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Attilio Scienza: viticulture and enology run together

From the know-how of the consultants and coworkers of wine producers, to the native vines and to the competition of the emerging countries. The farm zonation is better that the district one

Attilio Scienza is agriculturalist and professor of viticulture at the Università degli Studi of Milan, Italy. He is considered one of the main world experts of viticulture.



Besides the specific know how of the agriculturalist, which are the specific competencies which are important for a cooperation with a wine farm?
In this moment the wine producers, at least the average-big size ones, require very specific skills; they are not content with the standard agriculturalist studies. As a matter of fact, agriculturalists now need to know deeply the relationship between the vine and the wine. That means that nowadays the agriculturalist, besides the know-how about the on-the-field activities, should also be familiar with the grapes processing. Viticulture and enology are complementary fields.

Many areas recently started or completed some wine district zonification projects. Is there a true necessity to start farm zonification projects? Which are the expected results given the strong expenses?
The farm zonification programs are not expensive. The farm zonification is definitively more useful than the district ones, because the territorial zonification can provides information precise on the hectare scale; then, much useful information are missing at this level. This is particularly true in those areas where a strong diversification of the soil is present. The best effects on quality derive from zonification programs at the single farm level, where the pedologic controls are very specific. The vineyard design is done by considering the small differences; e.g., on a five hectares area even three or four graft-holders can be chosen. The same holds for the choice of different watering systems, manures, culturing techniques, etcetera. Strong implications can regard the watering, providing different capacities of the watering systems.
Then, the farm zonations can really boot the quality of the products. The zonation is not very expensive for the farmer; the actual problem is that there are not so many pedologists that are able to do a proper and effective zonation. Given the strong demand, there are still not enough specialists for this subject. On the contrary there are a lot of amateurish people that pretend to be pedologists and that carry useless interventions on.

One of the latest trends is the revaluation of the local vine heritage. All the same there are still poor agricultural data about these vines. The culturing choices are still mainly empirical. Which suggestions can you provide at this purpose?
It is not easy to give general suggestions; the only thing is to try. First of all there should be an intervention at the level of regions or counties, comparing different cultures, and then, only at a second level, there should be a private intervention. Where the new cultivar is just conserved in some collection, in five or six specimens, it is possible to evaluate the maturation curve, the sugars build-up and the phenol maturation, only. On the contrary, when it is necessary to analyze more advanced agronomic data, such as the vegetation to production ratio, the quantity of buds, the production of the stump or the fermentation consequences of different cultivars, it is necessary to consider bigger quantities. It is also much overpriced the role of the graft-holders; first of all it is important to bring the plant at the equilibrium and the graft-holder is not the only element. Only after the equilibrium is reach it is possible to evaluate the effects on the enologic parameters. Finally it is worth remembering that many varieties are also affected by viruses and that it is first necessary to heal them.
The work to be performed is important and has to be done very seriously; in some cases it was done in an approximate and rushed way, actually.

Research and Development. Biotechnologies are running fast but there is a strong reject against them in the wine world. Which is your opinion about GMOs in this field?
The history is full of rejections based on prejudices. I just mention, as an example, that at the time of the phylloxera the wine producers refused to use the graft-holders and that many of them continued the culturing at the soil level besides the great damages the pathogen was provoking. Hence, I don’t let the negative opinions against GMOs to influence me. I agree with the use of GMOs after a proper evaluation of the effects of their use on the environment and the nutritive and healthy implications.
I don’t think that we can stop the introduction of Genetically Modified vines that can show a resistance against different pathogens.

by Alberto Grimelli
05 april 2010, Food Notes > Miscellanea

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