prosecco biodiversity

Prosecco steps up sustainable practice

27 July, 2021

The volatile symptoms of climate change are looming larger over the wine world, Oli Dodd investigates.

France was hit by its worst spring frost since 1947. Agriculture minister Julien Denormandie called it “the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century,” and the government declared an agricultural disaster. Eighty per cent of vineyards were effected and more than a third of France’s 2021 vintage has been lost to a tune of an estimated $2 billion.

California’s water shortage has caused governor Gavin Newsom to extend his drought emergency declaration to 50 counties, which include the wine-growing regions of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino.

The drought will bring more wildfires and lower yields to producers who have just navigated a challenging 2020 harvest – the third-driest on record since 1895.

In the Marlborough region of New Zealand, a combination of extreme spring frost and an earlier than normal budburst resulted in the lowest Sauvignon Blanc yield in a decade and Pernod Ricard Winemakers chief executive Bryan Fry admitted “the reality is that we are not going to meet the demand of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.

In April, the Prosecco DOC was hit by its coldest spring frost since 2003. While it was a milder blow than those suffered by the regions mentioned above, it certainly provided an alert.

“We didn’t have a very warm May, which will impact the harvest. It will mean that the harvest time will be delayed,” says Flavio Geretto, global export director for Villa Sandi. “For Glera, the harvest will start not before the second week of September.

“Some of the vinegrowers working for us had problems. Of all the grapes that we control, 20% of our vineyards suffered from frost, but there can be a second greening so we will only fully understand the full impact of the frost at the beginning of August.”

The climate events of this year aren’t unique, and the changing climate has been felt in Prosecco for some time. Vines are highly sensitive, and frequent dry summers can cause Glera in the Prosecco DOC to ripen too quickly, which produces grapes with low acidity.

“Every year, records get broken with driest springs, wettest summers, coldest winters, and it is making growing food produce and grapes much more difficult,” says Ed Smith, founder of UK Prosecco brand The Emissary. “It’s so important that sustainable practices are employed.”


Prosecco producers are increasingly using these practices.

“We started the Villa Sandi for Life project 25 years ago, and every year since we have brought in something [to improve sustainability],” says Geretto. “Forty per cent of the energy we use is completely zero impact because we have a hydroelectric plant in our winery. There is a channel in the middle of our winery with a strong flow of water, so we built a hydroelectric plant.”

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