What businesses are involved in heroic viticulture?
How can viticulture be heroic? Viticulture is deemed to be heroic when regardless of substantial complications, the planting of vineyards and their cultivation, produce some of the highest quality wines. CERVIM, the Research Centre for Mountain Viticulture, has defined four basic criteria – also valid individually – for the denomination:
- land with a slope of more than30%
- an altitude of more than 500 metres above sea level
- vineyard developed on terraces and steps
- planting of vineyards on small islands
Heroic vineyards are therefore located in areas that are difficult to manage due to climate, soil type or geographical location. For example, they may be small in size or split up into non-contiguous plots. They may suffer from sub-optimal climatic conditions and water variations or grow on soils that create obstacles to mechanization.
Heroic viticulture is a worldwide phenomenon, active in Europe as well as in America and the Middle East. In Italy there are many examples, such as the cultivation of Müller Thurgau in Trentino Alto Adige or the so-called hills of Prosecco (Conegliano Valdobbiadene), which is also a candidate for a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Valle D’Aosta, Valtellina, Cinque Terre and the larger and smaller islands – including Sardinia, Sicily, Isola del Giglio and Pantelleria – all of those examples join the prestigious Italian contributions to heroic viticulture. The attention is on ‘the difficulty to produce’.
This issue has been the focus of many reflections in recent years. Institutions and associations have paid particular attention to every aspect involved in heroic viticulture. The problems and needs associated with this type of cultivation has been the protagonist of various events and conferences. Work is also underway at the legislative level to provide specific protection for heroic vineyards. One of the fundamental reasons for all the interest lies in the fact that there are many businesses involved in heroic viticulture: we will now dedicate some time discussing some observations on the subject.
From a world economy point of view, heroic viticulture contributes to only 5% of the sector. However, it has a decisive economic role in some areas. Think, for example, of the particular mountain areas or small islands that have found, precisely in the planting of heroic vines, an effective way to turn the difficulty of the territory into a great resource.
Wine tourism and culture
Heroic viticulture represents a cultural and economic heritage. The preparation of these lands for the planting of vineyards gives rise to agricultural contexts of high landscape value, which are therefore, suggestive and attractive for tourism. Precisely because of its unique characteristics, this viticulture produces wines of excellent quality, oweing its distinction to the terroirs and the techniques used, they have been described as the true ‘pearls’ of enology.
Biodiversity and environment
Often, in heroic viticulture, the peculiarity of the place corresponds to the uniqueness of the vines. Their non-transferability links them with the territory: enhancing one means protecting the other, maintaining the biodiversity of the vine, of the rhizosphere and of the environment. A characteristic of heroic viticulture is also sustainability, an essential condition for operating in this context.
Technology and research
By virtue of necessity, heroic viticulture creates an enormous space for research and development. Overcoming the difficulties of the territory drives the development of technology to study new methods and operational solutions to manage the different phases of production. Examples of this would be the use of drones to study the territory or the mechanical aids developed for the particular conformations of the soil.
The Wine Industry2wine forum dedicates a significant space in the 2018 programme to heroic viticulture and related issues. As previously mentioned, there will be a speech by CERVIM – specifically, Roberto Gaudio, Stefano Celi and Diego Tomasi. The speech is entitled: ‘Heroic viticulture and biodiversity: CERVIM’s mission for the protection and promotion of extreme territories’, scheduled for November 27th at 16:30.
On the 26th of November, at 17:00, Frank Cornelissen and Alberto Aiello Graci will talk about the future of wine on Etna, an area of heroic viticulture in strong development. There will also be contributions on the topic of wine tourism (Dario Stefano, 26 November at 14:45) and biodiversity (Guido Stecchi and Walter Massa, 27 November at 14:15).