A Toast to the Bounty of Summer

This time of year, we’re especially inspired in the kitchen; our local markets are bursting with the season’s freshest fruits and vegetables, and it seems that nothing more than a light touch is needed to turn such exquisite raw materials into a healthy local feast.

This is the same philosophy that guides the winemaking principles of Barone Pizzini; an appreciation for the bounty of the land and a respect for the raw ingredients that has inspired the company to lead the way in organic production of Franciacorta, as well as biodynamic production of Pievalta in Le Marche.

Not surprising, then, that many of the restaurants around the country that include Barone Pizzini in their wine programs also espouse this dedication to local sourcing and appreciation for highlighting the flavors of each changing season. Great news for those of us who are committed to sustainable dining, but less inspired in the kitchen!

ABC Kitchen, New York City

The New York restaurant scene has embraced the “local” food trend in a big way – but ABC Kitchen takes this commitment to a new level. In addition to Chef Jean-Georges’ focus on organic seasonal produce, meat, fish and dairy are sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible; herbs and microgreens are grown on a rooftop garden; and beverages – from wine to coffee and tea – are organic and fair-trade. Even the dining room includes recycled or reclaimed materials – we’ll toast to that!

Coppa, Boston

coppa veg
Seasonal fare at Coppa, Boston

Not traditionally viewed as a foodie haven, Boston is making a name for itself as a culinary destination in its own right, thanks in part to a rising generation of outstanding chefs, including Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston’s South End. Pair your Franciacorta with a seasonally updated menu of pizza, pasta, outstanding charcuterie and fresh produce sourced from “local friends.”

Market 17, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Proving that the country’s biggest cities do not have a monopoly on locavore dining, Chef Lauren Shields at Market 17 has made Fort Lauderdale a regional leader in sustainable dining. The native Floridian is convinced that consumer education is the key to encouraging more people to make responsible food choices. Owners Kirsta and Aaron Grauberger – a brother and sister team of sommeliers – are pleased to share their dedication to sourcing in an extensive beverage program, with plenty of biodynamic and organic options, including Barone Pizzini Rosé.  

Soil: Wine’s X Factor

When we think about all the factors that shape our experience of wine – climate conditions, sun exposure, irrigation, yeast selection, vine treatments, natural and chemical additives – it is easy to conjure up an image of vineyards, barrels of wine fermenting in a cellar, a winemaker testing for quality and deciding when to bottle the latest vintage.

What is harder to imagine is another factor, literally millions of years in the making, determined long before wine – or even humans – existed on the earth: soil.

How much impact does soil really have on a wine, and how can we understand that impact?

Luiz Alberto, writer behind The Wine Hub blog and founder of the #winelover virtual community, explains it this way: “Arguably, the 2 most important factors of a soil, for the purpose of growing grapes and making wine, are its structure and texture. These two components will cause a vine to grow and produce grapes differently. In principle, the percentages of clay, sand, silt, loam, and rock present in the soil will determine the grape varieties that would be well suited to produce grapes of the best quality for that specific site.”

According to Alberto, the composition of the soil determines which wines are best suited to a specific sites, which is why certain regions and even certain plots of land come to be closely associated with a specific grape variety.

Soil may be one of the reasons why Le Marche is the ideal home of the Verdicchio grape – and one of the factors that makes Pievalta’s San Paolo Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG so exquisite.

The San Paolo vineyard is located on Monte Follonica in the town of Cupramontana, in the province of Ancona, indicated in light blue on this map:

Mappa_delle_Vigne draw2

The soils there are rather loose, characterized by sandstone that dates back to the Pliocene era – 2.5-5.3 million years ago. In antiquity, the area was covered by the Adriatic sea, and the currents of sand that formed these soils came mostly from the Alpine range.

According to the “Strada del Gusto” website of the comune of Cupramontana, the grapes of this zone maintain a bright freshness and intriguing salinity. This helps explain the principal characteristics of Riserva San Paolo; these soils yield extremely complex wines, with a long finish and deep notes of ripe fruit and honey.

While there are some who dispute the importance of soil in shaping the profile of a wine, others, like Alberto, agree that the uniqueness of each plot of soil is that certain X factor that makes great wines truly one-of-a-kind:

“Even if some specialists will argue that the influence of the soil is not as dramatic in wine quality as those presented by the climatic conditions of a region … to a certain extent soil can influence wine quality with its own positive or negative characteristics and the viticultural practices used to optimize the positive ones, and reduce or even eliminate the negative traits,” Alberto writes.

In the case of Pievalta, nature and culture combine in a remarkable way: methodical biodynamic winemaking principles put into practice on a territory characterized by ancient, high quality soils perfectly suited to Le Marche’s native grapes.


