Gita Scolastica – Sardinia Pt. 2 of 4

Blog, Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza

Zoe is the word that defines the environment in a holistic sense. We have limited our definition of environment in a very limited way with Eco.

Attilio Scienza

Episode 715 of the Italian Wine Podcast is the second of four very special #everybodyneedsabitofscienza‘s recorded in Sardinia with Stevie Kim during a Gita Scolastica. Stevie and Professor Attilio Scienza continue to talk about the planned programme for the trip, focusing on the Ecomuseum and precision viticulture. Listen to Episode 715 on the Italian Wine Podcast and, if you don’t happen to speak Italian, find the English translation below. And don’t miss the next episode next Friday!

Stevie: Welcome we are still in Sella & Mosca, we’re going through, actually the diary of what we are going to be doing in the next few days and you can follow us on Italian Wine Podcast for, you know, for, vlogs and blogs and photos and videos, so that you can follow us to what we call “Gita Scolastica”. So, we are still on day 2 so we are going from, uhm Malvasia di Bosa with Professor Enzo Biondo, he will be dedicating a book he has written to all the different students and then we go to Ecomuseo. Hi Attilio!

Scienza: Good morning!

Stevie: Hi (laughing), listen to me, this Ecomuseum, do you know what it’s about?

Scienza: No, I know it’s a Malvasia Museum where the word “Eco” represents the territory.

Stevie: Uh…

Scienza: That is, we have given the word eco a wider meaning, we have limited it to the environment, but it is not like that. Eco, ecology means, in Greek it means “home”, so the Ecomuseum is a museum that talks about their home, their territory, it doesn’t have sustainability reflections as we think.

Stevie: Yeah, that’s right.

Scienza: That’s the question, because then the real word that identifies true sustainability, what is this circular approach, this holistic approach would be “Zoe” in Greek. It’s Zoe. Zoe is the word that defines the environment in a holistic sense. We have limited our definition of environment in a very limited way with Eco. But Eco is one thing Zoe is another. So, for them Echo is not environment, to defend but it is the environment where they live, the museum is a place where they describe their environment.

Stevie: Okay.

Scienza: That it is a particular environment from the pedological and also climatic point of view because they are humid places, there is a… there are lagoons, ponds, there is beautiful fishing in freshwater or saltwater.

Stevie: What do they catch here, what kind of fish?

Scienza: Here is a little bit of everything, even mussels. A mussel farming.

Stevie: In English it’s called “Big fishing”, so there’s also…a bit violent too because I’ve gone a couple of times.

Scienza: No, no, it’s not tuna, they don’t fish that here, they fish for…

Stevie: No tuna, what’s it called? It’s always bluefish, the big one, I can’t remember.

Scienza: Swordfish?

Stevie: No, not swordfish. Tell me more. Grouper?

Scienza: No grouper is not blue.

Stevie: No, no, there was a blue thing, I can’t remember, big too. Amberjack! Bravo Jacopo!

Scienza: If they have amberjack I don’t know, I know that here…

Stevie: No, no, yes amberjack! Big as a house and then very violent too. Anyway, back to us.

Scienza: These guys want to show their environment, their peculiarities, and this is also a wine a bit ‘in crisis because these wines are not at all modern and it is very difficult to place them within our daily lives.

Stevie: What wine are we talking about?

Scienza: Vernaccia di Oristano.

Stevie: Ah ok, Vernaccia di Oristano.

Scienza: The Ecomuseum of Oristano refers to Vernaccia di Oristano.

Stevie: No, no, no, correct. Um… I really like Vernaccia di Oristano, though.

Scienza: You’re old, of course you like that stuff.

Stevie: What do you mean, I’m old?

Scienza: You’re old, give it to a 20-year-old kid, he says “what is this rubbish here”?

Stevie: But maybe they like it because, you know, this oxidized thing is appreciated by young people…the natural wine strand like that.

Scienza: Yes, you can confuse it with orange or amphora wines but damn, there is a substantial difference.

Stevie: No, yes, it’s very different.

Scienza: The culture of a Vernaccia di Oristano has nothing to do with a wine oxidized in an amphora.

Stevie: No, but, okay, all right, but….

Scienza: They are two different levels because the oxidation is done by a system of yeasts, they are these oxidative yeasts, the flora that oxidizes but oxidizing also produces interesting substances at the sensory level. The oxidation that is done in natural wines are not very interesting, they are defects, it’s a different thing, we cannot judge that oxidation as a defect.

Stevie: Yes, however, it’s a particular thing, Vernaccia di Oristano.

Scienza: It is a wine that had a notoriety in the past because it was a wine that was preserved very much, because it was a wine navigable, that you could bring to the sea, it didn’t spoil during transportation, it was the wine of the great navy, both Spanish and English, it is a model of Spanish oxidative wine brought by the Spanish culture in Sardinia, which now with the new wine-making techniques certainly no longer has reason to be as an alternative technology because with sulfur dioxide, processing in white, all the protections make oxidation a different thing. But I really like this wine, it is fantastic.

Stevie: Do you like it then?

