Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato on the Olympus of UNESCO
- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato candidates for UNESCO World Heritage sites
The pyramids of Egypt and the Australian Great Barrier Reef; the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America and the Great Wall of China – hopefully, a new name will be added to this eminent list: the viticultural countryside of the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato. The extraordinary beauty of the vineyard-covered hills of Lower Piedmont, in fact, may soon be included among the marvels of the UNESCO, the international organization of the United Nations whose principle mission is to identify, protect, and safeguard the great natural wonders and cultural heritages of the earth so that future generations may enjoy them.
The World Heritage Sites of UNESCO represent the heritage of the past that we enjoy today, and want to transmit to generations of the future. According to the Convention, a cultural heritage can be a monument, a collection or group of buildings, or sites that hold historic, beautiful, archaeological, scientific, ethnographic, or anthropological value. A natural wonder, instead, has relevant physical, biological, and geological characteristics; or may be a habitat for endangered animal and plant species, or of particular scientific or aesthetic value.
Of the 962 current sites included in the list, Italy holds the place for hosting the greatest number of World Heritage sites, 47 that will soon – we hope – become 48. In June 2014, Italy will receive the response from the UNESCO board as to whether or not the viticultural countryside of Piedmont “Langhe-Roero and Monferrato,” presided over by Roberto Cerrato, is to be considered a World Heritage site.
For its vineyard planting techniques, cultivation methods and viticultural production, and the particularity of farmhouses and villages that have historically been constructed in the territory where the vines and wine mark substantial benefits to local economies, the viticultural countrysides of Piedmont represent a unique element to the landscape and culture of the zone.
“Our proposal aims to recognize the particular value of the viticultural countrysides of Piedmont that, for its vineyard planting techniques, cultivation methods and viticultural production, and the particularity of farmhouses and villages that have historically been constructed in the territory where the vines and wine mark substantial benefits to local economies, the viticultural countrysides of Piedmont represent a unique element to the landscape and culture of the zone.
“On February 1, 2013 in Paris, at the end of a long procedure begun in 2009, we presented the dossier with our candidature, Italy's only one this year,” explains Cerrato. “I believe that it should absolutely not be underestimated, and for this my most heartfelt thanks goes to the honorable Gianni Letta, who has spent a lot to sustain our project. In any case, for certain values of our candidature, after the deferral that arrived last year in St. Petersburg, we considered seriously what we should do before trying again.”
“ICOMOS, the board of UNESCO that analyzes the dossier of candidature, certainly recognized the universal value of our viticultural countryside,” says the vice president of the Region of Piedmont, Ugo Cavallera. “It's routine in the procedure of candidature to request finalized follow-ups to the continuation of the evaluation process. Hence the working group consists of the Minister for Goods and Cultural Activities, the Minister of Forest and Agriculture Politics, the Region of Piedmont, the Province of Alessandria, Asti, and Cuneo, the Association for the Patrimony of Viticultural Countryside and Sites (Superior Institute of Territorial Systems for Innovation, an association connected with the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, ed.). The group evaluated the right strategies to adopt for obtaining official UNESCO recognition. Then, we adapted the project in order to render its universal value congruent with the perimeters of its core zone.”
The choices were not painless to make, but the result is a project with an excellent possibility for success: the new dossier presented has a overall reduction of the area for candidature, for a total of 10,789 hectares with 29 townships (as opposed to 101 in the first candidature) in the six individual core zones, arriving at 101 townships if the discussion is extended to the buffer zone (which initially included 230).
Each of the six zones is unique, in turn characterizing the particularities of a truly marvelous territory and individualizing it the moment that every area offers its particular aspect of the wine world.
“Reshaping the core zones won't have any particular repercussions on the excluded townships,” assures Annalisa Conti, counselor of the Association for the World Heritage of the viticultural countrysides of “Langhe-Roero and Monferrato,” represented by the Province of Asti. “We're convinced that every township in the radius of ten kilometers of these six areas will benefit with their recognition in UNESCO. I'm thinking of the Astigiano, whose areas in the second version changed significantly from the first, or the Roero, inserted in the title of the candidature together with the Langhe: the cultural value of the Left Tanaro River is huge, and consists of an unspoken added value for the candidature. In the end, inclusion in the core zones is not decisive, but the final result of recognition is, which will affect the whole territory. Take the Dolomites, for example, where this criteria was used: tourists and public opinion in general don't make a distinction between one mountain peak and the next, but it's the Dolomites in their entirety that they remember as a World Heritage site. The same principle applies here. The moment candidature may receive recognition, all of the townships and provinces of the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato will enjoy the benefits.”
Each of the six zones is unique, in turn characterizing the particularities of a truly marvelous territory and individualizing it the moment that every area offers its particular aspect of the wine world: The “Langa of Barolo” and the “Hills of Barbaresco,” proud standard bearers of Nebbiolo in world, together with the “Castle of Grinzano,” admirable testimony to the history of Italian wine and strongly tied to Italy's Risorgimento; “Canelli and Asti Spumante,” gifts to the city where this great wine was born, where oenologic mechanization plays an important part in their industry; “Nizza Monferrato and Barbera,” expressions of rural life in the territory, underlining the characteristics of the first Piedmontese vine; “Monferrato of Infernot” in Alessandria, the buried quarries so widespread in this zone and traditional in the conservation of wine.
Beyond prestige, recognition would bring an indescribable advantage for tourism, like Gian Franco Comaschi, vice president of the Province of Alessandria and part of the Association for Patrimony of viticultural countrysides of Piedmont “Langhe-Roero and Monferrato,” highlights. “In the arc of five years, we estimate that inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage site could bring in 30% more tourists a year, arriving at a total of 1.5 million, perhaps 2 million a year. And given the type of offers this territory has, where the beauty of the countryside combines with a high level of gastronomy, we're talking about a stay that can't be done in just a day. The Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa is extraordinary, but one day is sufficient to admire it; we won't be lacking in seasonal peaks, but our hills, while maintaining their unique characteristics, must be fully appreciated in at least three or four days, guaranteeing further development in tourism and hospitality.”