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21 December 2021

Trabucchi and Loacker: organic and biodynamic compared in a dual interview

Vinitaly brings to Instagram a comparison between two leading figures in organic and biodynamic wine-growing. Two leading Italian wine-making companies involved in the recent Vinitaly Special Edition will also attend the 54th Vinitaly scheduled at Veronafiere 10-13 April 2022.

We talked with Raffaella Trabucchi, of Azienda Agricola Trabucchi in Illasi, a family business since 1924 that switched to organic in 1993 producing 70,000 bottles/year comprising Valpolicella, Amarone and Recioto, a little white wine and olive oil. Export share: just over 50%, half in Europe and the rest in North America, China, Japan.

She was joined on the virtual stage of the customary “A chat with…” appointment on Vinitaly's official Instagram channel by Hayo Loacker, manager of three wineries located in Tuscany )Maremma Grossetana and Montalcino) and Alto Adige. All in all, there are about fifty hectares, biodynamic since 1979. Sales amount to around 300,000 bottles/year, with 35-40% distributed in Italy and the remainder abroad, with a focus on Central Europe, Scandinavia, North America and Asia. Brother Franz Loacker looks after the German-speaking area.

This was a dual interview linked with European "It's Organic” projects and Biols.Eu.

Why did you choose organic and biodynamic approaches?

Raffaella Trabucchi: “It was a rather natural choice. We realized that vines grown using the conventional model suffered diseases every year and treatment caused them to become weaker. Inasmuch, we decided to convert to organic methods. It wasn't easy but we managed to help the vines find their own antibodies and the ability to defend themselves. The advantages concerned not only the vines but also achieved a new vitality for the soil."

Hayo Loacker: "Working with nature is a way of life for us. Biodynamic wine-growing is in perfect harmony with the idea of how we want to live our lives. Living in synergy with nature is a philosophy of life, a holistic concept where biodynamic wine-growing fits in perfectly."

What does your wine explain about you in three adjectives?

RT: "Our wine tells of people who have always sought quality in total respect for nature. It talks about investments, about having overcome misunderstandings for the choices made and overcoming difficulties.

Three adjectives: sincerity, quality and respect for consumers. If I may, I would also add healthy."

HL: "Our wine contains only our grapes, and then the wood, concrete and terracotta of the containers where it matures. We are talking about wines full of tension, apprehension and joy. And even a drop of my own sweat. Let's not forget that when we talk about terroir - another essential component of wine - we are referring to something that is also man-made. Three adjectives to define the wines made by our group: pure, authentic and I would also say healthy."

What suggestions would you share with fellow wine-makers?

RT: "We would like many of them to convert their companies to organic or biodynamic systems, abandoning old farming and wine-growing models. This is why we suggest being patient and not be frightened by the initial difficulties. Vines suffer the transition to organic but then stabilize."

HL: “Things move when there is a change in generation. Young people are more aware of new wine-growing methods and more open to adopting a more sustainable working approach. They are not only work but also life choices."

What are the effects of climate change in your home areas and are you responding?

RT: “Fortunately, Valpolicella is well protected by the Pre-Alps and Lake Garda is only a few kilometres away, with mitigating effects. We are therefore located in a privileged area with a climatic situation that is fairly well under control."

HL: “We see the effects of climate change in alcohol levels, which continue to increase. In 1996, when we bought Corte Pavone in Montalcino, there were five vintages in the cellar, including 1990. Analysis indicated alcohol content of 12.4°. Today, if I want to make a quality Brunello with a fine aromatic expression and good tannin maturity, it is almost impossible to stay under 14.5%. Things have changed. In my opinion, however, biodynamic wine-growing helps our way of making wine less impacted by alcohol so the wine is still very agreeable."

How important is wine tourism for you and how can it be expanded?

RT: "Wine tourism has developed a great deal in recent times and our area, bordering with the Soave production area, is beginning to develop now. Being close to the city of Verona also helps. Today's tourists know, study and are keen to find out everything about the company, from growing methods in the vineyards to cellar processes. I think that social media and word of mouth are useful tools for growth in the sector today."

HL: "Wine tourism is very important for us. We have two facilities where we can welcome guests: one near Santa Giustina, with a beautiful view of the Bolzano area in the heart of the Santa Maddalena production area. The second is Corte Pavone, in Montalcino. We have several tour offers, which include visits to the vineyards, cellars and tastings. Word of mouth is very important. Internet has opened up amazing opportunities in recent years. We had a good year In 2021, probably thanks to the post-pandemic reaction whereby everyone was looking for open spaces."

How do you view wine-growing in the future, let's say by “Horizon 2030”?

RT: "We hope it will be increasingly possible to differentiate wines come from hilly and mountain areas compared to the plains. I think that wine-growing will move higher and higher up."

HL: "I also believe that wine-growing in the future will develop towards higher altitudes or towards Northern Europe. We have planted vines ourselves at 1,300 meters above sea level with a group of wine-makers in Alto Adige to study what vines in different environments can achieve. Furthermore, if wine-growing wants to evolve it must take self-resistant vines which need little treatment into account. We need to think about 2100, 2300 and not 2030."

Would you ask each other a question...

RT to HL: What prompted you to switch from organic to biodynamic?

HL: “It was an evolution. My father introduced homoeopathy, which we also use in the vineyard. It has many aspects in common with biodynamics."

HL to RT: What is the secret behind drying grapes?

RT: "The secret lies in the grapes themselves. We grow Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grape varieties which have rather thick skins. This means we can leave them to dry for three, four or even five months in the case of Recioto. We also dry Valpolicella grapes for one week to one month, depending on the vintage. The selection of suitable bunches and drying sites are equally fundamental, as well as checks before pressing."