Organic & Vegan Wine: an interview with Luca Padroggi
La Piotta is a family-run vineyard located in the heart of Oltrepò Pavese that, from its very beginnings, has been producing Lombardy’s most typical wines in a more innovative way. They were among the firsts making organic and vegan wine in the region. To some extent, you could say that it is bringing the oldest, respected traditions into the modern age. I have had a chat with its owner, Luca Padroggi, about the company’s expansion into the UK market and its strategies for the years ahead.
1. How would you describe, in a few words, your wine estate?
La Piotta is a family-run vineyard located in the heart of Oltrepò Pavese that, since its origins, it has been producing Lombardy’s most typical wines, in a slightly more innovative and International way. To some extent, we could say that we have respectfully taken our oldest traditions into the modern age!
2. How exactly do your wines combine innovation and tradition?
The company is currently run by the 3rd generation of the family, that would be me and my cousin, born respectively in 1989 and 1990. However, all the operations in the cellar are always guided and supervised by 90 years old “nonno” Luigi, founder of La Piotta. We have always adopted winemaking processes very typical of our own tradition, improved by modern technologies and new knowledge.
3. What are your strengths in the wine market? What makes you different from the other producers of the region?
First of all, the fact that we have recently undertaken a real “generation revolution”. In fact, we have successfully introduced innovative blends, labels and styles within our portfolio, and we were able to show that our region has indeed hidden potential yet to be discovered.
Secondly, I am proud to say we have a very special relationship with our land. We see agriculture and viticulture as great opportunities, especially for young people, to protect the beauty and the biodiversity of our own hills in the next decades.
Finally, in our vineyards it is possible to find vines that are almost 100 years old, and they are still making fresh and lively grapes, and this means that our soil is particularly healthy, rich in microorganisms and very diverse.
4. When did you become fully organic, and why is this something so important for you?
We got the official certification of wine “from organic farming” in 2005, but we have been “unofficially” organic since the very beginning, as my grandfather never wanted to use chemicals in the vineyards. We think that Nature already gives us so much, and for this reason we want to protect and nurture our soil, and the grapes coming from it. In the vineyard, we avoid the use of any chemical fertilisers and herbicides; while in the cellar we follow a minimum-intervention policy, where the use sulphites and other additives/preservatives is strictly limited or even banned in some cases.
5. All your wines are now “vegan friendly”. Why did you decide to add a certification for vegan wine too?
It is clear that more and more consumers are embracing the vegan philosophy. Technically, wine should be a completely vegan product, but today it is likely to find on the market wines made using additives that are actually from animal origin. For instance, isinglass and albumin are commonly used during the fining process, while milk proteins are normally added to enhance structure and texture of a poor-quality wine. Vegan wine was for us the best way to offer products suitable for everyone, while also making wines with a much more genuine and natural approach.
6. What kind of strategies will you be implementing in the next years to sustain the growth of La Piotta?
One of the main objectives is to expand our export markets. We have recently noticed that our wines are particularly appreciated and well received in avant-garde and sophisticated markets (like the UK), and there are many commercial opportunities that must be further investigated. In order to do this, we will probably have to increase our production capacity, but my cousin and I have already set a maximum limit we do not want to exceed, because we are totally committed to keep the personal touch typical of our artisanal wines.
7. What are the wines most appreciated in the UK?
Since we started to export our wines to the UK, we immediately noticed that one of our products had a huge commercial potential in the UK market. I am talking about the “MilleBolle” Organic Brut. This is a Vintage sparkling wine, made only in the best years, that keeps the beautiful aromatics typical of Pinot Noir, without the need of becoming too complex or heavy to drink. As you well know, Prosecco is by far the best-selling wine in the UK, and I believe the “MilleBolle” is an answer to a large segment of the market that is actually looking for dryer and more structured alternatives to Prosecco. Speaking of sparkling wines, we also have to mention the “1231″ Vintage Brut. This is a Vintage Traditional Method sparkling wine that we make exclusively for our UK importer Hay Wines. The wine was developed together, starting from scratch, and the first vintage was sold out in a matter of weeks, and it was last Christmas’s best-selling fizz… a result beyond our best expectations!
A second wine that has definitely become more and more popular in the last years is the “8990” Rosso Riserva, an elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera. The first variety is used to give body, concentration and tannin, while the second one improves acidity and freshness.
Finally, we have recently introduced 2 new wines in our “Piota” line-up, which is a range of wines totally focused on our own terroir, and they have been welcomed very well in your local market. The first one is the Pinot Grigio “1930 Vineyard”, a white wine made from grapes coming from the oldest vineyard of our estate. The second one is a red wine made 100% from Croatina (a.k.a. Bonarda) grapes, and it is a rich, smooth, fruity red wine unlikely to disappoint anyone!
8. What project do you have for the UK market in the coming years?
We find the UK to be a fantastic marketplace for our boutique wines. For this reason, we intend to continue our investments into this market to increase our brand image and popularity. See you soon in Ledbury!
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