Sustainability is not a new concept for families in Old World countries (i.e. Italy, France and Spain). Here in the States, we have many laws and regulations for labeling sustainable, bio-dynamic, and organic; however, the Old World has lived for centuries practicing sustainability. Besides few consistent regulating laws (as of yet) and the costly procedure to become certified, it can be hard for these wineries to justify certification for the sole purpose of sales in foreign markets (such as the US).
Many Old World winemakers, land-owners and enologists are trained in sustainability. It is a part of the culture and lifestyle. When asked about certification and regulation, it is an awkward shuffle to define European standards- yet many of them follow standards, dabble in the designation programs as well as attempt certification (though it is a moving target). The biggest question is- why do they grow their grapes sustainability without caring about formal certification? It is their way of life! Woman winemaker and sustainability-trained enologist Giulia Franchetto explains in her own words…
“We are a family run winery, located in Terrossa di Roncà, a little village situated between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza – in the Veneto region. Our company has peasant origins from 8th Century but it is in 1982 that we have taken up the road of winemaking. Antonio Franchetto, my father, founder and owner, understood the fortune to have vineyards in this great land and decided to start his big adventure: transform his own grapes into wine. In the year 2000 we created the brand Franchetto and we started to bottle our wine. It’s been a quite long road to arrive to the wine that Antonio had in his mind. Today, by our philosophy, the wine has to tell about the terroir that it comes from, without contamination; it is for this reason that our main vines are Garganega and Durella: two indigenous vines with strong roots in this beloved area.
From 2016, I, Antonio’s oldest daughter, Giulia, have run the winery with the support of my parents. I graduated in enology in 2015 and have worked in the family’s winery since 2012. Today, at 27, I am like-minded with my parents – aware of the importance of her vineyards and soils. My younger sister Anna shares chores of bottling and supports, however it is not her passion. (We will talk more of this later!)
We strongly believe that the wines are born in the vineyards. There we have the possibility to grow healthy and clean grapes that will be able to give life to amazing wines, free to express 100% the soil and grapes that they come from. From this comes our greatest respect for nature and our surrounding environment. With this philosophy in mind, we farm our vineyards according to the guidelines of modern-day agriculture. We analyze our soils about every 3 years in order to understand how they are. The major part of our soils are quite rich but where and when it is needed, we use organic fertilizer. To control the growth of weeds we don’t use herbicides (or chemicals) but a mechanical machine that moves the soil between every vine: in this way we take away the bad grasses and give some oxygen to our vines’ roots. We mainly treat the vines with products allowed in organic agriculture; only in the event of particularly serious circumstances, do we make use of other types of sanitary protection, while strictly adhering to the advice and doses recommended by qualified agronomists. We work in this way first of all for our health as we are every day in the vineyards and then because we want to contribute to safeguarding and protecting our Mother Earth.
We have always cultivated the environment around us with love and respect, conscious that a healthy ecosystem is the base to obtain wines that can give emotions to the people that taste them. That’s the reason why we decided to follow some techniques that allow us to reduce to the minimum the impact of our work on the soil, in order to leave our vineyards in good condition for us and for the next generations of winemakers.”
In addition to sustainable farming, the Franchetto family has invested in a photo voltaic system which covers all the energetic needs of the company. More from Giulia: “The photo voltaic plant, installed on the roof of the winery, produces 45.000 kWh per year and, beyond the economic saving for the company, it contributes to the protection of the environment because it reduces the usage of fossil fuel and the emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere.” Reducing their carbon footprint with investment in farming and winery sustainability, the Franchetto family has also taken care to plot their vineyards from the beginning to utilize their resources wisely. With two vineyards in two locations, focusing on very different varietals (traditional Garganega and Durella), the vineyards are selected for their ideal soil, elevation, but also the steepness of the slope. “The Capellina vineyards are located at 250 m.a.s.l. on a very steep slope; this contributes in a very decisive way to the flow of water and prevents stagnation and excessive irrigation problems.” The Vestenanova vineyard produces a rare local varietal, Durella, which Giulia’s parents planted 25 years ago. The family uses this grape to produce a one of a kind Spumante (sparkling wine) known as Lessini Durello.
Wine making is not the only passion of this talented family – all of them are musicians performing frequently at local festivals and events. Giulia explains more here:
“We are a musician’s family– I (Giulia) have studied music (French Horn) at Verona’s conservatory while attending high school and I have collaborated with different groups and orchestras. My father (Antonio) is a Trombone player, my sister (Anna, who doesn’t really work with us but is always happy to help during events – bottling and other works) plays Transverse Flute, while my mom is a singer. We are all involved in the symphonic band of our area. We enjoy every aspect of play and study with this group (where we are all friends). The best moments are of course the concerts, lots of happiness and satisfaction after months of studies!
Smiling (because I usually tell this in a funny way) I always like to say that our wines have “something more” because they are made with love and above all because during the harvest time me and my dad often play our instruments inside the winery if we have some free minutes so also the grape juice that is fermenting can enjoy and relax with our music 😉 😉 ;)!”
And what is a winery without its winery dogs (or other “pets” )... “We have three female dogs: Stella (that we enjoy calling Nerina because she is really black) – Birba and Lilli. The first 2 are owned by my grandfather while Lilli is our sweet and funny puppy. I could say that she is almost as famous as my wines, a lot of people (friends – clients etc) know her :). She is an important piece of our family. <3. About me (Giullia): with wine and music I have another big passion – horses! I practice horse riding (jumping) and since June 2016, I have owned my first horse: Cerbelo dell’Alma! I am really in love with him!”
A phrase that truly rings clear for this family is “I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.” Andy Warhol. Sustainability is the foundation of the Franchetto winery. They follow techniques that reduce the impact of their work on the soil, allowing the vineyards to flourish now and for the next generations of winemakers. Furthermore, their lifestyle harmonizes with the earth, family life, culture, and wine making. Beauty is a balance of intention and art in every day living.
Finalizing this interview/blog, Giulia informed me that BOTH of their Soaves just won awards in DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS!!
* Soave DOC “Recorbian” 2015 BRONZE medal
* Soave DOC “La Capelina” 2015 PLATINUM medal for BEST VENETO WHITE!!!!
Salut! Jaci Kajfas
Manager, Sommelier, Food + Wine writer