Winemakers and other local businesses have joined forces to agree a legally binding deal to protect the environment and biodiversity across the commune of Montalcino, home to one of Italy's best known wines.

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Representatives from 47 Montalcino businesses – including Brunello di Montalcino winemakers – signed a legally binding charter, ‘Comitato Promotore Montalcino Bio’, promoting collective biodiversity and environmental responsibility.

Most signatories were winemakers and farmers. But, a local pharmacist, architect and butcher also signed, as did the owner of Montalcino’s biggest wine shop, Bruno Dalmazio.

‘Visitors to Montalcino are increasingly asking for products which are either organic or have a light environmental footprint, be they Brunello di Montalcino wines, or our local honey, olive oil, or freshly baked biscuits,’ said Dalmazio.

‘But consumers also want high quality, not just labels. The BioDistretto offers a formal mechanism for Montalcino’s farmers to increase quality by dealing with pests and diseases collectively, rather than as individuals. And for local tradespeople like me to use natural resources more sustainably.’

Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, of Col d’Orcia, Montalcino’s largest certified organic vineyard [147 hectares], was a prime mover behind the deal.

‘This initiative shows our commitment to preserving Montalcino the town, and Montalcino the place,’ he said.

‘Montalcino is the biggest commune in terms of surface area in the province of Siena [24,000 hectares], but less than 15% [3,500ha] of Montalcino is vineyard. Montalcino is thus naturally very biodiverse as a wine region. Now we have a realistic goal: that both the town and its surrounding land become even more biodiverse whilst maintaining economic sustainability.’

Tuscany’s first BioDistretto was created in 2012 in the commune of Greve-in-Chianti in Chianti Classico.

In 2014, the head of the Brunello di Montalcino Consorzio protested after a government-commissioned, academic study suggested that vineyard planting in Tuscany had led to greater risks of soil erosion and groundwater pollution in some areas.

(Additional reporting on 2014 academic study by Chris Mercer)