8 February 2017

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IRVO, today 10 years of research

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the recognition of the title of Research Institution to IRVO (from art. 35 of LR no. 2 of 8/2/2007):


irvo_10The thirty years that have changed the face of Sicilian viticulture and oenology are the natural consequence of a crisis which in the 1980s marked the blocking of the trade of 4.5 million hectoliters which sailed from the ports to other regions which from Sicilian raw materials drew character and color for their wines.

Thirty years that have changed the Italy of wine which, after the methanol scandal (1986), had a burst of pride which probably remains the most effective antidote in times of crisis.

And so Sicily, with its strong viticulture and deeply rooted in the socio-economic fabric, has discovered the path to redemption that it has longed for since the unification of Italy and has done so with unprecedented courage and determination. And it continues to do so, betting on its most historic identity product, wine, and then oil, wheat and so on up to typical products, gastronomy, nutrition (the historical bibliography sees the first cooking school in Sicily in the 4th century BC, the Latins from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD speak of Sicilian cuisine, to which in more recent times the cuisine of the Leopard, of Duke Enrico Alliata etc. has been added)

Since the 1990s, the Regional Institute of Wine and Oil has been at the service of an idea that makes quality, respect for the environment and the protection of biodiversity the point of reference for Sicily and the its supply chain system, starting from agricultural work, from the countryside, from hospitality, to arrive at the most prestigious markets where it learns to excel, gradually becoming a point of strength for the whole of Italy, a model described by all and described as a symbol of sustainability environmental.

The IRVO projects, initially aimed at reorganizing the varietal production structure, through joint work between the vineyards and the experimental cellar created for this purpose in Sicily, are gradually refined because the quality of the wine also becomes the quality of the environment, to the point of involving a way of being and representing food and wine as a real lifestyle. Lifestyle, in Greek “diata”, means “way of life”, and the Sicilian way of life is popular.

The entire productive and cultural world contributes to spreading a new Sicily in Italy and around the world, the truest and most distinctive one, dismantling the short-sighted concept of a land of raw and essentially "blended" wines and also with the help of new media the world begins to see and recognize an extraordinary landscape and agriculture: Noto, Mozia, Selinunte, Etna, Pantelleria, the Aeolian Islands etc. etc.; the power and history of an island that is the natural cradle of Mediterranean civilization. A wave of wine-tourism "appeal" is starting, also due to the contribution of the Wine and Flavor Routes, which is attuned to the realistic perception of a "Mediterranean garden", as rich as a "continent", which literally makes the numbers of visitors and with them a social force, an organizational system and a socio-economic growth process never seen before.

irvo_10_2And so after decades of experimentation for the innovation of the entire supply chain process, IRVO was meritoriously recognized as a Research Body of the Sicilian Region (LR no. 2 of 2007).

A job that continues to involve a team of technicians with various professional skills: agronomists, oenologists, microbiologists and chemists who, thanks also to the many collaborations activated with organizations, universities and companies, have made it possible to relaunch the Sicilian wine sector through the diffusion of new languages, of a new link between production and representation/narration, which have slowly contaminated the most varied social fields, clearing that agricultural discourse which previously redundant on itself, among agronomists, producers, companies and trade associations. Society, politics, newspapers have begun to talk about wine, gastronomy, food, dreams, opportunities for Sicily, young people, work. 

In this context, IRVO is betting on a new strategic objective: that is, quality is now a cultural assumption of the entire Sicilian society, an effective message when it goes beyond borders but which can run the risk of self-referentiality. Markets, especially those linked to the web, to distant countries such as the Emirates, Asia, America, give space and time to an increasingly limited extent, the contemporary world is overloaded with information. We must therefore find something that is effective, smart, that in a logo, in a symbol, can enclose the meaning and power of this infinite human and productive history that is the Sicily of wine and oil and that links them inextricably to quality . Something capable of conveying that abundant research work lasting many years, built within European projects, PSR mainly, themes which in general lines can be summarized as follows: longevity of red and rosé wines, innovative oenological protocols for maintenance over time of varietal aromas, sparkling winemaking techniques aimed at enhancing the Sicilian varietal heritage through the study of microbiology, the recognition of the Pantelleria sapling, the first agricultural practice in the world made a UNESCO heritage site.

These research areas also include projects that have found in international cooperation a further reason for impact on the territory; among these we remember "Promed" (Protection of the environment through the valorization of the vine) and "Vienergy" (Energy vineyard), both financed with the funds of the OP FESR Italia Malta 2007/2013; others focused on the corporate transfer of process and product innovations, including “Inoveno” (Oenological innovations), “Avigere” (Precision viticulture) financing with the measures of the PSR Sicily 2007/13 and “Process and Product Innovation in Sicilian Wine Supply Chain” with the funds of the PO FESR 2007/2013. IRVO had already begun, in 2002, useful work on the selection of oenological yeasts. And the first fruits were already seen in 2006, the year in which the first strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolated in Sicily and specifically selected for the fermentation of Nero d'Avola was placed on the market of oenological yeasts (the so-called LSA, active dry yeasts). . Since 2007, IRVO has selected a complete battery of Saccharomyces yeasts of Sicilian origin useful for the production of red and white wines and sparkling wines refermented in the bottle, and of non-Saccharomyces yeasts, also of Sicilian origin, useful for the production of softer and fuller-bodied red wines and more aromatic white wines. A constant objective of research is to produce wines with less alcohol and more glycerol, a natural compound highly appreciated in red wines because it is considered responsible for their body and softness in the mouth.

(for further information on microbiological research click here)

It is in this context that the last and most recent challenge of IRVO arises, namely the assumption of certifications "DOC Sicily” for wine production and “PGI Sicily” for oil production. IRVO thus invests its operational resources in this large and complex objective, the quality certification checks that begin in the countryside up to its analysis laboratories in Palermo and Marsala, the tasting commissions, the relations with the Ministry . A large amount of work that produces a result with a strong communicative impact contained in the immediacy of a symbol, a certificate of quality that will go on the label, a true and credible brand, the new card to play on the difficult and stimulating field of competition international.

The Director Vincenzo Cusumano

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