Franciacorta Green Vegan: a Unique Wine or a Sustainable Winemaking Process?
FRANCIACORTA GREEN VEGAN: a unique wine or a sustainable winemaking process?
A stream of thoughts by Mario Falcetti
A wine, a label, a revolutionary concept, at least on nowadays wine market. The superficial reaction to this innovative and until now one-of-a-kind Franciacorta wine swings between two opposite positions: one the one side, it is considered «trendy», while on the other it is «too harsh». Actually, the reasons that led to the creation of our Franciacorta Green Vegan wine are deeper, harder and more complicated than they may at first appear.
Before talking about wine philosophy and life ideology underlying this wine, I would like to make some considerations about what «Vegan» means. In 1944 in England Donald Watson founded the Vegan Society in opposition to the Vegetarian Society (from Latin vegetus, meaning «healthy», «powerful»). Even in the name itself we can notice that the vegan diet is stricter than the vegetarian one: in fact, this movement is named after a contraction from VEGetariAN into VEGAN.
This concept contains many intrinsic values, connected to (1) ETHICS, in terms of total respect for animals; (2) ECOLOGIC, to be seen in the lower effect vegetable crops for feeding human beings have on environment than livestock farming and this leads to consequences on (3) ECONOMIC, in regard to lower costs; (4) HEALTHY, bringing many more benefits than the traditional ordinary diet and (5) SOCIAL, as a result of all the previous considerations.
Even if you do not strictly abide by vegan rules, you can not deny that many aspects have an overall and essential validity. I would not go deeper into the specific study of this discipline but there are a few points I would like to discuss, because of my professional education and personal experience.
I grew up with my granddad who passed me down his respect for environment in the choice of the products to be used in farming, automatically combined with respect for animals and human beings. This way of thinking has always guided me in my life choices, starting with my course study at university. I enrolled in the faculty of Agriculture but I left out all the courses on animal husbandry in order to focus immediately on arboriculture and viticulture. I was fascinated and intrigued by botany, that could gather different plant species together through Latin words, explain the soil features needed to grow these plants as well as describe the properties of the eatable ones.
The ecological value
As an agronomist I have to discuss the effect crops have on environment, especially those used to feed animals. The starting point for my considerations is the low performance (efficiency) of the processing system which requires a lot of water. In fact, according to WWF, 70% of all the fresh water consumed around the world is employed to produce fodder or in meat production processes. More specifically, the production of one kilogram of fodder requires on average 1.000 litres of water and we need 15 kilograms of fodder to produce one kilogram of meat. So, it takes around 15.000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of steaks (1x1000x15). The low efficiency of meat production is proved by the fact that only 11% of fodder given to a cow is actually useful to produce meat, while the cow needs the rest of it to survive. Moreover, we need 800 kg of plant proteins to have 50 kilograms of animal proteins (6% conversion rate!). In addition to water waste and processing low performance, there are other consequences linked to chemical products used in farming, to animal and butchering waste disposal, to deforestation as a result of new grazing lands and farming grounds, boosting desertification and greenhouse effect.
In reference to the greenhouse effect, it is worth mentioning the study («Klimaretter Bio?») carried out by the German Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW – Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung) and published by Foodwatch (August 25, 2008). This study aimed at highlighting the environmental impact (in terms of greenhouse gas emissions) of agriculture and livestock farming. As it happened in other studies carried out in different countries, this research deals with elements and factors which can not be directly compared. Therefore, these data were converted in an «absolute» index through which greenhouse gases produced from farming are made equivalent to the kilometres a medium-sized vehicle (BMW 118d model) has to travel to produce the same amount of them. The idea of converting the amount of CO2 produced in kilometres (119 g each km) makes it easier for everyone to understand the size and relevance of this phenomenon rather than expressing this amount in kilograms or tonnes.
So the study evaluated the impact of food production, considering various factors such as basic necessities for growing those elements needed to produce fodder, the transport of raw materials and animals, or the managing of livestock farming and butchery and so on.
