Prosecco steps up sustainable practice

Sandro Bottega, managing director of Bottega Spa, says: “Recently, climate changes have given us some problems. We work very hard with the Italian Institute for Viticulture and we try to adjust our systems dynamically.

“When it is too rainy in a season, we allow the grass to grow. We use a system for the foliage which is catered for the climate that we expect. We keep more leaves on the vines when it’s sunny and less when it’s not. It’s a very complicated system that we have to do by hand. But we must pay attention because leaves also give protection to the grapes from hail, so we are installing a net for future protection for the grapes from hail. 

“How to improve the sustainability of the company is something that we think about every day.”

Sandra Janetzki, global senior vice president at Henkell Freixenet, says: “The importance of sustainability is constantly increasing. From a sustainability point of view, Mionetto has installed photovoltaic cells and solar panels for energy saving, covered the walls and roofs of the new production site with bio-architecture and for the future there will be other investments in our headquarters, to increase sustainability even further.”

It should be mentioned that 2021 has been a great year for Prosecco. Rosé Prosecco was finally given the green light by the consortium at the end of last year, and to the surprise of nobody was wildly popular with consumers. In the UK, supermarket chain Lidl sold more than a million bottles in the run-up to Christmas 2020. Given this runaway success, warnings in May of a potential shortage due to low-yield Pinot Noir harvests came as a concern.

“The whole ecosystem needs to be managed properly and responsibly to ensure that we can keep growing these crops and keep producing the yields that are required to meet the demands, and that all comes down to embracing the right responsible techniques for farming,” says Smith at The Emissary.

Prosecco sales started rising rapidly outside of its homeland at the beginning of the previous decade. From 2013 to 2014, consumption in the UK doubled, and growth has been consistent since. The increased demand put pressure on producers to increase supply and, in the effort to do so, some felt the region’s sustainability credentials were damaged. 

In 2016, the Daily Mail published an article with a title that could have come from an AI tabloid newspaper headline generator: “The toxic pesticides in your Prosecco: Chemicals which trigger asthma and cancer are being used on Italian vines so farmers can keep up with demand.” This article sought to shed light on the practice of many supermarket-branded Proseccos using harmful pesticides and fungicides. It was widely panned, as it is not unusual for producers to use pesticides to protect the crop, while the levels were well below the legal limits and posed no risk to consumers.

However, Villa Sandi was pleased to be singled out as the only brand that the British tabloid could not find fault with. “For us, [the article] was an important recognition of all of the effort that we are putting in,” says Geretto. “The plants are like us. If I have a healthy life, exercise, and eat properly then I don’t need to take medicines. So, our approach is to be as natural as possible so that we don’t have to use chemicals and reduce our impact on the environment.”