Published 20 May 2012
Barely a week goes by without a journalist uncovering a new prediction about the effects of global warming – usually misappropriating scientific research in order to produce a headline-grabbing story.
Marco Caprai is not a man who listens to speculation. Caprai, who took over as manager of the Arnoldo Caprai winery from his father in 1988, says that nobody really knows what will happen in 10, 20, 30 years – so he is trying to find out. “This is the first experiment like this in the world”, he proudly announced when I met him at his winery near Montefalco, Umbria (Italy), in January 2012. His interest is understandable: as the head of the family business which produces over 800,000 bottles per year, it’s important that he finds out how global warming will affect their future.
Run in collaboration with the University of Milan since 2005, the experiment simulates the effects of climate change on the vineyard’s most important grapes – Sagrantino and Sangiovese – by progressively covering the vines with fabric (to increase the temperature of the plants) and using aluminium mirrors (to increase the amount of solar radiation). Caprai says “the experiment is to understand what we can do with the increase of the temperature”. Initial results suggest that blackout drapes are able to reduce excessive accumulation of sugar, whilst maintaining the molecules essential for preserving the structure and colour of the wine during the ageing process.
Mattia Dell’Orto, a researcher at the University of Milan, told me that by using results from their research, alongside international studies on sustainability, they are currently finalising a unique viticultural protocol for the region that defines best production methods whilst at the same time ensuring “environmental, social, and economic sustainability”.
I visited the Arnaldo Caprai winery as part of the International Wine Tourism Conference 2012.