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Saperavi trials among host of ‘experimental’ measures in Banfi sustainability programme

Published:  14 April, 2020

Leading Tuscan producer Castello Banfi is pushing viticultural boundaries as part of its wider commitment to advancing sustainability, with hybrid grapes and interlopers such as Georgia’s Saperavi on the cards.

The revelation came during a new Banfi webinar series just ahead of the Easter break, when the producer’s regional manager Jgor Marini shared many aspects of the company’s far reaching sustainability programme, in conversation with Will Hine, head of sales at UK importer Louis Latour Agencies.

Marini highlighted the ways in which Banfi is preparing in the vineyards to meet climate change, with four projects currently running, with the results of each micro-vinified to provide feedback for the winery.

He said these include growing botrytis-resistant grapes with thicker skins, along with the introduction of hybrid varieties and rootstocks, as part of a wider university-backed study, with these new crosses developed for greater disease resistance.

“We are using hybrid grapes, which are not currently allowed to be cultivated in Tuscany yet, but that need six year’s experimentation to be approved. They have been built to reduce the impact, to need lower chemical treatments, and the aim is to get some new grape varieties on new rootstocks that will be able to survive and grow naturally in the future,” said Marini.

“The third [project] is to use existing grape varieties, but which are not currently allowed to be planted in Tuscany” he added, citing Georgian variety Saperavi as one hopeful, “with which we are just experimenting, with a few plants, and we will micro-vinify in order to see the reaction of this new variety in our territory".

The forth pillar of the viticultural research programmes, and “the most important”, centres on how the native Sangiovese is reacting to climate change and global warming, “looking at different and new clones of Sangiovese grafted on new and older rootstock, to see the reaction of Sangiovese in our territory”.

In addition to micro-vinifying separately the results from each experiment from each plot, Banfi also uses a weather station, linked to satellite, to provide information about how each experiment is working.

This allows the hydration requirements of the myriad soil types in the Banfi vineyards, along with the ripening of each vine, to be monitored, helping build a more accurate picture of what is working well and where, added Marini.

““As you can imagine, we will have a huge amount of different results and it will take time to understand what is the best,” he said.

“It’s the same as we have done with Sangiovese, vinifying seperately and blending every single clone of Sangiovese from every zone of the estate for 10 years, to eliminate those that are not performing well at a quality level, so it’s a long term process that will allow us to practice more sustainable agriculture.”

The full Banfi sustainability webinar, and others in the new series, can be found here.