PIWI Italia – Off to new shores

Piwi Italia

The new Italian section of the PIWI International association, which already has sections in 16 different countries worldwide, was founded at Vinitaly at the beginning of April.

On the occasion of Vinitaly, the existing regional associations from South Tyrol, Trentino, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy and Piedmont launched PIWI ITALIA and a working group for the promotion of products made from fungus-resistant grape varieties.

The working group consists of producers of wines and grape varieties that are defined as resistant to fungal diseases in vines. Representatives from Italian research also belong to the group. The association has set itself the goal of strengthening the activities of the regional groups and spreading the cultivation of varieties resistant to fungal diseases in other regions.

There are currently 36 varieties approved in Italy, 18 red and 18 white, in the regions of Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Marche, Piedmont, Veneto and Alto Adige/Tentino. The number of wineries dedicated to the cultivation of PIWI varieties in Italy is currently stated by the association as 165.

You can read more about current developments in Italy in the following interview with the President of PIWI International, the South Tyrolean grape grower Alexander Morandell.

FWA: What is the current status of the cultivation of PIWI varieties in Italy? Is the figure of around 2,000 hectares on which PIWI varieties are now cultivated in Italy correct?

Morandell: There are currently 2,000 hectares of officially registered vineyards planted with resistant grape varieties. I think that the Veneto region accounts for almost half of this.

FWA: At present, most wines are usually marketed as “Italian wines” (editor’s note: formerly the “table wine” category) with an indication of vintage and grape variety: are there any plans to create IGT or even DOC wines?

In Italy, it is not permitted to write the variety on the label if it is VINO (formerly table wine or Vino da Tavola). This has only been possible since the change in the law in the EU that new varieties from crosses between vine species (whereby the proportion of Vitis vinifera genes should be at least 95%) can be developed as IGT and thus the variety can/may be written on the label. This was an important first step.

The task now is to find out which PIWI grape varieties are really interesting for widespread cultivation in the individual wine-growing regions. Currently, it only makes sense to include these in the respective DOC grape variety list.

FWA: What are currently the most important PIWI grape varieties? Which ones are most in demand?

Morandell: Depending on the list of approved grape varieties, there are major regional differences. The range is also constantly being expanded. It is difficult in regions where there are only or almost only DOC wines on the market, such as Piedmont. Current favorites are Souvignier Gris, Soreli, Fleurtai, Bronner, Sauvignon Nepis, Johanniter (all white) and, among the red varieties, Merlot Khorus, Cabernet Cortis, Cabernet Volos, Prior, Cabernet Cantor, Merlot Kanthus, Pinot Regina, Nermantis, Termantis.

FWA: Is there enough planting material available? What about support from the state?

MorandelI: I think so, planting material is available. The changes don’t happen so quickly. Bottlenecks only arise when larger wine-growing areas permit cultivation and therefore a lot is planted at once. For the future, we need meaningful cultivation trials and time. In this respect, action has been too hasty in the past and is still too hasty in some cases today.

Another problem is the lack of communication between the players – winegrowers, cellar owners, authorities, breeders and propagators. It is unacceptable that a grape variety is suddenly approved and neither the breeder nor the vine propagator are prepared for it.

Thank you for the interview

The questions were asked by Hermann Pilz

Piwi Italia

Photo/Source: PIWI International/Wineroots.it

At Vinitaly 2023, the regional associations launched PIWI Italia, the 16th country section of PIWI International.