Organic conversion in Franciacorta: Arturo Ziliani tells Guido Berlucchi’s story in an interview

Franciacorta Real Story asked Giudo Berlucchi CEO and enologist Arturo Ziliani (below) to talk about the winery’s decision to covert to organic farming. With the estate’s conversion and certification underway, more than 50 percent of Franciacorta is now farmed organically.

arturo ziliani berlucchi

When did Berlucchi make the decision to go organic?

We launched our first experiments with organic viticulture in 2003, in our 10-hectare Quindicipiò estate vineyard in Borgonato, and since the results were positive, we extended our organic project to our entire vineyard holdings.

When was the conversion implemented?

Conversion of our estate vineyards to organic cultivation was completed in 2014, and we are now working progressively with all of the independent grape-growers from whom we buy grapes.

When will it be completed?

This year will see the official certification of our estate vineyards, while those of almost all of our contracted independent grape-growers will be certified starting next year.

Will the entire estate be farmed organically?

Yes, it will.

What prompted the move?

Conversion to organic viticulture was dictated by the winery’s decision to assume responsibility vis-à-vis the population of Franciacorta, since Berlucchi operates in an overall environment heavily impacted by human activities, and vis-à-vis our own vineyard management staff. In addition, an important factor was that we had to understand, through our own direct experience, what particular challenges this type of viticultural approach might present.

If there was one, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

There really was no “Eureka moment”; rather, it was a gradual process of a progressively deeper understanding with respect to the environment.

What are the challenges of farming organically in Franciacorta?

We like operating in a manner that constantly “confronts challenges.” For example, we are always striving to reduce the amount of copper we use — at the moment, 50 percent below that permitted by organic farming. And we are currently experimenting with some innovative organic compounds.

Beyond quality and environmental friendliness, what are the unexpected benefits?

In trying to restore natural vine balance, we have also realized that with the organic approach there is a greater tendency in physiologically active vines to deploy a more rapid immune-system defense, through the vine’s production of phytoalexins, against pathogens.

With Berlucchi’s conversion, more than 50 percent of Franciacorta will be farmed organically: What does this mean for the appellation in your view?

Becoming the first completely eco-friendly Italian appellation could have positive effects as well on promotional campaigns addressed to Italy’s domestic market, but even more so to the international market.

Italy is a world leader in organic farming: Could Franciacorta become Europe’s first 100 percent organic appellation?

We earnestly hope so, and we are working concretely towards that goal. But that definitely takes time, and there are no shortcuts.  In addition, we must be absolutely certain that the quality level of the wines remains guaranteed no matter what.

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