To develop and test the evaluation system took three years of experimental work, coordinated by the technicians of the Ministry and scientifically supported by three university research centers: Agroinnova, Competence Center of the University of Turin; Opera, Research Centre for Sustainability in Agriculture at the University of the Sacred Heart; and the Biomass Research Centre of the University of Perugia. Launched in July 2011, the project passed the testing phase in September 2014, in which several Italian wine producers collaborated, such as: F.lli Gancia & Co, Masi Agricola, Marchesi Antinori, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, Planeta, Tasca d’Almerita, Venica&Venica, Cantina Vignaioli del Morellino di Scansano, Principi di Porcia, Vicobarone, Vinosia, Donnachiara, and Cantine Riunite & CIV. Officially presented at Vinitaly 2014, in recent months the VIVA project entered its operational phase. Any winery from the Alps to Sicily may submit their production processes for evaluation by third parties and then send the results to the ministerial technical staff at VIVA. The wines that pass the final exam will receive the Ministry for the Environment star.
Sustainability all round
Air, Water, Vineyard, Territory: these are the four elements of wine sustainability considered by VIVA - Sustainable Wine. Behind each is a rigorously scientific core, inspired by the most advanced international environmental regulations. "The Air indicator has been created based on ISO Carbon Footprint standards - explains Pieter Ravaglia, VIVA representative for the Ministry for the Environment - for Water, the Water Footprint Assessment Manual was used as point of reference, for Vineyard, six environmental regulations were closely followed that include the OIV International Wine Organization guidelines, EEC directives and legislative decrees, while for Territory size, the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines were used as a basis, an international leader in the analysis of environmental impact, especially businesses". Combined, these four indicators provide a highly accurate assessment of the sustainability of the entire production process of a winery, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to the use of water and soil, the use of plant protection products in keeping with the landscape, from the transportation of the bottles to the treatment of workers. "Sustainability is a very broad term that includes many aspects - explains Ettore Capri, Professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and Director of the Research Center for Sustainable Development in Agriculture. Today in the world there are many marks that denote that a wine has been sustainably produced, but VIVA is definitely one of the most comprehensive, if not the most complete".
The first sustainable wine promoted by a national government
In the vastness of the global vineyard, sustainable wine is something that has been around for decades. The first to start were the most recent of the wine-producing regions to arrive, such as California, which launched its sustainable viticulture project back in 1992. Over the following years New Zealand, South Africa and Chile were added. All experiences were of a high level and considered as benchmarks around the world. The project of the Italian Ministry for the Environment has naturally departed based on these learnings, but with the ambition to distinguish itself: the VIVA mark is the first ever to be promoted directly by a national government, that of the Italian Republic.
Good for the environment and the palate
Drinking wine is first and foremost a pleasure, so the first characteristic of any wine is to be good. But it is on taste alone that many experiments in the area of sustainable viticulture have failed. "In recent years, many manufacturers have put on the market wines labeled as sustainable or self-defined as environmentally-friendly - says Professor Capri - but unfortunately many are not able to attain a high standard in organoleptic qualities". The disappointment of consumers has fueled a certain mistrust in "ecological" wines. One of the project’s goals is precisely to dispel this prejudice, and ensure quality and sustainability. And it seems that the challenge has been won: "Among the many tests performed on wines having the VIVA mark, there are also those on taste. A team of experts coordinated by Eugenio Pomarici has carried out a test with tasters, both with the label shown and with it hidden - explains Ettore Capri - The response we have received so far has been very positive, especially among younger consumers. The sustainable wines are really seen as the best, even in organoleptic terms".
The VIVA mark - Sustainable Wine was presented during the workshop on Sustainability intensive agriculture and the food industry
held on November 27, 2014 in Milan by Lab Expo
, the Expo Milano 2015 project and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation that promotes scientific research linked to the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.