Today’s post is by Scarpa General Manager Riikka Sukula. When she started in 2017, her primary goal was to preserve the ‘what’ that makes our historical Nizza Monferrato winery so special, while implementing practices to turn it into a sustainable winery to keep Scarpa’s legacy alive for generations to come. She shares updates on our efforts to position Scarpa as a leading sustainable winery in the Piedmont wine region — and perhaps the whole of Italy when she’s done. 

Riikka Sukula, Scarpa Winery

I’m excited to share our sustainability in wine efforts here at Scarpa, something I’ve woven into every initiative during my tenure here. 

But let me back-up. Practicing environmental responsibility is something I’ve always made a part of my 30-year career. My one stumbling block: I am terrible at monitoring and measuring the impact of my work. 

So, part of the reason for this post is to keep myself accountable by: 

  • Introducing Scarpa’s sustainability in wine efforts, 
  • providing an overview of initiatives to-date, and 
  • commiting to ongoing updates.

We start more formally in early February with the release of the Scarpa: Sustainability in Wine Action Plan – complete with quantifiable measurements and results (because you can’t manage what you don’t measure!) In addition, we’ll share the great SDG Monitor tool we’re using. 

Join us in the journey: Review the report, follow our work here by subscribing to the blog and on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook), and if you have ideas on ways to work together, please let us know! 

Starting at the top: Scarpa’s Sustainability in wine goals

To begin – and how I was able to focus the work – I used the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) 2030 as the benchmark for our efforts.

Why the United Nations goals?

The UNSDG goals, written from a country and UN perspective, may seem utterly distant to a small business. But, I firmly believe that meeting them is everyone’s responsibility – from wine grower to producer to wine retailer to the end-user.

The way I see it, the UN did the heavy lifting by identifying what we need to accomplish for humanity and the planet. As a business and a consumer, we simply work them into our plans to affect change – for me, that’s the fun part!

Getting the job done: Sustainability in wine

Small and medium-sized businesses are the actual implementers of the actions. So, just by thinking about our role expands our mind to consider how we can identify the low hanging fruit that makes a lasting impact on environmental, social, and governance issues. 

Sustainability actions cannot alone be certification driven or, for example, just a need to conduct a 56 000€ carbon footprint calculation offer like I received recently for Scarpa. We must shift to an all actions matter mentality. 

Scarpa’s ‘sustainable winery’ work spans cellar to vineyards, including: 

  • Enhanced vineyard sustainability efforts 
  • Complete winery renovatio

Sustainability in Wine: The Vineyards

  • We continue to increase our cultivation area under organic farming practices and increasing the well-being of the ecosystem with an under cover crop mix of 15 different herbs, flowers, and grasses, generating wider biodiversity. 
  • To support diversity, we’ve expanded our cultivation beyond wine to hazelnut and lavender. In addition, spending more time on forest care yields great benefits to the ecosystem. 
  • We introduced a weather monitoring system that shares data across an open network with neighboring producers – they see our conditions and we access theirs. This practice gives us a clearer picture of the area’s microclimate conditions – rainfall, wind, and temperature fluctuations.
  • We’ve over-crafted and planted only autochthonous varietals, including the launch of timorasso (first vintage: 2018) and pelaverga uncorks in 2021 (first vintage: 2020). We have a deep respect and appreciation for these wines as part of the area’s viticultural heritage and vast authenticity. Riikka reminds us regularly that keeping these lesser known varieties alive is yet another reason we must work to combat rising temperatures. 
  • We collect and reuse rainwater wherever possible; washing our tractors, lawn irrigation, etc.

scarpa wineriesgrape

Sustainability in Wine: Winery Renovations

  • Reduce and recycle, the underlying idea for the long overdue massive renovation of the Scarpa cellar. The purpose: more space and better working conditions to ensure quality products. 
  • The building needed to be reinforced structurally, which was no easy task. The Nizza Monferrato soil doesn’t provide a solution for geothermal heating and cooling systems, so we had to adapt, but were successful in creating an energy efficient operation method for winemaking while also generating sustainable heating and air-conditioning in the tasting-room and the attic event space. 
  • We reused old botti (wine barrels) to create gorgeous tasting room furniture and bottle library dividers; designed and built by a local carpenter. 
  • Winelover and artist Diane Bauer – indigenous to the United States, but spent years in Piedmont – created the Scarpa Tasting Room table ware and in the event space we have beautiful collection of vintage tableware. 
  • On glassware, compromise is not an option; Zalto glasses complete our tabletops.

All companies that worked for us during the renovations were local and we used mainly Italian or Piedmont-based designers in our interior design. The lone exception was the tasting room chairs were selected from young designers from Bosnia called Zanat, known and valued for sustainability and social responsibility.

We collaborate and provide opportunities to young people through our internship programs with Pollenzo Gastronomic University, Institute Superiore di Sant’Anna of Pisa, and University of Turin Scuola Enologica as well as North-eastern University of Boston. Student projects vary from a feasibility study of non-alcoholic wine to market research and hospitality development and production processes. 

winery eventwine tastings room

Looking forward

Now into 2021, with the renovations over, we are at a great moment to improve on these many small but impactful things to continue to advance towards a sustainable future. 

Join us as we introduce them. And, join us in making the commitment to sustainability by sharing your commitment in the comments below.

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