An order of Sardinian nuns is the first convent to practise organic viticulture in Italy.

The Compagnia delle Figlie Evaristiane grows hardy indigenous varietals including Cannonau, Monica and Vermentino on an inhospitable stretch of the west coast of Sardinia.

The community focuses its efforts on supporting youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘We like to think that our vines are like the vegetables in the backyard of the convent,’ said Mother Superior Margherita Piludu, ‘we’ve never needed chemical fertilizers or fungicides to grow them. We pursue the same philosophy in viticulture.’

The order, which was founded in 1925 by Father Evaristo Maddedu, entered the wine trade in the early 1980s when mother superior Margherita Piludu moved the convent’s wine production from bulk to bottle in order to better guarantee funding for the order’s charitable activities.

The Vini Evaristiani were introduced to the Italian mainland by a division of the Italian army which helped save the winery from collapse in the 1990s.

Piludu said the work was ‘tough but rewarding’. She believes working on the wines could not only help the convent’s charges – people with psychological issues and a history of homelessness – but could turn them into exemplary employees. An employment programme is in place at the convent.

‘The real force behind this project is a team of volunteers, from the wine consultant to the people who work in administration,’ she said. ‘You could say that the commitment to produce organically mirrors the daily challenge this small community poses to each of us.’

The winery has been praised by the wine trade for its rigorous adherence to organic techniques.

Its Evaristiano Tharros white, made from Vermentino grapes, has been chosen ‘best value white wine’ by the Guida Vini d’Italia.

Written by Elena di Luigi