Franciacorta has been working towards sustainable production systems and environmentally friendly viticulture for some time. Greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are just one of the environmental impacts of farming, in common with all other production activities. It is an especially vital environmental issue for agriculture, for which soil, water and air are its life.
Farming similarly depends on fossil fuels: heating and traction fuels, fertilisers and plant protection substances are all elements made use of in farming but, as petroleum derivatives, not only do they generate CO2 emissions but they are also financial costs which have tended to increase in recent years.
There are thus two good reasons – environmental and financial – for rethinking our behaviour and finding a new way, doing our utmost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It was thus for this reason that the Franciacorta Consortium created a surveillance tool with which to monitor and measure wineries’ greenhouse gas emissions in order to supply data and increase production sustainability. This is Ita.Ca®, a greenhouse gas emissions measurement methodology which calculates these as CO2 equivalents deriving from winemaking. This methodology is the outcome of an analysis of experiences adopted for some time now by the institutions of various countries (Australia in particular) and partnerships born out of earlier formulas such as the IWCC (International Wine Carbon Calculator), later revised, supplemented and adapted to the Italian context by Sata Studio Agronomico, in conjunction with Milan University. This calculator and the method used for data inventories also conforms to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine protocol (GHGAP of OIV), internationally recognised as a specific sector reference for assessments of this kind.
The purpose of Ita.Ca® is primarily to identify the wine production chain activities (vineyard work, wine cellar, sale) most bound up with greenhouse gas emissions, including in the sense of energy consumption which emits CO2 and contributes to the greenhouse effect. By means of co-efficients developed by local specialists and adapted to the Italian situation, all these emissions are transformed into relative CO2 equivalents emitted. Three areas have been identified in this regard.
- Primary sphere: emissions from fossil fuels consumed by a winery or activities directly attributable to it (heating, transport, machinery, carbon losses from the soil, etc.);
- Secondary sphere: emissions from electricity produced elsewhere, but transported to, and consumed in, wineries;
- Tertiary sphere: emissions attributable to material production processes acquired externally and to waste disposal.
The first stage in the project was providing firms with a data collection and measurement questionnaire which was then elaborated to acquire a snapshot of each single winery, as required by the model. Following on from this several Franciacorta wineries monitored with the Ita.Ca® model requested and obtained ISO 14064 certification (which measures their carbon footprint), confirming the model’s compliance with ISO 14064 standards.
The results showed that it is the tertiary sector which is responsible for the most emissions, i.e. the production processes involved in materials bought in from outside as well as waste disposal, with electricity consumption in second place and direct emissions from wineries third. The details of the sphere 3 results, in fact, show that packaging – processes and materials – is one of the highest impact activities, responsible for up to 46% of wineries’ tertiary carbon footprint. In the primary sphere, vineyard management – working intensity, number of vineyard passages, type of machinery used, fertilisers and plant protection products, specific growing techniques, etc. – can be responsible for up to 84% of emissions.
Once the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions have been identified for each individual winery, corrective measures can be taken to reduce these emissions. Some of these are straightforward because they require no investment, falling into the vineyard management operational choices (use of organic waste, reduced soil working), cellar management (more sustainable materials), etc. categories while others require greater time and financial investment, such as changes to company structure, adoption of production systems and/or renewable energy consumption (photovoltaic panels, for example).
This sparks a virtuous cycle that raises awareness of wineries’ energy consumption and the carbon emissions deriving from these.
The results have been extremely positive: extending monitoring data to the whole appellation, it can be estimated that, in 2011, emissions diminished by nearly 3,000 tons of CO2 equivalents for the area investigated, as compared to the base year of 2010.
The first of its kind in Italy, the basic calculation was carried out on a very significant proportion of the appellation’s land area.
Conservation viticulture is a virtuous production system which can contribute significantly to reducing our environmental impact and, in fact, a well-managed vineyard absorbs CO2, removing it from the atmosphere, via natural photosynthesis. In vineyarded areas like ours, measurements of the quantity of CO2 a vineyard can ‘capture’ permanently in the soil have highlighted benefits greater than the CO2 emitted by Franciacorta model production and transformation activities.
If the difference between production process emissions and the benefits (permanentCO2 sequestration) estimated for vineyards managed in ameliorative as compared to conservation viticulture is calculated, the CO2 equivalent per bottle of Franciacorta produced may generate credits of 1.08 kg/bottle.
An important and ambitious gaseous exchange measurement process between vineyard and atmosphere was set up in 2015 in conjunction with Padua and Milan universities and Sata Studio Agronomico, to confirm estimates of the benefits of sequestration by photosynthesis with objective measurements contextualised for Franciacorta in such a way as to monitor ‘vineyard breathing’ and acquire tangible proof of the real benefits of the ‘Franciacorta vineyards’ for the environment.