One early morning in late July 2019, Fabio Magro was awakened by the harsh sound of a chainsaw. When he looked out the bedroom window, something incredible was happening.
Just a few weeks ago, the hills surrounding his village Miane was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the province of Treviso where Prosecco is produced in Italy.
“I can’t understand what happened,” Magro said. “Only 10 meters from our house, the forest was razed to the ground, and neither I nor any of my neighbors received any warning.”
Decades of old trees were demolished within a few weeks to make way for more Prosecco, the world’s best-selling Italian wine.
But as the success of sparkling wine has enriched winemakers, the residents of Miane and 14 other villages in the so-called “UNESCO hills” of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are opposing What they call the relentless expansion of production.
Magro argued that the vineyard behind his house not only destroyed the environment, but also posed a threat to the health of his family and three neighbors. Several protests were held in this village of about 3,000 people.
“I grew up here, and our territory has always produced wine, but now it’s out of control,” Magro said. “A forest was destroyed to create a vineyard that uses intensive agriculture. The rows of vines are really dense and need to be handled with a device like a cannon-it will be a few meters away from our children’s bedroom. Pesticides are launched inside.”
Magro and his neighbors did try to prevent the establishment of the vineyard. “The owner told us:’If you don’t like it, you can sell your house.’ The most important thing is business. We humans don’t count.”
The interest in the province of Treviso grew after 2009, when the province’s wines were awarded the premium DOCG, or the designation of controlled and guaranteed origin, status. Prosecco brewing is also flourishing in other provinces in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, where it produces sparkling wines with DOC status, which have slightly lower production standards. In the 10 years ending in 2020, the Veneto authorities led by the far-right Coalition Party allocated 480 million euros to the wine industry, most of which went to Prosecco.
“Prosecco is being planted more and more,” said Andrea Zanoni, a Democratic regional member. “Just 15 days ago, the region approved another 6,000 hectares of Prosecco.”
This is the economic return of wine. Not only did many farmers turn their attention to Prosecco, others without agricultural experience also entered the industry.
“I know someone abandoned his masonry company to produce Prosecco,” Zanoni added. “Prosecco is now a single culture, which will have serious collateral effects.”
Zanoni said that in the past eight years, the use of pesticides in the Prosecco brewing area has increased by about 36%.
“Many forests have been destroyed, and pastures that are very useful for biodiversity have been replaced by Prosecco,” he said. “Cypress trees that are important to biodiversity have also been eliminated, and groundwater, rivers and streams have been contaminated with pesticides and wastewater from breweries.”
Corrado Pizziolo, Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, Vittorio Veneto is a town that constitutes a UNESCO Heritage Site One, after calling for the production of a more sustainable prosecco, was slammed online. Pastors in the area also included this topic in their sermons.
“I never said that we shouldn’t produce Prosecco-it is a very popular wine all over the world,” said Pizioro. “Mount Prosecco is a resource that needs to be protected, but it also needs to be respected. Monoculture destroys the environment everywhere and will eventually fly around the area. We need to take on more responsibilities.”
The leaders of the Veneto region deny that the expansion is uncontrolled, saying that this wine is only produced in existing vineyards. Federico Caner, Veneto’s agricultural parliamentarian, stated that the authorities have worked with the Treviso-based Prosecco consortium of manufacturers to develop sustainable guidelines, and recently The producer’s allocation of an additional 6,250 hectares of land is a temporary measure to deal with adverse weather conditions and high market demand. .
“Veneto Prosecco’s future can only come with quality and sustainability at the same time,” he added.
The consortium said in a statement: “So far, we have been committed to achieving sustainable development by educating grape growers about increasingly sustainable forms of vineyard management. We now need to take further steps with the organization and the community as a whole. Measures, because the issue of environmental protection involves everyone, if we do not have this goal, we will destroy the foundation of our local economic system.”
But living next door to the vineyard, the environmentally conscious commitments of politicians and winemakers were not enough to appease Magro and his fellow activists.
“Most of the population does not depend on Prosecco for their livelihood, but they live in the aftermath of Prosecco,” he said. “That’s the problem, because people who make money from it have gold in their hands; those who don’t just carry breadcrumbs.”