Scienza: Very much

Stevie: But I though…you told me yesterday that you didn’t like it.

Science: Yes, I like it. I said that the problem is that not everybody likes it, I like it but you can’t drink it commonly. For example, when I get some bottles as a gift, I used to use it to make a “pesce all’acqua pazza” with Vernaccia, like, I don’t know, a bass.

Stevie: What do you mean, “acqua pazza”?

Scienza: You cook the fish in water and wine with vegetables, with tomato, celery.

Stevie: So, you like it for cooking, not drinking it.

Scienza: Also. Less for drinking it because I drink a small glass, it’s a 17-degree wine, it’s not like you can have a dinner drinking Vernaccia di Oristano. You can drink it with some of the desserts they make, for example with sweets, almond pastries, pasta reale.

Stevie: Saeda…

Scienza: With some…no no I’m talking about almond paste

Stevie: No how do you say Seada?

Scienza: Seada

Stevie: Seada, you can’t eat Seada with…

Scienza: Maybe, mmh no, I don’t think it’s…

Stevie: What do you say, Paola? Can you drink Vernaccia di Oristano with Seada?

Paola: Also for me the Seada is too sweet, the Vernaccia is quite dry.

Scienza: It’s not sweet at all, in my opinion it’s good for very strong, spicy cheeses…

Stevie: Yeah, because you don’t eat soft cheese, so…

Scienza: No but apart from that, but a soft one would be completely crushed by the Vernaccia you need another one that supports the strength of the Vernaccia.

Stevie: Okay let’s go to day 3, Sanluri and Cagliaritano, what do we do on day 3?

Scienza: We are visiting the Argiolas winery.

Stevie: Yes, but first we are going to a winery in Sanluri, but I don’t know what kind of wine.

Scienza: There are Cannonau.

Stevie: Yes, and then we go to another small company I think and then we go to Argiolas. Tell us what we’re going to do in Argiolas.

Scienza: Argiolas see a company, perhaps the leading company in Southern Sardinia.

Stevie: Yes, at least from an international point of view, certainly.

Scienza: While Sella & Mosca is the leader in the north of Sardinia, Argiolas is the leader in the south of Sardinia. It’s a family business, now there are the two sisters and a cousin.

Stevie: Yes, Antonio.

Scienza: It is a solid winery, with very deep roots, a great history, which, I would say, was able to see the future much earlier than others. Its position in this world market, international, is the result of this vision, this great vision that they had, and the role that their difficult wines could have in a world market because in a market dominated by French models or Cabernet etc. etc., to stand out…

Stevie: Well maybe because with Tachis towing, doesn’t it?

Scienza: Tachis helped, with Turriga, Turriga did this…

Stevie: Yes, yes, Turriga is the one, certainly the most famous one.

Scienza: Yes, it’s the wine who launched the company in the world, it made the company known in the world, it got a lot of prizes, it took part in many competitions, so it represented a different Sardinia compared to the atavistic one, compared to the Sardinia of the old varieties, vinified not always well.

Stevie: Then I actually had done an Insta Live with Valentina during the pandemic, and she told me, that she does a lot of research, even mass clonal no?

Scienza: As a university, over the years we have provided a great service here at the winery, not so much in terms of clonal selection because that is something that is done in the company, quite simple but it means having time. But we have set up a project of precision viticulture using a satellite.

Stevie: Ah so precision viticulture. Explain to our listeners what precision viticulture means.

Scienza: It’s a digital application of the space economy.

Stevie: What economy?

Scienza: Space economy is called

Stevie: Space!

Scienza: Economy from the space. It is the possibility to use the digital resources given by satellites to create an integrated productive system, sustainable much more than the traditional ones but that have then economic reflections and which are economically sustainable. What does that mean? It means that when I set up a precision viticulture project, using satellites, I have three main objectives: to assess the variability that exists in a vineyard, a vineyard is a population of individuals and, like all populations, it is not made up of the same individuals, they are similar but different. What does diversity mean in a vineyard? It is a great problem of quality because a plant that makes 3kg of grapes next to a plant that makes half a kilo of grapes, it does not make a great wine. Because the the one that makes 3kg has difficulty ripening, the one that makes half a kilo ripens too much. However, I normally harvest everything together and a small company where there is an expert winemaker, he can identify the defects of this diversity.

Stevie: Yeah, minimize the damage, right?

Scienza: Because it prunes in a certain way, fertilizes in another, but a large company no longer has the direct relationship between the winemaker and the plants, it must have an instrument that measures this variability, this is measured by satellite, I have different areas in my vineyard that I can color with different colors, and each color gives me the vigor of that vineyard. So, what do I do? I apply a cartographic referencing technique, that is I make a digital map that I use for all the farming operations. When I go to fertilize, I have my map with my fertilizer spreader that closes and opens according to the vigor. Where there is a lot of vigor it closes, where I have little vigor, it opens. This is what I do for tilling, this is what I do for pest treatments.

Stevie: But also, um also the harvest, no?

Scienza: And then I do the harvest, a selective harvest, the harvester picks the more mature grapes separately from the less mature grapes.

