was rich and sapid with loads of minerality. I also love their version of Nerello Mascalese from Etna, known as Il Tascante. It had depth and layers of nuanced flavors much like a great Pinot Noir. It was elegant with finesse as well.
Before I write more about other Tasca wines, I want to mention that Tasca is at the head of a group of wineries working on a project called SOStain that is involved in protecting the environment. The mission of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture. Tasca is convinced that the responsibility of each producer is to make great wine and to protect the land and the local flora and fauna while doing so.
They have also created a mini-agricultural group called Naturaintasca that involves a group of local farmers who work with typical Sicilian products. At one event I attended, Alberto Tasca d’Almerita showed a film I just loved about his family but I can no longer find it on the website. At a certain point in his speech, Alberto said the following line which I really appreciated as well, “We didn’t receive the gift of our lands from our fathers but as a loan from our children/Non abbiamo ricevuto la terra in eredita dei nostri padri ma in prestito dai nostri figli.”
Three more wines which I must mention are their Riserva del Conte, Contea di Sclafani D.O.C. made from 67% Perricone and 33% Nero d’Avola. The grapes are vinified together with ambient yeast. The wine then ages in 500 liter wooden barrels made from Chestnut wood for 26 months. Rosso del Conte is their flagship “SuperTasca.” Count Giuseppe planted vineyards of Perricone and Nero d’Avola in 1954 with a desire to create a wine to rival French wines for both their elegance and longevity. The true expression of their family and their terroir. It spends 18 months in 100% new French oak (Allier & Tronçais) 225 liter barrels and 6 months in bottle before being released. According to their exhaustive website, it is made from a selection of best Nero d’Avola grapes (63%) and other red vaieties among those authorized by the DOC (37%). I always find it a sensual wine with sweet tannins and a long finish.
The last wines to mention are from their incredible estate Capofaro on Salinia. I went on an amazing sailing trip to Salina but didn’t get to Capofaro. I hope to spend time their one day. Their amazing Malvasia are always the perfect ending to these exquisite tastings. They have two and every year I try to decide which one I like better. One is sweeter, Malvasia Capofaro and the other Didyme which I was told means twins but is also the ancient name for Salina is dry with great acidity. Tasca also makes interesting wines with Cabernet Sauvignon, Grillo, Grecanico and Syrah which I have tasted but the ones I mentioned were my favorites among their very vast range.
I am an unabashed fan of this fantastic Sicilian winery and I look forward to may next mega tasting. of Tasca wines, wherever and whenever that will be.
In addition to these amazing wines, Tasca’s commitment to sustainability is legendary. SOStain, the project they are part of together with other Sicilian wineries has 10 minimum requirements that a winery must adhere to in order to receive a positive sustainability report. According to their website,
SOStain is the first sustainability programme for Italian viticulture, developed in Sicily and recognized by the Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea Protection. Its objective is to provide member companies with simple guidelines, drawn up by an independent Scientific Committee and designed to direct business choices towards greater sustainability in the use of resources, and precise indicators aimed at the objective measurement of sustainability performance. SOStain is based on the awareness that the impact of agricultural activities goes well beyond the boundaries of the fields that are cultivated – it impacts the welfare of workers and the health of consumers, the involvement of local communities, the enhancement of the surrounding territory and the preservation of natural resources. For this reason, the program includes a set of Regulations consisting of 10 minimum requirements – aspects ranging from the measurement of the water footprint and the carbon footprint to the control of bottle weight, the measurement of animal and plant biodiversity and the enhancement of human and territorial capital, from energy savings to the health of farmers and consumers
The commitment to sustainability focuses on a wide ranging number of areas that include energy, water, soil measures as well as viticultural and cellar practices, packaging requirements, biodiversity both plant and animal, and equally important human and social capital requirements. It’s such a wide-ranging number of factors that I have included them all and Tasca’s commitments and achievements in 2019 below in bold. Here are the 10 areas for the SOStain certifications. They are as follows:
- Only treatments whose impact on the environment, the farmer and the consumer are lower than that of organic treatments are used.The use of chemical weed control is prohibited. Tasca d’Almerita’s management had a far lower impact (correlated to the use of agrochemicals) on the environment, on the farmer and on the consumer than that of an equivalent organic viticulture.