What is preparation 500? #biodynamics

biodynamic wine italy

Cow horn manure preparation 500

What is it?

It’s fresh cow manure that has been placed in a cow horn and buried in the fall until being unearthed in the spring.

How is it used?

When it is sprayed, it bolsters the life of the soil and the roots of the plants.

It helps the earth to create humus, the colloidal layer of the soil composed of microorganisms that serve as the basis of the soil’s fertility.

When the horn is unearthed, the preparation has been completely transformed into an elastic, aromatic colloidal substance.

It is sprayed in the fall and in the spring after being dissolved in room-temperature water.

90 grams, dissolved into 30 liters of dynamized water, are enough to spray a hectare of vineyard.

It facilitates fertility and the formation of humus in the soil and stimulates plant growth through its effect on the roots of the plants.

Silvia Loschi

Pievalta: a profile of Castelli di Jesi’s first biodynamic grape grower

biodynamic wine italy

Above: Pievalta grape growers and winemakers, husband and wife, Alessandro Fenino and Silvia Loschi (image via WineStories.it).

Pievalta: Biodynamic Pioneers in the Heart of Marches Wine Country

“Biodynamic viticulture” denotes bringing life into the vineyards by helping the vines to re-activate the forces that allow them to interact with the sky and earth. At Pievalta, we work exclusively with natural vineyard treatments and vegetable-based, organic substances. They facilitate the formation of fertile humus and they increase the vitality of the vines. In our view, this is the only way to achieve a wine that truly expresses the place where it is grown and vintage in which it is born.

Pievalta takes its name from the small, picturesque church that stands at the entrance to the estate. The winery is located in the village of Maiolati Spontini, in the heart of the Castelli di Jesi appellation, an area known for its beautiful walled medieval hamlets and their famous white wine, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.

The property includes more than 26 hectares of vineyards that lie on both sides of the Esino river valley. The grapes grown on the left side of the river make for wines with a rich mineral and fresh fruit character, while the wines made from grapes grown on the right side tend to be more austere, more intensely flavored and complex. At the Pievalta winery, biodynamic farming is the key to achieving the purest expression of both sides of the valley.

The text above comes from a soon-to-be printed brochure.

Vini di Vignaioli: the organic & biodynamic grape growers fair in Parma

vini di vignaioli

Above: The logo of the Vini di Vignaioli (Grape Grower Wines) fair gets straight to the point. Human + Grape Bunch = Wine.

Week before last, the Pievalta winery poured its wines at the Vini di Vignaioli fair held outside of Parma.

Vini di Vignaioli means “grape grower wines” and the concept behind the event is that presenters must be organic or biodynamic grape growers who don’t use chemicals in the vineyards or in the wine cellar, including cultured yeasts.

Unlike Italy’s other “natural wine” fairs, the tasting is not held during the same period as Vinitaly (the leading wine trade fair in Italy), when similar events — Vini Veri and Vinnatur — compete with each other for attendance.

In many ways, it’s a unique (and more low-key) fair that tries to embrace the ethos of the grape grower as farmer and lover of the land.

Pievalta has biodynamic certification but certification is not required for participation in the fair (see below).

The admission policy is based on the charter of the Vins Naturels association in France (with whom the fair is affiliated).

The charter, as translated by the association, follows.

A charter defining what makes a wine “natural.”

Preamble: A winemaker member of the Association of Natural Winemakers does what he says and says what he does. He is a farmer, filled with passion for his terroir and his craft, and this philosophy of farming shows through in his daily life.

a) Viticultural practices

Organic certification is desired.

In its absence, the applicant agrees in writing to abide by the rules of organic production (EC regulation 834/2007 as amended).

b) Winemaking practices:

A natural wine is one where the grapes were grown with minimal intervention and manipulation, and must follow the following rules:

– Manual harvesting only;

– It is forbidden to add cultured yeast to the grape must or the wine;

– Nothing may be added to the wine, except SO2 (sulfites) within the following maximums of sulfites allowed:

– 30 mg/l for sparkling and red wines,

– 40 mg/l for dry white wines,

– 80 mg/l for white wines with residual sugar > 5 g/l ;

– Minimal manipulations of the finished product.

Wines that do not meet the above listed criteria may not use the Association’s name in communication or marketing of any kind.

There is no internal surveillance done to ensure these conditions: this is only a charter of good conduct, which is signed by all winemaker members without exception, and based solely on trust.

Healthy Verdicchio grapes in Castelli di Jesi


In the image above, you can see how the Verdicchio berries are completing their growth.

In a few weeks, the warm summer weather will prompt veraison (the onset of ripening) in a few weeks.

Some bunches show signs of millerandage, in other words, variation in berry size. This is due to a cold and rainy spring.

Because of the high pressure front and anticyclone expected this week, we won’t remove the leaves around the bunches.

