The Orro farm

by admin on 30/09/2012

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The motto, which Davide Orro uses to define the quality of a good wine “Fragrance and Good Taste” describes the fundamental characteristics sufficient to determine the excellence according to himself. Other characteristics, although important, don’t have the same importance in determining «excellent quality».

Davide is also a passionate student of chemical and biological processes, which are active at the preparation and during the various phases of maturing and conserving his main product «Vernaccia di Oristano». Moreover, he’s a persistent supporter of safeguarding the particular vine, which can only grow in special types of soil.

The characteristics of the soil and the climate in the vicinity of the city of Oristano are ideal for letting the white vine of the vernaccia develop its best features. In fact, trials have been made to plant the vine of the vernaccia in various regions of Sardinia, but its characteristics have never been as good as those which grow in this area.

The location of this restriced area for growing the vine of the vernaccia, in the valley of Tirso in the region of Oristano, makes it possible that it was brought to and grown here by the Phoenicians who founded the city of Tharros near Sinis.

Regarding the vernaccia of Oristano, one can think of a selection of biodiversity in the sense that in this small area near Oristano converge various factors: the uniqueness of the climate and the soil, the vine of the vernaccia, the transformation of grapes into wine and the process of maturing the wine.

Davide is young, but very mature and with exceptionally clear ideas. Having seen lots of his friends leave for work and studies elsewhere, after having graduated in agriculture at the University of Sassari, he has decided to stay put, whatever the difficulties.

Doing a similar type of work as his grandfather and father, he has founded the Orro wine farm in order to have a job which gives him satisfaction and, at the same time, permits him to continue the tradition of his family. Both his grandfather and his father were peasants who always cultivated the vine of the vernaccia.

Before the second world war, the farming families practised an intensive system of cultivation and managed multifunctional farms. According the Davide, the peasants owned small pieces of land from which they had to extract everything they could to feed their families. From these particular conditions arose the need for using a piece of land in multiple ways. Thus, the peasants had to feed both their families and their animals in order to have meat, milk, eggs and so on. Cultivating some vines and some olive trees were also common. Raising pigs for meat and sharing it between the extended family was widespread.

After the second world war and especially during the boom in the 50s and 60s, the farm which were used in many different ways, were turned into a few large properties where only one type of plant was cultivated or large buildings were built to house cattle for meat production. In short, the peasants weren’t able to feed their families on their small pieces of land any more. Instead, they sold their properties and moved to the towns.

Davide decided to put into practice methods developed by agricultural researchers at the University of Sassari. The overriding principle is to combine the many uses of the land which was practised by his grandparents with the modern methods of cultivation and production, followed by selective marketing. Thus, he’s safeguarding the health of his harvest, while at the same time maintaining traditional ways of working the land and continuing production of the «Vernaccia of Oristano».

He founded his farm in 2006 where he’s now cultivating the aboriginal vine Vernaccia di Oristano and the aboriginal olive tree Tonda di Cagliari, which are widespread in the lowlands around Cagliari and Oristano, used both for olive oil and whole olives in brine.

The maturation of the Vernaccia di Oristano is quite complicated, but Davide explained it to us patiently. The vernaccia is stored in wooden barrels, but they aren’t filled completely. Instead, a certain volume above the vernaccia is filled with air.

The bacteria in the yeast pass through two stages: for the first 3 years they are consuming sugar and turning it into alcohol, maturing the wine at the same time. Most yeasts would die after all the sugar has been turned into alcohol, but the bacteria in this type of yeast are able to survive on alcohol which they themselves have produced. This yeast is called «Flor 11» , flor means flower in Spanish, which comes from Spain where it is used to produce sherry. Having used up all the sugar, the bacteria will start floating to the surface, forming a waxy covering and protecting the wine against further oxidation.

In the second stage, they consume alcohol and produce essential fragrances, completing the maturation of the vernaccia simultaneously. Since the barrel is closed all the time, th fragrances will be mixed with the wine, influencing the taste and the fragrance of the wine.

During the whole maturation, water molecules will escape the wine due to micro-evaporation. The alcohol molecules will also micro-evaporate, but since they are much larger than the water molecules, they will not be able to pass through the barrel. Thus, storing the wine for a long time will make it more alcoholic.

Bringing on tradition through innovation is the cornerstone of the business philosophy of the Orro family. This principle not only presides over the selection of aboriginal plants for cultivation like the vine of the vernaccia and the olive tree «Tonda di Cagliari», but also selecting plants to e.g. enclose his fields of cultivation. Davide is using local reeds for this purpose like his ancestors did.

The Orro family, having a great passion for safeguarding and bringing on familial traditions on the land from which they get their inspiration and all in all their work is maintaining the story of the people who lived in this area before them and respect for the particular rural area in which they live. In fact, the Orro family is also managing an educational farm receiving visitors like local school classes and tourists interested in their products.

The annual «feast of Saint Martin – meeting rural culture» is an opportunity to rediscover, promote and spread the rural culture of Sardinia and for discovering the uniqueness of the products made by Davide Orro and his family.

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