Veneto winery Terre dei Buth, purveyor of organic, vegan, fresh and fruity Prosecco, and elegant Pinot Grigio, is making a splash with a strong, clean design aesthetic and a genuine environmental sensibility. These factors combined make it one of a growing number of sustainable wine estates to watch. Meaning Land of buds in Venetian dialect, the name was inspired by the origin and nurture of all that is natural and this is at the heart of the family-run operation.
The region of Veneto borders Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and even though it is smaller and less well known than the other main wine-producing areas of Italy, such as Tuscany, Puglia and Lombardy, on average it generates greater volumes of wine. Soaked in mellow Italian sunshine, the special terracing and verdant patchwork blanket of plots provide the unique terroir for production of Prosecco, traditional method sparkling wine’s hipper and more vivacious cousin.
It is in the province of Treviso in Italy’s Veneto region that brothers Paolo and Massimo Marion grew up. Working in the vineyards as small children, they learned the craft from their father, Bruno, who had cultivated crops of corn and vegetables on the land, as well as keeping livestock. Eventually, the brothers focused their efforts solely on grapes and winemaking and in 1999 dispensed with agrochemicals altogether after seeing first-hand the damage they can cause to nature.
Veneto gained recognition and popularity with wines such as Valpolicella, Amarone, Soave and Prosecco, but it is in the Northeast of Veneto that Prosecco is the undisputed Queen. Although ‘still’ wines are made there, it is the grape Glera (traditionally known as Prosecco Tondo) that is most common in the winemaking villages which scatter the region. The River Piave runs very close to the vineyards, and the soil comprises both clay and limestone rock, which imparts a unique minerality to the grapes. This type of soil is also excellent at retaining heat, which in turn adds to the development of more intense, richer flavours in the resultant wine.
In 1999, organic farming was still a novel venture in Veneto and Italy as a whole, and Terre dei Buth were among the first in the area to pursue organic farming when there was still no discernible price difference between conventional and organic viticulture. The fundamental idea behind organic viticulture is that wine made from grapes grown without chemical fertilisers, weed-killers, insecticides and any other synthetic chemicals is better for the ecosystem, the indigenous birds and wildlife of the region, and the humans who consume the product.
The Glera grape used to make Prosecco has a somewhat delicate disposition, being famously late ripening and prone to fungal diseases and water stress. The winemakers admit that the first harvests were disastrous while they figured out what worked and how to produce a consistent yield, but after a few years of experimentation in the fields, they gained enough practical know how to run an organic vineyard in the rainy and humid region. Paolo and Massimo invested all the income generated in the sales of their grapes to the local cooperatives to build their cellar (converted from former stables, which used to house the cows and horses). They continued selling wine in bulk and reinvesting the income to build the state-of-the-art cellars with offices and a wine boutique that the estate boasts now.
Despite the pitfalls involved with organic farming, especially in rainy vineyards susceptible to new vine diseases and pests, they remain committed to their original vision of sustainability and environmental integrity. In the next few years EU legislation will insist that farmers provide further proof of attempts to reduce usage of pesticides and while most agree that this would bring a better quality of life for everyone, realistically only 2-3% of the hundreds of millions bottles of Prosecco produced every year are organically certified and will follow guidelines to the letter.
However, the industry is experiencing a huge sea change in atttitudes towards organic farming and Terre dei Buth are proud to be forerunners. Climate change, and drought in particular, has had catastrophic effects on vine growth regulation and a drip irrigation system was implemented which grants enough water to enable the vines to survive the extreme summer temperatures. Drip irrigation alone, however, is not enough. Rain is also essential and water shortages are proving a real challenge to the operation, but the team is working to ensure they comply with regulations while continuing to produce modest yet sustainable yields.
Terre dei Buth is a refreshingly straightforward brand placing the expectations of the consumer at the forefront of their ideology, and this also applies to their winemaking techniques. Efficient, non-wasteful mechanical harvesting ensures optimum quality and freshness of the grapes delivered to the press and avoids the possibility of premature micro-fermentation occurring prematurely, which can weaken the aromatic profile. The Charmat method is used to produce Prosecco in contrast with traditional method sparkling wines, which prioritise the development of secondary and tertiary aromas in the wine. The goal is to foreground primary aromas to ensure that the wine is as young, fresh and vital as possible.
The three core values of the company are Quality, Organic and Vegan and rather than focusing on the drier aspects of the process such as vinification and appellations, they address a generation who are looking for an aspirational, premium yet affordable wine aligned with their ecological concerns.
Many people are still not aware that additives of animal origin are used at many stages during the winemaking process, particularly for fining and filtration, but Terre dei Buth have dispensed with anything that doesn’t satisfy their strict vegan certification. They also give consumers the choice between the traditional spago (string or twine and cork) closure and the handier crown cap. Lo Spago is the type of binding used in Valdobbiadene (when the more expensive wire cages were too expensive an option to consider) and involved corks being tied by hand, bottle by bottle. It has become almost a denomination in its own right, expressing traditional craft and community spirit, but if cork is not your thing, the crown cap is its less high-maintenance relative.
Undoubtedly fantastic on its own as a light apéritif, Francesco Galardi, export manager of Terre dei Buth, also recommends their Organic Prosecco Frizzante paired with food. The bright yellow straw wine with crisp refreshing flavours and delicate bubbles is a perfect accompaniment to seafood including shrimps and mussels, as well as for soft cheese like burrata, goat’s cheese or even gorgonzola. We are sure you will catch the buzz of this upbeat and environmentally focused wine estate and feel reassured knowing this is one family wine producer wearing its heart on its sleeve and trying to make a small difference in a wine saturated landscape.
All Terre dei Buth photos by Gummy Industries and Letizia Cigliutti. The illustrations on the labels are by Irene Laschi.