The Fiat 312 and the era of the “Professors”

Every revolution has its enemies, and the enemies of the revolution which was spreading outwards from the Collio showed themselves stealthily, with smiling faces. These were the years of mechanization of the countryside, and Italy was still largely an agricultural nation. The rural class, custodians of a thousand year working heritage and creators and guardians of one of the most beautiful rural landscapes in the world were trodden on roughshod in that they weren’t assigned any kind of cultural dignity.

They were defeated by the 312, an orange-coloured tractor made by Fiat. In France, where the agricultural class has muscle, the vineyards were mechanized with machines designed  purposely for wine growers; the tractors assumed the shape of the vineyard rows. In Italy, an all-round machine was imposed which was designed to work just as easily with arable crops or olives or vineyards and the vineyard rows took on the shape of the tractor, bringing about the sesto Fiat, or rather the field layout which suited the dimensions of the tractor; more or less 1.2 metres by 2.6 metres where the “sesto” is the distance between vines in  the rows multiplied by the distance between the rows. The old, closer rows were doomed because they didn’t allow the tractor to pass between them. The counterrevolutionaries had perhaps even more support from the intellectual community than the revolutionaries. The so-called “Conegliano Professors” arrived, who, in the name of modernity, taught the growers how to wipe the slate clean of a past for which they should only have felt ashamed, a past according to them made of only poverty and ignorance. They brought strange things among which were chemical fertilizers, unsuitable training techniques such as the Casarsa, (a system which featured great unkempt walls of foliage which lent itself to the production of large quantities of low-grade grapes and which when trained very high required highly rigid and heavy support structures which were totally unsuited to the steep, poor and dry ground of the hillsides).

Subsequently, concrete support poles were introduced along with the widening of the distance between the rows; this necessitated the flattening of the hillsides by remodelling them with wide terraces (giving the illusion of transforming the much-hated hills into flatlands) which was disastrous for the landscape, its geological stability and for the quality of the grapes which resulted. This large scale earth-moving destroyed the terroir.
The countryside was about to undergo, at the hands of the outside world and after the Phylloxera and the events of the Great War, the third destruction of its wine-making heritage in a hundred years.