Stevie: Yes, these machines are fascinating in my opinion.

Science: This is precision viticulture.

Stevie: But according to you, even though you know everything about everything but, in your opinion as a percentage how many companies apply?

Scienza: That’s a good question because the critical point is this. So, a large company has resources to equip itself, a small company does not have resources to equip itself. But there are solutions, the first solution is to act on the cooperatives. The service must be offered by the cooperative to its small members and…

Stevie: I know they do this in South Tyrol.

Scienza: Mmh not so much because South Tyrol has other difficulties of this great holographic variability and it’s not easy to plan.

Stevie: But I know they offer this kind of service.

Scienza: Yes, yes, no, but it is done with Laimburg, with the experimental action of Laimburg they do this, they don’t use satellites, they use the systems of the soil, but it is the same thing basically. So, the other difficult thing to apply is the average age of the vine-growers to whom it is not easy to explain how this digital system works. The other difficult thing is also of the training of young people, you don’t give young people in the university or high school a digital training. So, the critical point is digitalization.

Stevie: Yeah, because there’s still technology, but…

Scienza: Because there are machines 4.0, which are called machines 4.0 the problem is to apply the digital culture of these machines. It’s clear that a company of 5 hectares can’t do it because it has to buy a sophisticated machine, with self-driving mechanisms etcetera. But a Consortium…

Stevie: But can they rent to it or not?

Scienza: Yes, the Consortium can have a contractor, they are called contractors, who have all the machines and says, I want 2000€ per hectare, 3000€ and I offer the service. I’m connected with the satellite, I have my digital reference on my mobile phone, because then we adjust with the mobile phone, you geolocalize yourself in your vineyard, it tells you where you are and gives you the picture of the variability of your vineyard and gives you the modeling. But the most interesting meaning, of this precision viticulture is the contrast to climate change and the contrast and the possibility to make a truly compatible viticulture, environmentally friendly. Because what allows you to operate, I would say with a perspective, it is the creation of models. The satellite sends you millions of data in a minute, you cannot process the data with a normal computer, you have to send your data to a place where you can process the big data.

Stevie: Yes, yes, of course.

Scienza: What does big data do? Big data simplify information and transform with algorithms this information into predictive models, because the future is in the prediction, because I cannot always cure, I must prevent. So, what does the model tell me? Look that in three days in that piece of vineyard you have a great risk of disease, treat there and not treat there. It tells you, look, in seven days your vineyard is at risk of water stress, you have to irrigate, but not everywhere, only there. Do you understand? That’s the great perspective.

Stevie: Yes, but you have not answered my question, that is, as a percentage how many companies?

Scienza: Very few, 1% or 2%.

Stevie: Only 1% or 2%?

Scienza: Yes, because it’s only the big companies that do it and in Italy the big companies are not many. And not all of them do it.

Stevie: How many are there?

Scienza: I don’t know.

Stevie: Thirty?

Scienza: In Trentino there isn’t a single big company.

Stevie: Okay. No thirty!

Scienza: Ah thirty! No, it will be a thousand for that the big companies.

Stevie: A thousand?

Scienza: Eh but do you know how many companies there are in Italy?

Stevie: Yeah, I remember.

Scienza: That’s right (laughs).

Stevie: You said 375,000.

Scienza: We have in Italy about 600 thousand hectares of vineyards, of vines. The average unit, the average area of vineyard is one and a half, two hectares.

Stevie: An acre and a half?

Scienza: Yes, that’s the problem. So, you divide 600 thousand by two and there are 300 thousand companies, of these 300 thousand companies, maybe 1000, 1500 are suitable to do this digital viticulture. Nothing, very few. There are Antinori, Frescobaldi, Banfi, etc., those who have the opportunity to do so, etc. but the myriad … Go to Montalcino, what is the average surface of the vineyards in Montalcino?

Stevie: I don’t know.

Scienza: Ah even two hectares, two hectares and a half, because they are all small companies, four hectares, five hectares then two hectares, one hectare of Brunello, so in the end, yes, the Consortium has 320 members but there are 2500 hectares and so divide 2500 by 320 and see what comes out, do you understand?

Stevie: Okay all right, I would stop here, Bye!

Final scene:

Scienza: That’s all we need…

-Phone rings-

Stevie: It’s always… Who is it? No, who is it? Do you have it?

Scienza: I closed it, just a moment I put it on the airplane mode.

Stevie: Ah ok, no, no why do you do that? Because you never do, I don’t understand why you have to do it.

Scienza: No, I do it when I remember but since I don’t… don’t… don’t… where it is here now… Torch? no it’s not the right one.

Stevie: (laughs) There’s an airplane!

Scienza: I’m looking for it, I don’t see it, I know where this airplane is… There it is! Offline, offline!

Stevie: Okay, perfect offline, oooh, what a privilege, let’s record this day (laughter), where the professor put…

Scienza: Offline! I never do eh.

Stevie: In airplane mode.

Scienza: I never do that, not even on a plane! (laughter)

Stevie: That’s good to know.

December 6, 2021
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