Some reference data are to be seen in the following table.
Starting from these data, a model was later proposed to calculate how much food a person eats during a year according to three different diets: omnivorous, vegetarian and vegan diet. For each one of these models two types of food production were considered: traditional and biological agriculture/livestock farming.
The results are in the following table:
|Unit of measurement = equivalent km||agriculture||Index|
|biological||traditional||Vegan/bio = 100|
|Vegan diet||629||224||2 x|
|Vegetarian diet||1978||704||7 x|
|Vegetarian diet||2427||864||8 x|
|Omnivorous diet||4377||1558||15 x|
|Omnivorous diet||4758||1693||17 x|
Briefly, if you compare the two extreme food models, you can see that an omnivorous diet with food obtained from traditional agriculture produces an amount of emissions that is 17 times bigger than the vegan diet with food from biological agriculture.
Quadra joined a similar study, which has been carried out recently in Franciacorta. This research measured the carbon footprint, aiming at reducing greenhouse gases, by making adequate changes in the different phases of the productive cycle and commercial activity. Short-term (5 years) goal of the new «Franciacorta system» is a reduction of 1200 tonnes of emissions of CO2. This reduction would be the same made by 100 hectares (around 247 acres) of a wood created for this purpose.
The health value
My care for environmental consequences and my respect for vines, soil and air around them are responsible for my holistic approach to viticulture, which has always considered the strong connection between the vines and their terroir even when the focus was on other factors.
However, my curiosity for vegan diet is the result of a more recent personal research in health. From a simple runner I became a marathon runner and then an ultra-marathon runner and so I also started to be more careful and aware of my diet. I found out that there are prominent ultra-marathon runner and endurance athletes who are vegan; this fact encouraged me to explore deeper this subject and to experience a personal theory: a gradual transition from an omnivorous to a vegan diet, with the really convenient possibility to find a suitable diet in-between, for example a milk-egg-vegetarian diet. From an environmental point of view, for instance, the decision of 10 people to eat less meat and animal products has more benefits than one person’s choice to become vegan. It goes without saying that reducing meat consumption brings immediate and long-term benefits on health, especially considering the way intensive livestock farming are managed and the massive use of drugs. The great variety of seasonal fruit, vegetable, legumes and seeds allows people to follow a right, light and healthy diet. These benefits are fully supported by a number of studies in medicine.
Always in reference to health, I have always and repeatedly noticed and proved that the medical and pharmaceutical services benefit economically more from healing sick people rather than from investing in prevention to ensure optimal health and well-being. In my sport experience and in order to monitor my health condition, I have been trying on myself this new diet for a long time and the results are remarkable and evident: digestion is faster and easier, the quality of sleeping time and daily life is higher, blood sugar and cholesterol are lower because cereals and pseudo-cereals replace common wheat flour and physical and mental performances improve.
The spread of this «movement»
Nowadays there are about 350.000.000 vegetarian people worldwide. In India 30% of the population is vegetarian.
Germany is the «greener» country in Europe and 7 million people follow this lifestyle.
In Italy [source: Eurispes, 2014] 7,1% of the population, that is 4,3 million people (3,7 million people in 2013, towards 8% in 2015) follow a diet with few or no animal products. 6,5% of these people are vegetarian and 0,6% vegan. 31% of them choose this diet because they respect animals and 24% because it is healthier.
The trend is towards a steady increase; in fact, Eurispes foresees that by 2050 around 30.000.000 people will have completely changed their diet.
However, the most astonishing findings concern the similarities between vegan and Mediterranean diet, as I am going to show you in the following pyramid.
Meeting points between (apparently) contrasting models and styles
At first sight the vegan diet seems so far from our tradition and culture in terms of food; however, it actually shows a lot of similarities with the traditional and famous Mediterranean diet.
