When we purchased San Polino and its lands in 1990, we found a place that had not been affected by modernisation. The soils had never witnessed any kind of industrial agriculture, and the forests surrounding the property were untouched and pristine. Luigi Fabbro, the co-owner and co-founder of San Polino winery, was working at the time on sustainability projects in the Amazon forest, where he became acquainted with the local indigenous permaculture practises, whereby soils were continually renewed through ancient and completely sustainable composting techniques.
This philosophy was applied from the get-go to our agricultural principles. We wanted to create a self-sustaining winery, which had as little negative impact as possible on the local environment and the outside world, whilst producing world class, terroir driven wines. As such, San Polino was the first farm in Montalcino to obtain Organic certification, in 1994, and pioneered a number of techniques that have now been adopted by a large number of wineries.
The first and most crucial steps were taken in the fields. All agricultural waste (cuttings, prunings, grape pomace and seeds and more) is turned back to compost, and is returned to the soils. Rather than fertilise, we use nitrogen fixing plants, and manage the nutritional components of the soil through careful sowing of autochthonous annuals in the field, and the spreading of the compost.
A second equally important aspect of our agriculture is the preservation and encouragement of local biodiversity. We strongly believe that a rich and healthy biodiversity is a key foundation to making good and sustainable wines: good, because biodiverse and healthy ecosystems will make more complex wines, and sustainable because biodiversity helps sustain ecosystems, granting them adaptability.
The pristine nature of the San Polino estate upon its purchase meant that rather than restoring wildlife, our job was to minimise the impact we had upon it, and allow it to thrive. For this purpose we regularly sow autochthonous insect-attracting plants, keep bees, and do not fence our fields (other than in critical periods close to the harvest). We never use synthetic pesticides, and rather than depend on the sulphur/copper staples of organic agriculture, we prefer to inoculate the vineyards with friendly bacteria, fungi and insects, to outcompete or naturally predate on vine pathogens. A number of these techniques have been hugely successful, and since our pioneering use of them, they have been adopted by many organic wineries in the area.
Current projects for increased sustainability include the adoption of agroforestry (in this case vitiforestry), or, in other words, the inclusion of trees within the vineyard. We believe that this new exciting technique - which was once common practice in pre-industrial agriculture- may increase soil biodiversity, increase mycelial (fungal) networks between plants, and contrast rising temperatures through the use of the natural shading afforded by the plants. This is all cutting-edge and very exciting stuff!
The winery at San Polino aimes at carbon neutrality. The forests surrounding San Polino act as strong carbon sinks, and we are provided electricity exclusively from sustainable sources. We have taken steps towards strongly reducing our environmental impact by electing to use lighter bottles, undyed and sustainably sourced cardboards boxes, reduced-length capsules for the bottles, and the avoidance of polystyrene packaging.