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Masi turns to netting in wake of devastating storms

North Italian producer Masi is pinning its hopes on a new style of anti-hail net to protect future crops. Hail storms two weeks ago wiped out huge swathes of the producer's 2002 harvest and spelt the end for its cru Amarone production this year.

Unlike the overhead nets of the Italy’s past, which producers abandoned because they trapped insects and humidity and caused peronospera mould (Downy Mildew), the new style nets leave more of the vine exposed to the air. Netting is wrapped around each vine like a skirt, and then secured with poles (see above).

We have been using skirt nets for the last six years on our 70-hectare Vigneti La Arboleda estate in Argentina,’ said Dario Boscaini, viticulturist at Masi. ‘If successful here they could provide the solution to Northern Italy’s hail storms.’

Other Argentine producers have been using nets for more than 20 years.

Masi has teamed up with the viticultural faculty at the University of Milan, and CODIVE, one of Verona’s growers’ associations, to test the effectiveness of the new style netting in Northern Italy. ‘We need to be sure that the netting does not alter the microclimatic of the vine,’ Boscaini said.

The hope is that other producers will adopt the nets as protection against summer storms, which this year stand to lose the Italian wine industry hundred of millions of euros.

Yet some producers are already expressing skepticism. ‘In certain areas in Collio in Friuli we lost up to 50% production,’ said Roberto Felluga director of Marco Felluga estate. ‘However, I don’t think netting is a feasible solution. First of all the costs are too high and then it would alter the microclimate of the vineyard.’

Elio Altare, Barolo producer in Piedmont, is also unconvinced. ‘Because of all the rains over the last month I have had to spray the vines 15 times to avoid the development of peronospera. With netting it would be very difficult to effectively spray the vines. Moreover, the nets act as a sun filter and therefore could delay the ripening of the grapes.’

Written by Michèle Shah in Italy19 August 2002

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