The leaves will help to protect the fruit from the sun and they will retain their aromas during veraison.

—Alessandro Fenino
grape grower and winemaker

Terroir Marche: a new group of organic growers in Jesi

best verdicchio jesi

Above: The village of Maiolati Spontini is home to the Pievalta winery (one of the houses in the Barone Pizzini group). Castelli di Jesi is rapidly becoming one of Italy’s epicenters for organic and biodynamic farming practices.

In May of this year — on May 1, to be precise, a date with great symbolic and historic significance for many Italians — the Pievalta winery became one of the founding estates of a new group of organic wine growers: Terroir Marche.

In its own words, the group’s mission is to “promote awareness of organic farming in the Marches [Le Marche], to defend the territory and its resources, and to share the culture and practices of a sustainable and humane economy.”

Pievalta is one of the self-financed group’s five founding estates and it shares its belief that “the farmer is the primary source of our daily nourishment and is a pillar among those who safeguard the environmental landscape, the true but neglected patrimony of Italy.”

The group held its first official event on June 24 (a presentation of the association and a tasting of its members wines) and we’ll be looking forward to future events (and will post them here on the Barone Pizzini blog).

An interview with BP vineyard manager Pierluigi Donna

Barone Pizzini vineyard manager Pierluigi Donna was born and raised in the heart of Franciacorta and has worked with the winery group since 1998. He recently took time out from his work in the vineyards to chat (electronically) with blogmaster Jeremy Parzen.

pierluigi donna agronom

Jeremy Parzen (JP): Barone Pizzini is not a biodynamic estate. But you often bring up biodynamics when you talk about your approach to farming.

Pierluigi Donna (PD): Biodynamics proved to be the right choice for its Verdicchio at the Barone Pizzini group’s Pievalta estate in the Marches.

The Franciacorta team is has also embraced the biodynamic method as a shared foundation. And it’s also very active in new research projects and study of all forms of intelligent vineyard management. So the door is open and the experiments and studies continue.

So it adopts certain elements of biodnyamic philosophy but it integrates them with an intuitive approach, evaluating them without adhering to strict dogma.

That’s why were talking about biodynamics here: there are certain aspects that are core to the movement but they’re not exclusive to this philosophy. They can also be interpreted and applied judiciously within the context of more conventional approaches to grape growing.

JP: What makes grapegrowing in Franciacorta different from other wine-producing regions?

PD: One of the things that sets Franciacorta apart is the general level of preparation and the energy of the technicians and wineries. There is a lot of dialog and a healthy exchange of ideas between Franciacorta winemakers and this has led to growth in the Franciacorta wine culture.

This makes the winemakers take a moment to stop and reflect before they carry out any work in the vineyards. And the result is respectful viticulture and a general will to contain the impact on the region while maintaining high levels of quality.

JP: What’s your top growing site for Barone Pizzini?

PD: That’s like asking a father which is his favorite son. What I can tell you which site “graduated” this year.

The Roccolo vineyard “graduated” with honors this year as the Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Nature… with a little help from his brothers and sisters, of course!

Green manure (silly plowing) at Barone Pizzini

green manure franciacorta

A note from the Barone Pizzini agronomist Pierluigi Donna:

Barone Pizzini borrows certain techniques from biodynamics, like that of increasing the organic substance in the soil by planting legumes that thrive between the rows. The plants enrich the soil with natural nitrogen without the use of fertilizers.

Using this “green manure” practice, we till the plants under so that the biomass gets worked into the soil, thus making more suitable for useful organisms and for the roots’ exploration.

Increasing the organic substance in the soil also means reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and thus mitigates the greenhouse effect and helps the environment.

Yearly laboratory analysis, verifying the absence of chemicals in our wine

laboratorio neotron

Click here to read the yearly chemical analysis report for the Pievalta winery.

Every year, we conduct an analysis of our wines to verify the absence of pesticides, fungicides and insecticides in our Verdicchio.

We are organic and this means that we use only substances found in nature or obtained from nature through simple processes to protect and feed plants in the countryside. No chemical processing, no fertilizers or synthesized chemical pesticides.

These analyses are done to exclude any contamination by neighbors that may use chemicals and to verify that the precautions taken to avoid this risk are working.

The analyses are performed by Neotron, a laboratory located in Modena.

Neotron is a global player in the market of analytical and consultancy services for food production and distribution companies.

Neotron has been operating in the field of chemical, biochemical, microbiological and sensory analysis in the food sector for 30 years.

More than 200 chemicals are analyzed in this process.

Click here to view the most recent report.

—Silva Loschi

Note that “LQ” stands for “limite di quantificazione” or “limit of quantification”: “The smallest detectable concentration an analytical instrument can determine at a given confidence level.”