High-tech Italian co-op helps winemakers reach Toronto

Sponsored feature: presented by Cavit Wines

Running a winery in one of the world’s most popular winemaking countries is no small feat. But with the help of some technological advances and pooling of resources, small growers in Italy’s northern province of Trentino are finding it easier to access markets like Toronto.

Walking through the LCBO, you might notice Cavit’s Pinot Grigio but even the most compelling back-label description won’t fully encompass how the wine brand is helping take Old World winemaking to the next level by empowering local growers with more tools and knowledge. 

Cavit is an association of 10 different wineries in Trentino, and they all collaborate as a group to get the maximum benefits from their land. The concept has long roots in global winemaking. Similar efforts in Ontario’s wine industry have been made, but to comparatively less success.

Vineyard owners in Trentino have relatively small plots of land. According to winemaker Fabrizio Marinconz, the average plot of land is only three acres. A number of land owners came together to form each of the 10 cooperative wineries, which is one of the few ways a small operation in this area could ever hope to build an international business. 

“The co-op is a very important part of the economy in Trentino,” says Marinconz. There are 300 to 700 growers at each of the 10 co-op member wineries, and Cavit represents an overall area of 5,400 hectares. In a province whose population is smaller than Hamilton, the health of the wine industry is serious business. 

While sharing resources, such as bottling facilities, helps cut down on costs for everyone, the co-op model isn’t just a shrewd way of doing business. Marinconz says knowledge-sharing is key, and Cavit provides a number of services to all growers.

“We have 12 different agronomists on staff who offer support, and we also provide training on things like pruning,” he says. 

With 100 per cent of the grape-picking done by hand, Marinconz says things like pruning can make a huge difference in the vitality of every vineyard. “Vines don’t have much capacity to recover from damage, so it’s important to cut as little and as carefully as possible to increase the life of the vine.”

One of the most important innovations they’ve introduced across Cavit’s cooperatives is a Google Map-like system that shows growers everything that’s happening at any given moment on their vines – from altitude variations to soil quality to irrigation issues. They call it PICA, which is the Italian acronym for integrated vineyard mapping platform. 

The ready access to up-to-date data on terroir health means that growers can address problems right away and Cavit can also adjust wine production plans on the fly. And yet there are still always surprises in the world of wine. 

Pinot grigio is the brand’s most popular offering in Toronto and it is often the first Cavit wine people here will try, but Marinconz says this wine isn’t nearly as popular in Trentino. 

“The Italian market is not big on this varietal,” he says, citing the many engrained traditions of each region and how difficult it can be to introduce new styles. “A market like Canada is much more open to different varieties, I think.”

Find out more about Cavit wines in NOW’s month-long digital residency.

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