Biodynamic grapevines defy the drought

This summer's drought has taken a heavy toll on cultivated land, especially in the southern Alpine regions.

Are biodynamically managed vineyards similarly affected? «The harvest is beautiful, the grapes look perfect», says Marcel Zanolari, a Poschiavian winegrower and vintner with organic foresight. Marcel Zanolari's 12 hectares of vineyards are located in Valtellina, on the border with Val Poschiavo. «Our grape yield this year is in line with our normal yields or even slightly higher than in other years», he adds. According to Zanolari, yields under biodynamic management are generally only 35-45% of what the soil could yield if it received artificial fertilisers. However, the lower yield is beneficial in that the soil is less polluted and therefore more vital and richer in organic matter. «It is more resilient», says Zanolari. 

Marcel Zanolari, oenologist at Casa vinicola «La Torre» in Poschiavo and winner of the coveted IDEE SUISSE «Goldener Nachhaltigkeitspreis» 2020 (Golden Sustainability Award 2020), was also able to refrain from using irrigation in this drought year, with the exception of the young seedlings. With the biodynamic method, Marcel Zanolari puts the fate of his grapevines in nature’s hands, without forcing them to produce certain quantities. Zanolari believes that nature must adapt to the new conditions, including drought, with its own resources and aided by species diversity. To achieve this ambitious goal, Marcel Zanolari, his team, and Casa vinicola «La Torre» invested a great deal of time in the search for the right plants, focusing on native planting material. They are experimenting with 115 grape cultivars. «Our goal is prevention», says Zanolari. «The principles that apply to the vines are the same as those that apply to our health. It is important to avoid diseases and to use natural methods of disease prevention. As winemakers, we have to respect nature’s rhythm. We aim to not accelerate it by means of artificial additives or through genetic manipulation». 

Zanolari's wines regularly receive high ratings, very often above 90 points. But what quality of wine can Marcel Zanolari expect this year? «Our initial impression is that the quality will be spectacular. But to be certain of that», he stresses, «you have to wait for the wine to slowly mature in accordance with the laws of nature and the strict principles of the biodynamic method». 

Livio Zanolari

More about Marcel Zanolari’s wines: 


 An interesting video on Marcel Zanolari can be found here: