Pievalta: Biodynamic farming practices

Our new Pievalta profile series continues…

biodynamic wine italy

Biodynamic Viticulture

“Balance and beauty, harmony and dynamism, luminosity and warmth. These are adjectives that can be used to describe the Marches (Marche) countryside. But they can also be used to describe the Marches’ favorite son, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. After being bewitched by the ancient rapport between this grape and this place, we decided we would begin farming Verdicchio using biodynamic practices.”

“We don’t transform grapes into wine. We simply accompany the fruit as it become wine. We always stay one step behind and we don’t intervene or use shortcuts that would interrupt its harmony with the place where it is made. Instead, we let the grapes express themselves freely. Anyone who travels through these hills will see and taste this.”

—Alessandro Fenino
founding partner

Biodynamic viticulture means bringing life into the vineyard by helping it to reactivate the forces that put it in relation with the sky and the earth. We work exclusively with natural preparations and organic and vegetal compounds so as to facilitate the formation of fertile humus and revitalize plant growth. This is the only way, in our view, to create a wine that truly expresses the unique character of the place where it is grown and the vintage.

Biodynamic practices

We till the soil between every other row and then plough it again at the end of the harvest. We plant these rows with essences (mostly legumes) that will be mowed and worked back into the earth in the spring (cover crop).

When we plant and then later when we mow, we spray the vineyards with preparation 500, which is one of the fundamental tools of biodynamics, the so-called “horn manure.” It gives the soil the impulse to form its humus, the layer of soil colloids that teems with microorganisms and imparts fertility to the soil.

Before flowering, and in any case before the summer solstice, we spray the vineyards with preparation 501 (or horn silica).

In order to protect the vines from disease, we use only sulfur and copper and the latter is used only in a maximum dosage of 3 kg per hectare per year (half of the maximum amount allowed in organic farming.

Organic certification

Organic farming is certified in Italy by entities that have been accredited by Italy Ministry of Agriculture. Our wines have been recognized as “organic agriculture” products by CSQA. This is why we freely share the results of the analyses of our wines. They prove that our wines are free of pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides.

We encourage you to take a look at the chemical analyses of our wines.

A note from enologist Leonardo Valenti on the 2013 Franciacorta Brut

best italy enologist

Above: Leading Italian enologist and consultant Leonardo Valenti visited the Barone Pizzini winery today where he tasted base wines for the 2013 Franciacorta Brut.

Notes on the 2011 Franciacorta Brut

Parcelization and balance in our work in the vineyards and in the cellar are the two pillars of our technical approach since the 2011 harvest.

The thing that makes our winery different from all the others in Franciacorta isn’t the winemaking technique but rather the unique characteristics of our vineyards, each with its own unique and unmistakable characteristics.

Employing the same winemaking process, you can obtain wines that are completely different from one another because their provenance is different.

Parcelization: every vineyard has its own characteristics and for this reason each parcel is managed differently in all phases of production (pressing, lees aging, clarification, etc.).

We manage 25 vineyards and each one bears unique fruit, an expression of that parcel. In the winery, we try to make the most of that difference by employing a different, ever respectful approach to each parcel via two paths:

-Customized treatments for each single parcel (no standard treatement);
-Careful use of the lees that helps to reduce the artificial nature of extraneous elements (thus the wine helps itself using its own tools).

Coordination between our work in the vineyards and in the cellar


Every parcel produces grapes with unique sensorial characteristics. The very shape of the berries reflects this diversity. The berry can more or less elastic and it can have a higher or lower juice content. For this reason, it requires a studied approach to pressing. Grapes with different characteristics cannot be pressed in the same cycle. We’ve also reduced the yields during pressing from 65 to 60% in order to increase the quality of our musts.

Lees Aging and Clarification

The must needs to be perfect. It needs to be nurtured the same way a child is nurtured as she/he becomes a healthy adult.

Once the wine reaches “adulthood,” it’s much harder to perfect it. The use of lees aging is an important tool in the wine’s development.

The lees allow us to reduce the amount of sugars used because they impart sweet components to the wine that help to create its balance. This means less artificiality and more longevity for the wine.

We should add that the lees capture oxygen and thus allow us to reduce the use of sulfur. Again, clarification is individualized for every single parcel. No standard approach is every employed.

This approach uses the vineyard and its grapes as its guide as we examine each parcel individually and then create the blend using the individually vinified parcels.

Leonardo Valenti

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.

Harvest in Castelli di Jesi has begun!

A note from Pievalta manager Silvia Loschi:


On Friday, we sampled the grapes for a third time and decided that the moment had arrived to begin picking.

This morning at 6:00 a.m. (Tuesday, September 3, 2013), we assembled the whole team (Alessandro, Gianlcua, Mitico, and Roberto) and began picking in the “Veranda” vineyard.

These grapes will be vinified as the base wine for our sparkling wine.

It was planted in 2009 and it’s called “Veranda” because it lies just below the veranda we use as our tasting room.


Here at Pievalta, the harvest is done exclusively by hand.

The grapes are picked by hand and then placed in small crates. The size of the crates allows only for a maximum weight of 18 kg.

There are 16 workers in the vineyards who do the picking. They prepare the crates, which are then loaded on to a cart that we bring to the press.


Tomorrow we also plan to begin picking the grapes in our young vineyard in San Paolo di Iesi, also planted in 2009.

You can feel the excitement of harvest in the air!

—Silvia Loschi

Franciacorta harvest has begun

vineyard workers italy

A note from Barone Pizzini manager and Franciacorta Consortium vice president Silvano Brescianini:

This year, in terms of the number of grape bunches and their average weight, yields won’t be high due to the sharp drop in nighttime temperatures during the delicate phase of flowering.

For the 2,800 hectares authorized for the production of Franciacorta, the forecast is average yields of 800-900 kg per hectare (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero).

The 2013 harvest will be remembered as a vintage defined by late-ripening. This works to our advantage because the grapes are picked when temperatures are cooler. This is fundamental for the evolution of the aromas and for obtaining the correct acidic balance.

Early analysis of the grapes points to a good vintage. But as always, the final word on the harvest won’t be spoken for another few months, until the base wines are ready.

Sales have been generally good in 2013 and we hope that this positive trend will continue.

Source: Mille Vigne.

harvest italy 2013 franciacorta

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!

A weekend of art & culture at Barone Pizzini: events and tastings Saturday & Sunday

Barone Pizzini, the first winery in Franciacorta to believe in natural viticulture as the key to attaining the highest quality possible, presents a series of events and tastings featuring painting, music, food, and… Franciacorta, of course!

Currently, the main tasting room at the winery features a show devoted to the paintings of Armando Riva, an artist who has lived in and depicted Lake Iseo and Franciacorta for many years now. His fascination to these two worlds is as vibrant as the works he produces.

sardines dried iseo

Above: Fresh-water sardines being dried along the banks of Lake Iseo. Chef Vittorio Fusari is a champion of locally sourced ingredients in his cooking. Image via Slowfood Oglio, Franciacorta, Lago d’Iseo.

Please call +39 030 9848311 or email info@BaronePizzini.it to reserve!

June 1 & 2 (all-day events)
Winery Tour and Tastings

Franciacorta Brut and Satén paired with Traditional Dried Fresh-Water Sardines from Lake Iseo and other food pairing prepared by Chef Vittorio Fusari, known for his impeccably sourced ingredients and mastery in the kitchen.

Reservations required.
€15 per person.

June 2, 11:00 a.m.
Jazz & Ragtime Concert

followed by winery tour and tasting

Reservations required.
€18 per person.

Our Franciacorta is organically farmed and our carbon footprint is closely regulated. Your visit to the winery helps to promote awareness of Franciacorta wines and Franciacorta the appellation.