By Mónica Diaz, Editor of LetrAAS
The event space at the NH Cordillera hotel in the city of Mendoza is packed out. The 70 places for sommeliers who have travelled from various parts of the country are taken. Everyone listens carefully, takes notes, raises their hands to ask questions, smells and tastes the wine in their glasses. Nine enthusiastic and intense hours with panels led by the sector’s most relevant professionals. A great AAS first semester event for partners: the first edition of Sustainable Agriculture Days was hosted with exceptional friendliness from all its participants.
Alejandro Martínez of the AAS board of directors led the event celebrating a high turnout and level of the panelists. "Beyond achieving a top quality study and knowledge event for our partners, we’re facing the beginning of a topic that we will continue to investigate," he said.
Participants attending the seminar were mainly AAS partners from Mendoza, Buenos Aires and other regions as well as an array of representatives of wineries and specialized media.
Speakers’ presentations during the seminar had well-defined topics and were structured among four panels. During the first block, Ricardo García (consultant agricultural engineer), Mauricio Castro (agricultural engineer, LETIS organic certifier) and Facundo Bonamaizon (agricultural engineer at Chakana) explained in detail permaculture, organic and biodynamic viticulture. They emphasized advances, the local context and the challenges and efforts in relation to caring for the environment that these techniques imply.
In a second panel led by Miguel Zuccardi (organic olive oil producer for Familia Zuccardi), Hernán Cortegoso (agricultural engineer and enologist from Domaine Bousquet) and Damián Caruso (Ernesto Catena Vineyards), presentations shared their experiences with sustainable practices, emphasizing the differences between conventional agriculture and the shift towards sustainable agriculture.
Marcos Persia, one of the most respected biodynamic specialists in Argentina with vast experience in horticulture and viticulture, explained the history, anthroposophic philosophy and main aspects of biodynamic practices in the third panel.
Last but not least, presentations held by Leonardo Erazo (agricultural engineer and enologist from Altos Las Hormigas) and Gabriel Aristarain (Luna Austral) focused on wine production with sustainable practices and shared their experiences that are essential in instigating change.
The seminar’s dynamics combined theory with wine selected by those participating wineries.
The day closed with the first winery visit: Ojo de Agua welcomed the AAS sommeliers with a dinner and opened their facilities to show how they work with sustainable techniques in practice, also offering tank, barrel and bottled tastings.
The second day started early at Altos Las Hormigas where the group was received with picks and shovels to plunge into a pit at the foot of the vineyard, theory present in all the senses. With the help of Leonardo Erazo and Alice Viollet, participants visited part of the vineyards, plots destined for making compost and received explanations of work details and the daily challenges of sustainability. The winery prepared an interesting tasting of various labels led by Erazo. The visit closed with a delicious lunch on site before the group went to the second stop: Familia Zuccardi’s olive groves.
The AAS sommeliers group was received by José Zuccardi accompanied by his sons Miguel and Sebastián, who welcomed and guided them on a visit that included explanations regarding sustainability appliances not only in the vineyard but also in the olive groves. A new on-site master class was held on pest control practices in vineyards along with compost creation care for those who follow the required sustainability standards every day on the farm. From the vineyards, we went to the olive groves where Miguel Zuccardi once again was the spokesman and put the theory of the previous day into practice, giving a complete insight of the work they do on the farm.
Miguel explained the specific needs of olive trees that are totally different from those of vines, and plague control of these plants.
The last stop was at Chakana winery. Facundo Bonamaizon and Gabriel Bloise opened the doors of the winery and explained methodologies used in their wines’ elaboration. In the barrel room, the guided talk led by both completed Facundo’s presentation from the previous day, allowing visitors clear up any remaining doubts. Tasting their wines and comparing wine made under traditional practices against those made sustainably practices amazed everybody.