giovedì 5 dicembre 2013

Sketching the hills with vineyards

Agrarian irrigation and drainage networks were used by the ancient Italic civilisations and particularly by the Etruscans to primarily reduce the speed and quantity of surface water, encouraging percolation and limiting erosion. Hillside erosion is a constant phenomenon and each year, the river basins carry away material that corresponds to 10mm of the soil thickness. Italian farmers have been working for thousands of years to construct agrarian irrigation and drainage networks and avoid the lines of maximum slope that increase rainwater speed with a damaging loss of land. This impressive work has shaped every region and has also produced an agrarian landscape of extraordinary beauty.
Comparison of cultivation methods: historical on the left vs. larger fields planted along the maximun hydraulic slope on the right

The beginnings of mechanisation in the vineyard
Hill networks have been developed, above all, by enlightened Tuscans like Landeschi, Cosimo and Luigi Ridolfi - men who knew that the productivity of hilly landscapes depends, above all, on accurate soil and water management.

Modern mechanised agriculture from the ‘60s onwards has begun to cancel out the shapes that hundreds of generations of farmers designed into the countryside. Is this simply an acceptable price to pay for a more efficient farming technique or can we once again do better?

In regards to vine networks, we will focus on two important examples: Piedmont and Tuscany. In the first case, the rows mainly follow the contour line, giving the landscape ‘rounded lines’. In the second case, the rows follow the hill’s maximum slope (vertical ploughing (rittochino)) with straight-line geometry.

This last network is often attained through the demolition of historical walls and terraces with the aim of creating the most efficient cultivation with maximum mechanization.

The recent vineyard renewal must, however, be more aware of the warnings and teachings of Landeschi, which are still relevant. In any case, maximum cultivation efficiency cannot neglect to consider hydrogeological and environmental constraints, altering the flow of surface and ground water and exposing lands to a striking loss in fertility. In a region of the most spectacular historical agrarian landscapes, new viticulture should surely be able to reflect on the sustainability of production and the fact that land and storm water management are, first and foremost, an ancient cultural heritage, just like the taste of a great aging wine.

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento