We are the resistance! PIWI International sets viticulture free from chemicals and pollution Founded in Switzerland in 1999 by a team of crazy (founder Josef Engelhart’s own words), open-minded and visionary winemakers, PIWI is not only an association; it’s a dream and a mission, making wine production ecological, economical, and sustainable. How? By combining different grape varieties in order to obtain new, fungus-resistant ones. This does not only mean new grape species but also surprising new flavors. Nature offers infinite possibilities, and they are all absolutely delicious! “Pilzwiderstandfähig,” or environmentally friendly, fungal-resistant grape varieties; that’s what we’re talking about, and it’s real. About 500 members, from Europe to North America, have already joined PIWI International and consistently work on, do research towards, and create more and more grape varieties that self-protect from fungal infections and which are now a concrete alternative to conventional species that require the constant use of pesticides to survive.
PIWI grapes are the result of a marriage between Vitis Vinifera (native of Europe and Asia), the ultimate symbol of wine, and other species of genus Vitis from America. The whole process is very long and develops through generations since PIWI wine breeding is carried out directly in the vineyards, without any kind of genetic modification. Through continuous experimentation, crossing, and selection, the PIWI team has discovered the perfect balance between noble taste and strength, creating a new generation of wines that meets the needs of our contemporary age. How many times have we heard that we can no longer ignore climate change and the increasing pollution that affects our water, air, and soil? PIWI International members are aware of the complex reality we are living in, and they have taken firm action to find an alternative, conscientious way to produce wine.
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By crossing European/Asiatic grapes with resistant American ones, they obtain new species that take the best from both parts. Their new, fruity, and spicy aromas are increasingly appreciated by wine lovers, and they avoid the use of 90% of chemical pesticides, essential for growing common grape species. The plants are genetically stronger. Cultivating these hybrid grapes requires a minimum amount of treatment because they mostly resist the fungus and diseases that affect traditional vines. The reduction of chemical treatments sets off an important chain reaction; a lower use of pesticides conserves the resources usually employed for their production, and, as a consequence, energy is saved, and CO₂ emissions are decreased. Furthermore, the vineyards require less attention, so the use of machinery, tractors, and fuel needed for their maintenance is significantly reduced, as well as the release of polluting substances into the soil and air. Wine producers incur lower expenses and are then encouraged to invest in research and sustainable working methods. Finally, all of us wine lovers and consumers can do our part in protecting our planet by choosing the right wine! While fighting climate change, PIWI producers have also founded a way to repair some of its damage. Classic aromatic grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Scheurebe, Gelber Muskateller, and Gewürztraminer are losing their acidity due to increasing heat; resistant PIWI grapes represent a tasty alternative to these more fragile aromatic varieties. The positive effects on the environment and viticulture itself are unquestionably relevant. PIWI International’s main goal is now to support producers and spread their vision through events, conferences, and regional working groups. Communication, exchange of information, people’s involvement, collaboration, and training are the keys to building a strong network and expanding the team.
The association is open to anyone (single producer, institution, or company) who wants to join its international family and start an incredible adventure towards the exploration of new flavors and eco-sustainability. PIWI’s presence has already strongly consolidated in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland as well as France and Denmark. Italy, a country with a deep wine tradition, also has several regional groups on its territory, and producers are more and more interested in discovering this world full of new possibilities. These hybrid varieties represent a real taste revolution since they are absolutely unconventional and have unique characteristics that are neither stereotypical nor attributable to classic grapes. Their olfactory/gustatory profile has a wide, new spectrum and even the most refined palates, as well as professional wine tasters, haven’t catalogued all the features of each variety yet. These wines have to be explored and discovered in all their incredible aspects, just like an unknown, wild land. What about the best PIWI wines of 2020? Quite soon, we will discover the next bottles that will be, for sure, served at our tables. The International PIWI Awards takes place from November 13 to 15; raise your glasses!
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