An inspiring story from the vineyards of Italy’s famous Brunello di Montalcino
This uplifting initiative involves one of the leading companies in the area, Tenute Silvio Nardi of Emilia Nardi, together with the Italian healthcare organisation ASL Toscana Sud Est (southeast Tuscany).
The project is called ICARE (Integration & Community Care for Asylum and Refugees in Emergency) and lasts six months. It has been funded with European Union resources that have been granted to the Tuscany Region and implemented by ASL Toscana Sud Est.
Hailing from Africa and Asia, 24 young migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers or International protection permit holders are in Casal del Bosco, headquarters of the Silvio Nardi Estates.
The asylum-seekers start working by learning how to prune vines and remove excess buds and shoots to make the vines stronger. They come from Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Togo, with no prior experience in winemaking. But they have found temporary work here through a local non-profit group that helps asylum-seekers find legal employment in vineyards or olive groves while their claims are being processed.
Various other professions such as agronomist and psychologist are also available to them.
The asylum-seekers work in teams of eight over 15 hectares, pruning vines under the supervision of agronomist Vittorio Stringari.
“You need to have some patience in the beginning,” Stringari said. “Like with everyone who starts a new job, there is a phase of apprenticeship. But given that they are very motivated…they very quickly fill the technical gap.”
“The initiative reflects the DNA of our family”, said Emilia Nardi, president of Tenute Silvio Nardi.
“Work is fundamental for each one of us and to me it seemed an important opportunity to train and integrate these people.”
The owner of the winery, Emilia is the daughter of Silvio Nardi, the first “foreigner” (even though he came from nearby Umbria) to invest in wine in Montalcino, in 1958.
Lia Simonetti of ASL Toscana Sud Est said, “The Region presented the project and then a European Union loan funded it. We found an enthusiastic company and a Cooperative that were able to put together the expertise to activate an all-out action.”.
The Cooperative is the Cooperativa Agricola San Francesco.
The NGO aims to bring asylum-seekers into the labour market with the same pay and working conditions as Italians, keeping them away from the off-the-books system known as “caporalato” in which migrant workers often get exploited.
“Work,” commented the president, Nicola Peirce, “is the first step towards a path of true integration. Our goal is to raise the quality of training for these people so that they will become autonomous and be available for companies, which always need skilled labour”.
Peirce said the workers are paid around €7 (RM35) an hour and work eight hours a day, in line with Italian union requirements for agricultural work.
The programme is now in its second year at Tenute Silvio Nardi, which annually produces 210,000 bottles of wine made with Sangiovese grapes, including 160,000 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino, which is aged for five years before release.
According to Maria Jose Caldes Pinilla, director of the Tuscany Region Global Health Centre and scientific manager of the project, “the ICARE project initiatives are an integral part of a healthcare model that sees work as the foundation for improving people’s living conditions. The possibility of becoming part of a professional training course means offering hope for a better future, and hope restores dignity”.
Truly, a heart-warming story from the wine world.
Incidentally, Tenute Silvio Nardi’s classic Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is a blend of the finest grapes from the Manachiara and Casale del Bosco estates.
Silvio Nardi follows the strict DOCG laws required of a classified Brunello di Montalcino. Yield is limited and only the top 70% of the hand-harvested grapes is used to make the wine. The fruit is carefully handpicked and sorted. The wine is aged in two types of oak and in the bottle before release.
For a Brunello di Montalcino experience, we have the Castello Banfi Poggio All’Oro Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva in a 150cl bottle and the Riedel Vinum Brunello Di Montalcino glasses to go with it.