Our vineyard soil quality on the Carmine Estate is very important to us as we are well aware that soils influence the quality of the grapes we produce. In fact, the impact of soil, when combined with climate, topography and grapevine variety, is referred to as the terroir effect. We know that our valley is a unique grape growing environment which can be tasted in the natural minerality of our wines. We also know that our calcareous soil with its loam clay structure rich in alberese and quartz stones, and other rock fragments plays an important part in providing this minerality. Our challenge is to protect the health of our soil and allow it to naturally influence the quality of our wines.
Our viticultural practices are aimed at optimizing our wine grape quality rather than our yields and the work in our winery seeks to bring out the flavours of our specific terroir. We know that wine lovers around the world increasingly value sustainable practices in their decision-making process when buying wines and this encourages us to stay on the path we have chosen towards sustainability.
Vineyards are often established on slopes and ours on the Carmine Estate are no different. This is done to take advantage of the hill’s aspect to optimize solar radiation on the plants. The problem is that vineyards on slopes are at risk of soil degradation, causing declines in soil quality and fertility and reduced water infiltration and storage. To compensate, we need to protect our soil and each autumn, we plant fava beans in every second row as a winter cover crop. We also enjoy picking these beautiful, edible legumes when ready for use in pasta and soup dishes but that is another story.
Mowing this fava cover crop in the spring and tilling it into the soil when it begins to blossom allows it to decompose in the soil, releasing the nitrogen stored in the plant and helping our soil regenerate. Sustainable practices such as this help grape farmers avoid the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. In every other row, discarded cuttings from the recent pruning are mown back into the soil to return the nutrients from the vines into the ground. This way we can protect our soil and coupled with using only organic treatments in our vineyards during the year, ensure it gets stronger by the year.
In the last 20 years of living in our valley, we have observed how our rainfall, which falls predominately in February/March and November/December each year increasingly arrives less often but when it does, it is in higher volumes. Our cover crops help fight erosion in our vineyards during these downpours. We are also fortunate that the hills surrounding our valley provide a ring of natural protection from the harshest of the elements, fending away hail-storms which are a common menace for vineyard crops in Umbria. The downside of this geographic protection is that rainfall in the warmer months is sometimes absent when five minutes away a replenishing shower has arrived. Visitors to our valley often remark how it feels like the hills are safeguarding our vineyards, farmland and properties making it feel like an oasis of calm.