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Montececeri Vino Rosso

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2009 Sangiovese

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Coltura Promiscua

“At the shade of a proud palm tree an olive tree sprouts, and under the olive tree, the fig and the pomegranate, and under that the grape. Under the grape the wheat, and then the leguminous. At last, the leafy greens. All that in the same year, and each one of them being fed at the shade of the other.”

– Natural History, Pliny the Elder, c.77 AD

Coltura Promiscua is the term used to describe fields where wine, olives, fruit trees, grains and vegetables are grown together.

Just imagine ancient Mediterranean  landscapes with promiscuous cultures of tree crops (including olive, maple, elm, almond, walnut, poplar, as well as various fruit trees such as fig, mulberry, and pomegranate) “married” to grapevines.

The trees, planted sparsely and pruned heavily so as not to shade the crops planted below, also provided leaves for animal forage, as well as fuel in the form of cuttings from the yearly coppicing (or, more accurately, pollarding). Between the rows of support trees and grapevines, a practice known in modern agroforestry parlance as “alley cropping” flourished, wherein companion plants, either perennials or annuals such as grains, vegetables, pasture, aromatic herbs, flowers, and legumes were planted in rotation, the latter of which provided nitrogen fixation and improved soil fertility.

Two- or three-course rotations were most common, such as alfalfa-wheat (every fourth year), or rapid short-season rotations such as millet-lupine-turnip sown three times a year.

Post-harvest stubble-grazing by sheep and goats, combined with mulching and controlled burning, completed the holistically managed regime.

Thus, fertility was regenerated through animal integration and closed loop nutrient cycling.

Unsurprisingly, this traditional polyculture was truly sustainable: it lasted for more than three thousand years from the pre-Roman period of the Etruscans right up to the 1960s.

Given that Montececeri is well known as an Etruscan site, it is no surprise that things have always been done this way on our mountain. 

In fact, a survey of the Umbrian region in Italy noted that in 1955, for vineyards, there were 126,550 hectares that were a mix of grain, vines, and trees, and only 1,520 hectares of “specialized vineyards” (i.e. monocultures of vines, what we think of when we hear the word “vineyard”). Over 98.8% of vineyards were mixed: “Vineyards were everywhere, but just vines were rare.”

This is the Etruscan and Roman way and how we still choose to work the land on Montececeri today. 

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