Sustainable Piedmont: protecting the past to safeguard the future


Sustainable Piedmont: protecting the past to safeguard the future

25 May 2018

Sustainable travel across Piedmont UNESCO World Heritage vineyards

Michele Chiarlo is at the forefront of the sustainability movement for wine production and winery tourism, forging a path for the future of Piedmont.

The issue of sustainable travel has often made headlines over the past year, as a number of Italy’s most popular cities and tourist destinations have begun to feel the strain of mass tourism on both their local infrastructure and delicate ecosystems. From the floating city of Venice to the azure isle of Capri, municipal and regional administrations are struggling to come up with feasible solutions that both protect their artistic and natural treasures and make tourists feel welcome for decades into the future. In Piedmont, sustainable travel has been a priority for years. The wine country of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014, is a delicate landscape of carefully cultivated vineyard-covered hills dotted with picturesque villages, historic castles, Romanesque churches, and family-run farms and wineries that has developed slowly over millennia. Protecting this beautiful countryside and its architectural and historical diversity and while promoting the area’s excellent wines and tradition of wine production is vital, and sustainable wine production and tourism has become of the most important and innovative tools to achieve this aim.

Chiarlo and Integrated Sustainability

The historic Michele Chiarlo winery, with its 110 hectares of vineyards between Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi, has been at the forefront of Piedmont’s sustainable wine tourism movement for years. Since its founding in the 1950’s, the winery has espoused a philosophy of sustainable agriculture, which aims to preserve the vitality of the land while at the same time reaping its fruits. La Court Estate - © Enzo Massa La Court Estate - © Enzo Massa

Over time, this founding principle evolved into a more inclusive concept of integrated sustainability, including measures to safeguard the environment alongside the implementation of ethical practices throughout the entirety of the supply chain to leave the smallest footprint possible from each bottle of wine. From the management of the vineyards and winery to the use of eco-friendly materials and renewable energy, these carefully calculated methods have significantly reduced the environmental impact of the winemaking process from the vine to the glass without sacrificing the authenticity of flavor or tradition.

Better Packaging for a Lighter Impact

The Chiarlo family has considered even the smallest details to mitigate the environmental footprint of their wine production on Piedmont and the Earth, including innovative packaging. The winery has adopted lightweight glass for their bottles, optimizing long-distance transportation and significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. In addition, they have substituted recyclable lightweight cardboard for the traditional wooden crates, which protects the product while saving on precious resources. 

VIVA Sustainable Wine

Michele Chiarlo was among the first wineries to underwrite the VIVA project, which has promoted sustainable wineculture since 2011. The objective of this rigorous protocol is to monitor and assess the production chain of each participating winery and help move towards a corporate model that is low impact for both the local and global ecosystems.

Michele Chiarlo’s Barolo Cerequio has been certified a VIVA Sustainable Wine since the 2010 vintage, and since 2016 all the winery’s Icon Crus have been awarded the VIVA certification. The VIVA protocol is quite thorough, covering all environmental, ethical, and socioeconomic aspects of a winery’s production from agricultural guidelines for low-impact vineyard cultivation and care of the landscape, to detailed records guaranteeing traceability and transparency for consumers.

In addition, the VIVA rules consider the human side of wine production, prioritizing safety in the workplace, a commitment to the local community, and the well-being of winery residents and visitors. VIVA also monitors a set of factors including carbon dioxide emissions, drinking water consumption, and soil quality to assess the sustainability of each participating winery, ensuring that the biannual VIVA certification reflects a concrete philosophy put into action.

The Vertical Garden

In 2016, the green philosophy of Michele Chiarlo also became its architectural calling card, with the addition of a vertical garden covering the facade of the winery building in a move to improve the its energy performance and impact on the landscape. This lush mantle cleans and filters the air, protects the building from the elements, and promotes the development of biodiversity, in addition to acting as a natural layer of insulation to reduce the cost and emissions of heating and cooling systems. 
The vertical garden - © Exploria The vertical garden - © Exploria

Sustainability at the Table

The Michele Chiarlo winery founded Palás Cerequio, the first luxury resort dedicated to the history of Barolo crus, with the same philosophy of sustainability and respect for the history and culture of Piedmont winemaking in mind. From its hilltop position in the village of La Morra overlooking the vineyard-covered hills of the countryside, this elegantly renovated 18th century palazzo celebrates the prestigious wines of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato both in the decor and in the restaurant, which has been under the guiding hand of executive chef Vincenzo La Corte since its inauguration. Agnolotti del plin by Chef Vincenzo La Corte - © Exploria Agnolotti del plin by Chef Vincenzo La Corte - © Explori

La Corte uses only fresh products from local suppliers to create fusion dishes that blend specialty heirloom ingredients from Piedmont and his native island of Sicily. The menu is created specifically to complement the most prestigious Barolo crus, and the pairings highlight the quality and tradition of the regional cuisine with a contemporary twist.

Luxury and Sustainability

Guests of Palás Cerequio can indulge in a luxurious get-away that is also environmentally sustainable. The resort has the first Tesla Destination Charging point in Langhe, Roero and Monferrato, and offers, as well at Michele Chiarlo Art Park La Court, electric E-bikes and pedal assisted bicycles for guests to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside in comfort. 
Tesla charger - by Steve Jurvetson Tesla charger - by Steve Jurvetson

Michele Chiarlo is charting a path for the future of wineries in Piedmont and the world, proving that the only way to protect the historic culture of winemaking areas across the globe is to conserve their delicate local landscapes and ecosystems through sustainable practices in agriculture, production, and hospitality. Thanks to this innovative care and respect, visitors will be be able to savor the beautiful hills of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato for generations to come.