Tradition meets innovation: so Italian wine improves

Simone Martarello

From spraying machine which recovers product to the machine for weeding that uses steam only, through drones that can monitor each cluster of a vineyard, up to innovative tools able to perform targeted pruning or defoliation according to the new cultivation techniques. These are just some of the latest innovations available for wine growers, in order to help them to produce better and more sustainable wines, but also in line with new consumer tastes as well as plant protection parameters, which become more stringent. Red and white Italian wines are becoming increasingly popular outside the Country, but in order to conquer such very competitive markets as the USA one and consolidate a position in them, highest quality products are necessary. These products have to meet precise characteristics in terms of taste and must be prepared with environmentally friendly processes. This blend is achieved only through innovation and the search for solutions able to improve cultivations and reduce the use of chemicals, both in the field and in the cellar.

Now the markets demand wines with moderate alcohol content. In addition, it is necessary to minimize the effects on the grapes of the drastic climatic variations recorded in recent years, in order to avoid endangering the product and ensuring supplies. New farming techniques and new substances able to delay the ripening of the grapes help the wine growers. Modern and more and more precise machines quickly carry out precision works on the plants, in order to react almost in real time to changes in the climate. Mechanic defoliation, for example, has given very positive results in the vineyards of Sangiovese, allowing a decrease in production and improving the quality in particularly dry years.

Another chapter concerns sprayers. According to Istat, Italy is the Country where they are more widely used (about 640 thousand machines). From November 2016, new and more stringent parameters for the use of agricultural chemicals will come into effect. Therefore, the main brands in this domain have developed devices that can reduce up to 50% the amount of products used, either by recovering the part which does not end on the leaves, or treating both sides of the row with the same amount of substance.

The work in the cellar, too, is trying to be more precise and efficient, while at the same time tries to reduce the use of additives. Among the innovations in this domain, there is a wireless sensor that monitors temperature, pH, and fermentation in barrels. It must be applied on the caps of the barrels.

Works are in progress in order to try to reduce the addition of sulphites and proteins to musts, too. Some people may be allergic to such substances. A revolutionary solution does not exist yet, but, for example, recently three cellars in Latium have realized as many ‘natural’ wines. Italy has about 1,300 wineries certified to produce organic wines. Ten years ago they were three times less numerous.

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