Frescobaldi’s Gorgona: a sustainable wine to the nth degree
A wine is sustainable when its entire production process is sustainable. The sustainability of a bottle does not solely derive from the management of the vineyards from which it was made, but it also has to do with other aspects of the production process; aspects that include the hiring of human resources and the bottling facet. A sustainable wine par excellence is produced with renewable energy sources, without pesticides and heavy metals, it will have an environmentally friendly bottle and a recyclable cap.
The winery producing this kind of wine applies social sustainability, promotes inclusion and a more than fair work-life balance, as well as hold training projects for the community where it operates. Frescobaldi has focused on this last point in particular and with the “Frescobaldi per Gorgona” project has created a sustainable wine to the nth degree.
A unique island
Gorgona is the smallest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. Abandoned and repopulated several times, the island has been home to hermit monks as well as a pirate base. Due to its predominantly mountainous conformation, various previous attempts to cultivate the island’s land failed, forcing the farmers who moved there to reinvent themselves as fishermen. Since 1869 a part of the island has been occupied by an open-air penal colony, one that only hosts prisoners in the last period of their sentence. Besides being the only penitentiary island in Europe, Gorgona has another peculiarity: its approach to the rehabilitation of prisoners. On Gorgona prisoners can move freely, work in contact with nature and learn a profession. Essentially, this environment is the perfect place to produce a sustainable wine.
An educational project
The project “Frescobaldi per Gorgona” was created in July 2012, when Lamberto Frescobaldi himself received an e-mail from Maria Grazia Giampiccolo, the then director of the penitentiary. With a communication sent to more than one hundred wineries, Giampiccolo was looking for a company willing to take care of the island’s vineyards while at the same time help the prisoners acquire new skills. The only one who answered the call was Frescobaldi himself. After visiting the island and experiencing its charm, in 2014, Frescobaldi reached an agreement with the prison administration for a 15-year collaboration. To date, more than 50 inmates have worked on the two and a half hectares of state-owned vineyards of Gorgona; fully paid. Every year the people who work in the vineyard change, and it is interesting to note that the choice of collaborators is not made by Frescobaldi but by the prison police, individuals who play a pivotal role as educators to those under their care.
A sustainable wine (seriously)
Gorgona is sustainable because it is produced organically and with minimum intervention by the oenologist. Not only that, it is sustainable because it is the work of an at-risk category of people. By giving work to prisoners, teaching them skills that will be useful once they return to life outside of prison, Frescobaldi is helping a disadvantaged group with its rehabilitation and thus enabling a return to society. In short, with this project, Frescobaldi goes beyond the walls of his company, he is making a commitment to work on the community around him; a fundamental creed of social sustainability. Gorgona is a sustainable wine because it has indirectly lowered the recidivism rate of the Tuscan island inmates: in life outside of prison, a former prisoner would normally have an 80% chance of falling back into the same type of crime committed in the past, but this percentage drops to 20% if during his stay in prison he has acquired skills useful in society. For Frescobaldi employees on the island, the recidivism rate has fallen to 0%. Not only have they increased their chances of finding a specialized job, they have also set aside a figure that will help them get off on the right foot again.
“Frescobaldi per Gorgona” is not a particularly fruitful project economically. With its 4000 bottles per year, Gorgona does not generate the same earnings that other wines made by the company reach. Even though economically it is not a significant wine, it remains a highly strategic product from a sustainable and social point of view. What’s more, as Lamberto Frescobaldi stated during a private tasting at the Vinitaly International Academy, “My family and I are only interested in wine, we can afford this small loss, and to tell you the truth, it doesn’t bother us at all”.