We met with Francesca Mecchia of Vigna Petrussa last October in Milan to learn about Vigna Petrussa, the family vineyard, and the winery that she and her mother run in Friuli Colli Orientali.
Sustainable Methods in the Vineyard
This episode of our interview with her covers the sustainable methods they use in the vineyard and how they are dealing with climate change.
Sustainability in the Vineyard
The 2022 vintage was not the easiest in most of Italy. When we spoke with Francesca Mecchia of Vigna Petrussa, she explained.
As they approached harvest, they needed rain. It was boiling hot, and things were ripening quickly, but not quickly enough. The grapes needed a bit more time. It was suddenly cold and gray in the middle of the week before they expected to harvest. The following week was predicted to be rainy, so they had to finish the harvest in just 2 days.
During Covid, they added an irrigation system. Dry farming used to be easy, but younger vines need a bit of support with extreme heat and drought. Even with this support, some of the newer plants didn’t survive, and those that did suffered with smaller and fewer berries.
Francesca had gone off to be an Architect when she graduated. Now she has returned home to help with the vineyard and wine business. She was surprised at how scary and unpredictable seasons and vintages can be. You don’t know what will happen from one day to the next.
The weather reports are not always accurate. You have to juggle and organize the team, moving them around from task to task as needed. They had heavy rain for 10 minutes one day then it was right back to sweltering hot again.
A few years ago, they had a frost and lost 30% of their crop. You never know.
Their farming methods do make things easier. They have always farmed sustainably. Francesca’s parents live in a house in the middle of the vineyards. They take care of the land. They are living on it! Traditionally they have never wanted to use chemicals. It is better to follow the rhythms of nature. You harvest when the grape is ready.
They do much of their work in the vineyard by the moon. This is not because they researched biodynamics. It is the traditional way that people farm. Following nature in this way makes it easier and means less work in the cellar.
During Covid, they had time to sit down and concentrate on many things. They got their SNQUI certification, which was pretty simple, as they already did almost everything the certification required.
They use cover crops, which helped to keep moisture in the soil, or they would have likely lost more of the young vines. When the rains came, these cover crops prevented erosion. They use predator insects to manage pests as well as sexual confusion methods. These are small diffusers hung in the vineyard with insect pheromones that confuse the pests, so they don’t reproduce.
Francesca and her mother see the difference between their vineyard and other vineyards nearby that don’t employ cover crops and use pesticides etc. Their vines are not as healthy.
Francesca jokes that driving by their vineyard might look like a wild jungle. They do not trim the vines unless it is necessary. In the heat, having the extra foliage protected the grapes.
Late in the season, when they did some defoliation, they were also surprised by finding a nest in the rows. Healthy life abounds. This you can taste in the wine.
They are listed in the 2022 Slow Wine Guide, and Francesca spoke at the Wine Media Conference at a session on Slow Food and Slow Wine organized by Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator. She sat on a panel with Carmen Wallace of Slow Wine Italy, Winemaker Luca Formetntini of Podere Selva Capuzza, and Antonella Manuli of Fattoria La Maliosa in Maremma.
She spoke about how their 8 hectares are mostly indigenous grapes, which express their land best. The skill here is patience to allow nature to express itself and support it when necessary. They work gently with love for the grapes.
“These are precious. They are at the center of our life.”
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Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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