In the middle of the last century, Professor Keys was entrusted by the American government with an epidemiological investigation which later became known as «Seven Countries Study». It came out that the Mediterranean Diet was the closest thing to vegan lifestyle. The strengths of this diet were cereals, fruit and vegetable, while meat consumption was occasional and dairy products were not as important as they are today. The main features of Keys’ study are to be found in the food pyramid and in the Mediterranean Adequacy Index (MAI). About this, it is worth saying that already during the development of the Seven Countries Study a comparison of different diets was felt necessary and especially their similarity to the one used as a reference point. This is the reason why the Mediterranean Adequacy Index was developed. It is quite simple to calculate and it allows to compare our food habits with the Mediterranean Diet used as referenceand see how close they are to one another [the diet observed in Nicotera, Calabria, in 1960 had a MAI between 5,4, and 10,8 with a mean value of 7,5]. The MAI can be calculated by dividing the percentage of the energy provided by healthy main Mediterranean Diet food (cereals, legumes, vegetable, potatoes, fruit, fish, extra-virgin olive oil and wine) for the percentage of the energy provided by not prevailing Mediterranean Diet food (meat, milk, cheese, eggs, animal fats, margarine, hydrogenated fats, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar). We can notice that food composing the numerator of this fraction is the core of the vegan diet, with the exception of fish; food composing the denominator should be consumed occasionally with moderation: these foodstuffs reduce the index value and consequently the «goodness» of the chosen diet. In the last decades our Mediterranean Diet has been progressively turned into a Western diet, due to the increase of meat, dairy product, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. As a consequence, people are getting fatter and fatter, starting from children. This regression is the result of an unnatural development of human beings, which has grown faster in the last decades. In regard to this, the paragraph «vegetarians vs. carnivores» (Tecnobarocco, Einaudi, 2015) written by Tozzi is enlightening. He analyses some physical characteristics of Homo Sapiens: for example, the teeth may explain the early diet of our species; in fact, there is a certain amount of molar teeth, used to grind vegetables, canine teeth are smaller and the intestine is very long, while carnivore’s one is short. The same physical structure tells us that we were juicy preys meant to run away instead of hunting animals and according to Tozzi we have become carnivores-omnivores because of our culture and not because of our biological evolution.
Reasons underlying a wine
In line with food considerations and environmental awareness previously highlighted, Quadra creates the first Franciacortawine and in general the first Italian classical methodto be certified according to Vegan qualitycriteria.
In fact, grapes have always been the cornerstone of my idea and interpretation of the wine industry. From the tactile check of raw material to a winemaking process with a low impact, I have always considered unnecessary all those things that are not essential and I have always thought time carries the greatest values and deserves blind trust. And so manual skills, which require time, replace chemical processes avoiding the use of most products employed in the musts and wines clarifications. In particular, I cannot conceive of using animal products such as egg albumin, gelatine, casein, fish glue and this way of producing makes our Franciacorta wines natural, remarkably delicate and elegant. They meet the expectations of the most demanding palates, even in terms of sensitivity and intolerance to specific substances.
If we want to produce according to these principles and then let our consumers clearly know about it, we can, or better we have to «validate it through certifications».
Therefore, we spent 2015 carrying out all the auditing stages aimed at verifying and certifying our process and its outputs. This project led to the creation of a Franciacorta Brut wine which conforms to the criteria of vegetarian Quality – «Vegan» and so we got the license to use this brand.
However, there is much more value in our Franciacorta Green Vegan wine. In fact, it is expression of a genuine Quadra style and at the same time it allows us to get closer to those consumers who are more careful and sensitive to «ethics» and «health». Most of all, however, it meets these new requests and in this way it allows us to enhance the whole Quadra range: even though our range is not explicitly certified, it is still a herald of those same philosophical and production principles.
A link wine
For all these reasons our Green Vegan wine is a link wine, a connection between wine and food lifestyles and models. In fact, it is created to fully meet the desires of the strictest vegans with all due respect to those who love fine wine. An inclusive wine in a world where everyone tends to be or to seem exclusive.
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