Tuscan authorities accuse grape growers of threatening landscape & environment

This just in: Italian wine blogger Jacopo Cossater has just reported that historic Valpolicella producer Bertani will not produce a 2014 Amarone Classico. “The rainy vintage of 2014 scores its first victim,” he writes.

montalcino tuscany erosion wine grapes“We are being treated like assassins of our environment,” wrote Brunello producer Stefano Cinelli Colombini in an impassioned op-ed published by the popular Italian wine blog Intravino earlier this week. “And everything that we have achieved is being challenged.”

He was referring to the implementation and fallout of new environmental guidelines that were published in July 2014 by Tuscany’s regional authority.

The document, known as PIT (Piano di indirizzo territoriale or plan for territorial oversight), alleges that the widespread development and expansion of viticulture over the last decades has reshaped the landscape and caused grave environmental harm.

“Extended areas planted to specialized vines represent a great threat to the naturalistic value of the agricultural landscape,” wrote the authors of the survey.

“The modifications brought about by viticultural specialization have greatly altered the character of the traditional landscape. The result is banalization and homogenization.”

Vines, contend the authors, create “a risk of hillside erosion… In some cases, there is continued risk that the water table will be polluted.”

Viticulture, they claim, has become a “dominant monoculture” that reduces “ecological permeability.”

(You can download the survey in its entirety here. The quotes above are taken from ambito 17 or article 17, which addresses issues of sustainability and environmental practices in vineyard land. Translation mine.)

In the wake of the survey’s publication, reports Cinelli Colombini, many wineries have already been denied permits that are required by authorities for commonplace, workaday operations, like grubbing up or replanting vines.

Calling the allegations absurd, he points out that the development of viticulture and its infrastructure (including tourist facilities like tasting rooms, restaurants, and lodging) were fundamental in rebuilding the Tuscan countryside’s economy after urban migration significantly reduced the region’s population during the 1950s.

His dismay is echoed today in an interview with Brunello consortium president Fabrizio Bindocci published by the Independent.

“This administration wants to take agriculture back to the 1800s,” said Bindocci in the interview. “We take regular samples from the rivers and streams near my vineyards in Montalcino and we have not detected pollution.”

In a country whose citizens are accustomed to bureaucratic overreach, the survey has caused an uproar among grape growers and Italian wine trade observers alike.

“The world of Italian politics has shown how terrible it is, without even trying,” wrote Intravino editor Alessandro Morichetti on Twitter yesterday.

“The agricultural landscape changes in accordance with economic necessities. And this needs to be accepted,” opined leading wine writer and enologist Maurizio Gily in the same Twitter conversation.

Translations mine.

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