- VIVA Sustainability: measuring the impact on air, water, the vineyard and the territory with the indicators of the VIVA programme. Tasca d’Almerita satisfied all the requisites of the VIVA programme.
- Grassing in the winter to defend the soil. All the rows of vines are grassed during the winter. All the vineyards of all the Tasca d’Almerita estates are grassed during the winter with annual and perennial species to counter erosion and maintain the organic matter in the soil.
- Only the energy needed. Processes are considered efficient if they are able to produce wines using max. 0,6 kwh/l of wine. In all of Tasca d’Almerita Estates the consumption of electricity per litre of wine produced remained lower than the limit defined by the SOStain Regulations.
- Light bottles for the air, too. The average weight of the glass bottles used during the year must be less than or equal to 485,8 g/0,75 litres. The average weight of 0,75 lt bottles in 2019 was 482,31 grams. In 2019, we marketed 1.163.098 lightened bottles, thus saving 129 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 568 trees planted.
- Grapes, people and skills as local as possible. Requirements call for 100% of the purchased grapes, 80% of the employees and 50% of the services used are local resources. The 100% of the purchased grapes, the 80,7% of the employees and the 70% of the services used are located in Sicily
- Biodiversity measurement and protection. Earthworms, butterflies, terrestrial invertebrates, pollinators must be present in the vineyards in the amount of and no less than 30% compared to the non-vineyard areas. All the vineyards of all the Tasca d’Almerita estates are grassed during the winter with annual and perennial species to counter erosion and maintain the organic matter in the soil.
- Only eco-compatible materials are used in the vineyards.All the vineyards are set up using poles made of wood or metal and the ties for the vines are made of biodegradable material. When possible, poles from the chestnut woods of the Tascante Estate are used.
- All the vineyards are set up using poles made of wood or metal and the ties for the vines are made of biodegradable material. When possible, poles from the chestnut woods of the Tascante Estate are used. The sustainability report must be published every year to ensure the actions taken and the results achieved are transparent. In 2019 Tasca d’Almerita published its ninth report.
- Safe wines. The total sulphur content in the wines must be equal to or less than the values set by the European Regulation governing organic wine. Wines must undergo analysis to certify the absence of residues*. The sulphite content of Tasca d’Almerita wines, regardless of the variety, is below the limits allowed by organic wine technical regulations. The analyses conducted over the years have never detected the presence of any harmful substances. *pesticide residues, heavy metals and ochratoxin
If you have read this far, I do hope you will join in our live Twitter chat as we talk about the subject. Follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT and be sure to add that to your tweets so we can see it in our stream. In the meantime, here’s what the bloggers are sharing. All of these articles will go live between Friday, September 4th and early morning Saturday, September 5. If you catch us in time we will be chatting live about sustainability and climate change today on Twitter at #ItalianFWT @ 11amEST.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla takes inspiration from Siciliy in Pasta alla Norma + Tasca d’Almerita Lamuri Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2016
- Terri from Our Good Life shares the article Che Fico: A Wine that Supports Sustainability in Italy
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass heads to Alto Adige with Alois Lageder – Driven to create wines in harmony with nature
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares Interview: Antonella Manuli’s and Lorenzo Corino’s patented method + wines, lasagna, and dogs #ItalianFWT
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest heads to Franciacorta with How the Ricci Curbastro Estate In Franciacorta Tackles the Sustainability Question
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles explores the question Climate Change, Finding Sustainable Italian Wines and Why you should Care #ItalianFWT
- Susannah from Avvinare tells us more about Sicily with Tasca d’Amerita, A Longstanding Focus on Sustainability
- Jennifer from Vino Travels shares VIVA Sustainability at the Forefront with Michele Chiarlo.
- Nicole from Somm’s Table looks closer at A Sustainable Sampler Pack with Umani Ronchi
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen shares Italy’s First Vegan Certified Winery
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures she will talk about Torre Bisenzio where Authenticity And Quality Is All About Sustainability.