Interview with the oenologist Casimiro Maule. Sciúr is a globally sustainable wine, which is the result of a real oenological project based on 360-degree sustainability, from the management of the vineyard to the use of water, from packaging to respect for the territory.
“At Nino Negri we have not simply produced a wine but we are working hard to protect and enhance territory, environment, culture and history”, said Casimiro Maule.
As it is well known, the Valtellina, one of the most important wine-growing areas of Lombardy, is a mountain area that has the particularity of being oriented from east to west, bounded by high mountains and steep slopes, today intensely planted thanks to expensive terracing works that involved the construction of dry-stone walls to make cultivable lands previously inhospitable ones. It is a work that has involved entire generations who, without technological support, have carried tons of land, by hand or on the back of mules, from the valley bottom upstream.
And we talked about it this during our pleasant meeting with Casimiro Maule, oenologist at the famous Nino Negri company, located in Chiuro, and president for many years of the Consorzio Tutela vini di Valtellina (Consortium to Protect the Wines of Valtellina), who also illustrated the birth of the Sciúr wine, based on sustainability at 360 degrees.
How do you consider the state of health of the Valtellina winegrowing?
“Our valley, both for the exposure and for the moderate rainfall distributed evenly throughout the year, is an area particularly suited to viticulture. In the eighties we had a really difficult period when, in a short time, the most important market for our sector, represented by Switzerland, recorded a sharp fall. At the time, about 70% of the Valtellina wine production was destined for the Swiss and, therefore, we had to completely reinvent the viticulture of Valtellina. But, looking back on it, that was the beginning of the wine-making Renaissance not only in Valtellina but also in Italy”.
And it was the moment of the rebirth of Sforzato wine, too …
“Yes. The ‘Sfursat’ has been the wine that has brought credit not only to the ‘Nino Negri’ company, but to the whole territory of Valtellina. In those years I understood that, with the right selection and attention, we could really get excellent results with the Nebbiolo of Valtellina, also called Chiavennasca. Our ‘Sfursat 5 Stelle’ has given and still offers us many satisfactions.
That was an important experience to comprehend that we needed of a team effort. We therefore set up the Consorzio Tutela vini di Valtellina and began to think of quality starting from the vineyard. Of course it was a very long process, because the viticulture here is terraced: to convince all the operators in the sector to completely change the way of working was a process that required a lot of time, effort and patience, the same ingredients involved with making a great wine.
In a short time we managed to obtain the DOCG Valtellina Superiore, which includes the Sassella, Grumello, Inferno, Valgella sub-areas, to which a historic fifth area was added, the Maroggia.
For the recognition of the DOCG of the Sforzato di Valtellina the discourse was a bit more complex, since the Sfursat is not only born in a vineyard, but in the whole territory. In any case, we have succeeded in our purpose and for a long time we have been working hard to recognize the quality and the image of our wines from Valtellina
My intent has always been to start from the vineyard, reducing production; we have increased the number of vines per hectare and we are also redoing new plants, with clonal selection.
In these years, in addition to work on the vineyard, we also focused on the work in the cellar: the vinification takes place no longer only with long and low temperature macerations, but also with shorter macerations. Moreover, the refining and the passage in wood take place both in the large barrels, as the tradition and history of Valtellina require, and in barriques. All these choices have been taken to meet the needs of consumers, especially foreign ones, who are looking for a more elegant wine”.
The company “Nino Negri” celebrated 120 years of history. Can you tell us about the Sciúr project?
“A wine today is not different from other sustainable products: when we talk about wine, we include everything that happens starting from the territory, passing through the vineyard to the cellar and at the time of consumption. Our goal is to try to move towards a more sustainable and cleaner viticulture, paying constant attention to the minimum use of chemicals and herbicides, because we want a viticulture that respects the environment, the people who work there and also the consumer.
The Sciúr wine was launched about three years ago at the end of a workshop conducted in collaboration with young Italians and foreigners designers, university professors of the Milan Polytechnic and the School of Design, and marketing and communication experts. This is how Sciúr was born, a globally sustainable wine, which is the result of a real oenological project based on 360-degree sustainability, from the management of the vineyard to the use of water, from packaging to respect for the territory. For its production only natural fertilizers are used and the percentages of sulphites are significantly reduced; also the packaging proposal, studied in an eco-compatible formula, demonstrates specific attention to the issues of environmental sustainability”.
The word Sciúr cannot be found in an Italian vocabulary, but only on the dictionaries of the Lombard dialect. In Valtellina, as a sign of respect, it was the name given to Carlo Negri (known as Sciúr Carluccio) the son of Nino Negri, who founded the winery of the same name in 1897. Apart from this interesting fact, any reference to dialect is incidental, since Sciúr is used as an acronym, born from the research work carried out by the students of the Milan Polytechnic to characterize the project and the wine to be produced: Sustainable, Concrete, Innovative, Unique and Responsible.
“What I am very proud of, – continues Casimiro Maule -, is the fact that, within this project, the Valtellina Professional Training Center was also involved, which saw the intervention of young masons, who started to learn the techniques and the historical culture for the maintenance and construction of dry stone walls. The work done by these guys for the restoration of the dry stone walls that support the terracing in the Nino Negri vineyards represented a virtuous example of collaboration between the school and the company that benefited both of them and benefited the territory. At the school we recognize a contribution of one euro for each of the Sciúr wine bottles sold. I firmly believe in the fundamental importance of safeguarding the vines. We must preserve the landscape because the quality must not only be of wine, but also of everything around it”.