Of all of the wines available out of Italy, there are few that have captured the imagination more in recent times than Prosecco. Often seen as the less glamorous cousin of France’s Champagne when it comes to the sparkling white wines, in more recent years Prosecco has really stepped out of the shadows to emerge as one of the leading wines in the world, even overtaking Champagne in terms of sales and, in some cases, quality.
Nowhere is this truer than in Great Britain. Every year, Brits knock back about 86 million of the 355 million bottles of Prosecco produced annually and the country’s love affair with the drink is so strong that there was legitimate panic a couple of years ago when it appeared as though the weather would cause shortages in the drink. Thankfully, the shortages never caused any issues and Prosecco only continues to grow in popularity.
This boom period has not gone unnoticed in the drink’s native country. Vintners are planting increasingly higher volumes of the drink in an effort to keep up with market demand, which looks set to skyrocket even higher now that emerging wine markets in China and India are having an increasing effect. In fact, the desire to grow more Prosecco has even led to some producers taking rather drastic and illicit actions, as there are reports of thieves stealing vines to sell on to producers who perhaps do not have the skill required to make great Prosecco.
Moving away from that negativity for a moment, let’s focus on something a little more positive. As Prosecco continues to grow in stature and reputation, more measures are being taken to protect the land on which it is grown and the producers who put their hearts and souls into ensuring the wines they create are able to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
World Heritage Status
In recognition of the quality and importance of the Prosecco region, Italy has begun taking steps to make the site a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This would offer it an immense amount of protection, which will in turn ensure that the production of Prosecco is safeguarded for years to come.
In truth, the entire World Heritage process actually started a little under a decade ago. That was when Luca Zaia, who was the governor for the Veneto region, first put forward the idea of making the Prosecco region a World Heritage site. That was in 2009 and the time since has been spent compiling a dossier that not only proves the site is worthy of the World Heritage name, but that those who make use of the land are dedicated to protecting it.
To work to create this dossier finally paid off in January 2017 when an official application was lodged to ensure the site would be granted the World Heritage status. The formal proposal extends from the town of Valdobbiadene through to Conegliano, covering the many vine-covered hills that dot the landscapes in both regions. The application aims to ensure both areas are recognized for their outstanding landscapes and, if achieved, will ensure that said landscapes are preserved for generations to come.
The official application was approved by Italy’s agriculture minister, Maurizio Martina, at the beginning of 2017. The minister commented “We support the candidacy because it expresses the ability of prosecco to add value to an agricultural region and promote Italy in the world. One of the most outstanding elements is the harmony between human endeavor and the natural environment.”
Interestingly, Italy is currently the world’s leading country when it comes to sheer volume of World Heritage sites. Prior to this application, the country had 51 areas that are marked out as being remarkably regions of pure beauty. China, Spain, and France all follow fairly closely behind, while Britain has about 20 less than Italy.
The Benefits of World Heritage Status
So the application has been lodged and we will need to wait a while to see if the Prosecco regions are able to gain the valuable World Heritage status. If they do, these are just some of the benefits that they are likely to enjoy.
As per the Geneva Convention, any land that is recognized as a World Heritage site receives protection from any acts of war or aggression. As such, the Prosecco region’s classification would mean that it is protected from the damage that has so often led to wine regions struggling to recover in years go by.
While it certainly cannot be argued that the Prosecco region doesn’t have its own identify – all Italian wine regions do after all – the granting of the World Heritage classification will mark the region out as particularly special. Given that the land and location used to create wines is so important in the industry’s culture, this added sense of identity not only reinforces the hard work of those who have cultivated the land, but also means it gains increased recognition on a global scale.
Sticking with the concept of increased recognition, the World Heritage status usually leads to increased levels of tourism. International attention will be drawn to the location, meaning more people than ever, even those who are not particularly fond of wine, will want to visit it so that they can experience what makes it so special for themselves. In the case of the Prosecco region, it is likely that the World Heritage status will also go a long way to luring wine tourists away from more popular regions, such as Tuscany.
An often underrated benefit of gaining World Heritage classification is that the region will begin receiving funds from a global entity that is dedicated to ensuring the site is preserved for generations to come. While these funds will not necessarily go into the pockets of winemakers themselves, they are earmarked for use in the protection and continued development of the land, ensuring Prosecco producers have even more to draw from in their efforts to keep up with the rising tide of demand for the drink.
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