Assuli’s eco challenge, sustainability as driver of action

Intelligent, ‘green’ and glamorous, Assuli embraces the ecological transition. Not just because it is a very attentive winery to the land and respect of it, but also because it is working on every single stage of the value chain to embrace an extended concept of sustainability. First of all, the architecture, which harmoniously blends the production building with the rural landscape. Then the production process in the SOStain and V.I.V.A. Certification phase, two sustainability programmes for viticulture that go beyond the concept of “organic”. Then the use of Amorim Cork corks that limit the environmental impact. Important steps in a context in which Sicily is the first region for organic viticulture, by area of organic vines and for having developed an integrated protocol, created from the needs of producers and for producers. Progress is also aware of delivering to the next generations a land that is intact, alive and capable of giving back, in the products that come from it, that unique mix of factors that make Sicily one of the most popular Mediterranean islands in the world.

The Baglio

This is the result of a careful renovation of an old 18th century ‘baglio’, respecting the original criteria in a structure with its own needs for functionality and economic efficiency. The power of architectural design has transformed it into a multifunctional complex extending over an area of 10,000 square metres that embraces the surrounding hills, from which one can look out onto the Egadi islands. A union reaffirmed by the use of local materials such as Marsala tufa, Custonaci marble, Sicilian roof tiles, which create a structure in perfect harmony with the environment, where the colour shades of sand, mud and clay are reminiscent of earth. All the more than 1,500 square metres of claddings in the cellar are in tufaceous stone on the outside, and in marble for over 700 square metres on the inside – Perlato Sicilia Cofano® and Riviera Beige® -. The marble floors exceed 3,500 square metres. The materiality of the architecture evokes a continuity with local buildings that emphasizes the link with traditional construction even in the choice of stone claddings.

The Winery

The winery is spread over 7,000 square metres of production space, about a further 3,000 square metres are destined for the accommodation area under construction. Designed with wine, aesthetics and energy saving in mind, the entire structure is perfectly integrated and planned to reduce the environmental impact: the whole complex was made by creating a closed processing cycle with a special purification plant equipped with an evapotranspiration tank. The sludge and the processing pomace are recycled and disposed of, using it partly as fertilizer and partly giving it to specialized companies for reuse. In full compliance with the environmental regulations in force, all the yards discharge their rainwater into special rainwater retention tanks, thus creating a processing and transformation system that can well be said to have a low impact. Future projects include covering the roof with special photovoltaic panels and the installation of charging columns for electric bicycles. Clear ideas for a new structure both from an aesthetic and ecological point of view, truly beautiful in its apparent simplicity.

The Vineyards

By respecting nature and its rhythms, Assuli pursues a production under the banner of naturalness. 130 hectares, including the experimental vineyard that promotes the ancient autochthonous grapes, all cultivated according to the strict disciplinary regulation of organic agriculture, protecting and making the quality and typicality that have made Sicilian grapes great in the world, increasingly more recognizable. Here organic is truly heightened sustainability. The focus is on the viticultural ecosystem, so that it is as balanced as possible to function at its best. Treatments with copper are reduced, to mitigate years with little rainfall organic fertilizers are used, since it is very important not to make the plants suffer and to keep the clusters covered. This allows aromatic integrity to be maintained. The scents, in fact, are linked to the availability of nitrogen in the soil, to vigour. Research for the best ratio between the concentration of sugars and acids, the best ripening, the increase in polyphenols is therefore ongoing.

Measuring, assessing, sharing: these are the three watchwords of SOStain Sicilia which Assuli supports. An ambitious and at the same time absolutely tangible project that provides for the improvement of environmental performance according to the VIVA Programme – being implemented – the object of an innovative and scientifically solid certification of sustainability. VIVA’s philosophy measures performance through the calculation of four indicators, selected as the most representative, namely AIR (carbon footprint, compliant with ISO 14067:2018 concerning Product and 14064:2018 concerning Organization), WATER (water footprint, compliant with ISO 14046: 2014), VINEYARD (impact on soil and water reserves of the agronomic management of vineyards) and LAND (analysis of the link between wine and its land). These are the tangible starting points on which Assuli will base its continuous improvement action, identifying measures that reduce the negative effects on the ecosystem and committing to implement them. Unlike the other certification schemes, VIVA includes the entire wine chain in the analysis and has been recognized by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

Cork

The growing attention to ‘green’ issues also extends to packaging. More than 12 thousand tons of carbon dioxide were absorbed by natural corks sold in Italy in 2020. A powerful result, now translated into usable numerical values thanks to the validation made by two international certified bodies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and EY, who were commissioned by Corticeira Amorim. To date Corticeira Amorim is the only cork closure company in the world to have undertaken such a virtuous path, putting the impact of its production processes under the magnifying glass and identifying the Life Cycle Assessment of each of its products, attributing them a precise value. Therefore, the use of a cork closure, in addition to being technically flawless, mitigates the environmental impact of the production of each individual bottle of wine, allowing for excellent “CO2 retention” in offsetting emissions. Useful information that will also be communicated on ‘environmental labels’, in order to transfer this important plus point directly to end consumers.

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