“There’s an old peasant proverb: ‘Leave the land a little better than you found it,’” said Stefano Cantelmo, head engineer for Castello Montevibiano Vecchio Winery in Italy.

Standing 20 feet below ground level, Babson students, Amy Dwarnick and Susanna Kroll, and their fellow Umbra Institute students listened carefully to Cantelmo as he leaned on one of the 200 oak barrels full of new wine. The students visited the winery in the hills above the Tiber Valley on Friday on a field trip for their course, The Business of Food in Italy, with their professor Zachary Nowak. The course focuses on the differences in production, distribution, and consumption in the Italian food sector.

After showing the students the barrels in the winery’s cantina, Cantelmo described his work.

winery 1

winery 2

“I designed the sustainability project for the winery,” he explained. “We use both high-tech (solar cells, biodiesel) and low-tech (passive cooling, roofs painted white) to reduce our carbon footprint. And in 2010 we were certified zero emissions.”

Montevibiano has since won a Slow Food award for sustainable winemaking and an award for wine quality – a great combination for the winery, according to CEO Lorenzo Fasola Bologna.

“We started the project because zero emissions was the right thing to do for the environment, and it was the right thing for the winery in terms of visibility,” he explained.

Bologna and Cantelmo are interested in the possibility of selling the eco-wine in the U.S. market.

After Friday’s field trip, the Umbra students — many of whom are in the Umbra Institute’s Food Studies Program — will build on a service learning project started by Nowak’s class last semester. The work this year will be to help Montevibiano Winery write a pitch for an American wine importer, including how to market the “green” wine in the U.S.

“Green’ isn’t the typical color you think of when you think wine, but we think it’s an even more important color than red or white, in the long run,” Nowak joked. “Montevibiano’s wine is the perfect marriage of tradition — their castle is over 1000 years old — and innovation. The students’ proposals will be focused on how to make eco-wine popular in the U.S., to promote responsible consumption that helps the earth.

His students said the field trip complemented the Business of Food in Italy course.

“Montevibiano has the potential to reinvent their traditions—I learned today that tradition is the beginning of innovation,” Dwarnick said.

Kroll added: “This was my first field trip for a class at Umbra and I loved it! I think it was important to meet the faces behind the boperation since we will all be working with Montevibiano in class. It definitely enhanced my learning experience.”

After a tour of the winery and a tasting, the students headed back to the Umbra Institute, which is an American study abroad program located in Perugia, the central Italian city known for being a big university town in a small Italian city.

For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food Studies Program, contact the assistant director of the program, Zachary Nowak (znowak@umbra.org). You can also watch a short overview of the Program on YouTube.