II Congress on Heroic Vine-growing

13- 15 March 2008 - Monforte de Lemos, Ribeira Sacra (SPAIN)
Congress Ribeira SacraFor 3 days, the Ribeira Sacra hosted the “Second International Congress on Vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas”. The event, which was of great importance from the technical/scientific viewpoint, was organised by the CERVIM (Centre of Research, Studies, Safeguard, Coordination and Improvement of Mountain Vine-growing) and by the Xunta di Galicia with the collaboration of the Consello Regulador de la D.O. Ribeira Sacra.

The congress was attended by over 230 experts (university lecturers, researchers, technicians, students and workers) from 6 European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland), as well as from North America and South Africa. A total of 91 research works, were presented, 39 of which as presentations and 52 as posters. There were four sessions: 1) History and Culture of vine-growing in the mountains and/or on steep slopes; 2) Grape- and wine-producing technology; 3) Economic and social issues; 4) The environment, territory and landscape.

The presentations given and the conclusions drawn by the chairpersons of the second edition of the International Congress brought to light and bring to light the cultural, landscape-territorial, technical and economic heritage of heroic vine-growing and its produce.

Conclusions

By the President of the CERVIM, François Stevenin
91 works consisting of 39 presentations and 52 posters;
attendance by researchers, technicians, vine-growers and journalists;
expert and impeccable organisation;
the unique grandeur of an area such as the Ribeira Sacra:
these are the reasons behind the success of the Second International Congress on Vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas organised by the CERVIM and by the authorities of Galicia (Spain).

Moreover, 4 working groups, led respectively by Prof. Failla, Dr. Orriols, Dr. Ambroise and Prof. Sorbini, and dealing with issues concerning the history and culture of vine-growing in the mountains and/or on steep slopes, grape- and wine-producing technology, the environment, territory and landscape, and economic and social issues – the recently presented conclusions of which were coordinated by the masterful expertise of Prof. Bianchi de Aguiar, President of the Scientific Committee –  give us good reason for saying we are satisfied.

At the same time, we should say that if on the one hand the reform of the CMO has acknowledged the work and commitment of the CERVIM for vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas, on the other hand we have to voice our disappointment: we expected more extraordinary results for the initiatives that mountain vine-growing has been carrying out for over 20 years.

The exclusion of uprooting for mountain vine-growing is certainly an important sign, but a more manifest recognition of the toil, labour, culture and heroism of vine-growing, or rather its role in defending the environment and enhancing the landscape, would have been justified.

Certainly « l’enveloppe nationale » is a political situation that will allow us to deal with the problems of restructuring and, more so, of recognising vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas.

And also on this occasion we need to take an active role. But our action must be far-reaching. In order to succeed we need new energy and resources. We have to find political and institutional support. We have to spread awareness among the Regional Authorities, countries and the European Union, without forgetting international vine-growing and wine-producing organisations. We have to invite politicians and top managers to visit our areas and learn about mountain vine-growing, by seeing it with their own eyes.
Good communications are essential to do this.
Our web portal, magazine, the International Competition of Mountain Wines and the Congress are excellent communications tools, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do more.
The conclusions of the Congress will be reported to the recently changed CERVIM Board of Directors; it is here that new strategies will be adopted to make the defence and promotion of mountain vine-growing even stronger and more incisive.
Finally, a thank you to the CERVIM management, as well as to all the officials and other people without whom this Congress would not have been so successful.


Conclusions of the “Grape- and wine-producing technology ” session

By Prof. Osvaldo Failla
Most of the works in the Grape- and wine-producing technology section, whether presentations or posters, focussed on describing and assessing environmental resources, paying particular attention to climatic issues, recovery, and characterisation and assessment of the vines grown. The specificity of environmental resources and of the varietal selections grown are in fact considered fundamental in differentiating between vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas and vine-growing on hills and flat land.

The research projects presented have increased our knowledge of the basic aspects of these extreme vine-growing models. In particular, some studies focussed awareness on the effect produced by limiting and often stressful environmental factors on the quality of grapes, in terms of composition of polyphenols and aromatic substances, as essential to the production of unique types of wine. For this reason, much interest has been shown in wine-making techniques aimed at transferring the quality of the grapes to the wine.

Other topics dealt with in presentations or posters concerned the economic sustainability of mountain vine-growing by reducing production costs and labour through mechanisation and changing the type of planting, training and vineyard management. Depending on the various physical conditions of the terrain, it is possible to increase yield, improve grape quality and curb production costs. These changes must be assessed above all in relation to maintaining and improving the quality of the wine and the uniqueness of the area.

Conclusions of the “Environment, territory and landscape” session

By Dr. Ambroise Régis
The session was especially influenced by the European Landscape Convention, presented to us by Mrs Maguelonne Dejeant-Pons. The presentations dealt both with the concrete aspects of landscape and what it represents.
The various speakers also presented:
  • different methods of landscaping aimed at enhancing the potential of individual regions;
  • studies centred on the landscape specificities of territories, how they are perceived and methods of communication used.
Observations

From these communications it emerged that just as the wines from terraced vineyards have very distinctive features, also the resulting landscapes produce equal value.
The quality of the wines and landscapes depend on the different types of vines, on the “terroir” and on the skill with which vine-growers have been able to adapt to such especially difficult terrains.

Recommendations

  1. It is right to recognise the role of public interest played by mountain and steeply sloping vineyards in maintaining and managing these areas. It is essential to show and make people aware of these landscapes and the work done by vine-growers.
  2. Those who grow vines in the mountains and on steep slopes, just as the organisations which represent them, have every interest in establishing close ties with local communities, organisations for the development of tourism, of the environment and of the landscape, as well as with the scientific world to develop coordinated action to safeguard and improve the landscape in these areas.
Proposals for future Congresses

In a scenario featuring the “bets” of sustainable development, it would be desirable for the researchers who take part in the next CERVIM congress to orient their work on searching for aspects to improve and problems to solve, so that heroic vine-growing becomes recognised as an essential part of the sustainable development of mountainous or steeply sloping areas from the cultural, economic, environmental and social viewpoint.

Conclusions of the “Economic and social issues” session

By Prof. Maurizio Sorbini
Great interest was shown in the session on economic and social aspects. In their presentations all the experts underlined the importance of the values connected with vine-growing in mountainous and steeply sloping areas.
These values were thought of as attractions for some segments of American consumers. The development of this market was considered possible and foreseeable both for the local production in the Appalachian Mountain Range (South-East of the United States) and for imported European wines.
During the session stress was placed both on the need to verify the effectiveness of communication on mountain wines and on their contribution to the economic and social development of mountain areas.

Observations

A first important observation that arose during the Congress confirms that mountain wines produced on steep-sloping terraces have some specific values, both economic and social, that the consumer can see and taste, and then remember and integrate into his own personal cultural heritage.

Recommendations

The experience of CERVIM congresses, with field visits to terraced vineyards, has shown that it is easy to communicate the values of heroic vine-growing.
These visits have given an insight into the complexity of the organisation of all the players who contribute to the production of these unique wines.
Knowing the situation in which the production takes place should be considered as the first tool for adding value to mountain wines.

For future congresses

Considering the crucial importance of communication, the next congress could orient works on the effectiveness of the means used and on the possibility of introducing new criteria of experience-based marketing both for heroic wines and and for conditions to preserve this production

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