The UNESCO protected landscape of Piedmont

As of June 22nd, 2014 the vineyards landscape of Piedmont, in Italy, has been included in the Unesco World Heritage List. It took almost 10 years from the very first initiative to the declaration of inclusion as well as several visits by the Unesco Committee. The area was in fact pretty large and never before such an extensive territory was nominated.

This is the area where some of the most famous and beloved Italian wine are produced, and that is the reason why the local vineyards landscape is so peculiar and unique. It took decades to the locals to turn the smooth hills of Langhe, Monferrato and Roero (the 3 core areas) into such a romantic ocean of vineyards. The various heights of this hill chain span from a low altitude of 250 (820 feet) to a top height of 800 meters (2620 feet) above the sea level, offering a countless number of scenic views and as well as the most tasty travel experience ever.

Earlier today I went to visit my mother, who lives in that area and, on my way to her home, I had to stop in the village of Agliano Terme to take the picture here below, at a panoramic terrace overlooking the hills of Monferrato covering the territory of 4 municipalities. As you can see, it’s a real sea of vineyards.

Vineyards Landscape of Monferrato. Agliano Terme (AT). Phto by Matteo Gazzarata

The whole Unesco area produces the largest quantity of DOC and DOCG protected wine spanning from the  so called “king of wine” or “wine of the kings” – Barolo, to Barbaresco, Barbera D’Asti, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Grignolino, Ruchè, Freisa, Roero Arneis, Asti Spumante and Asti Dry and many more.

Although it may sound impossible, in this area you can find more than 20 native grape varieties and an overall production of 17 DOCG and 42 DOC protected wine which averages out into a 20% of the total national production. Most of the production is red wine, although the international popularity of the local wine started after World War II with a sweet white wine called Asti Spumante, mostly known under the brand of the biggest producers such as Martini, Gancia and Cinzano.

Back to my picture: most of the vineyards you can see are cultivated with Barbera Grapes. The wine produced in the area portrayed in the picture is called “Barbera D’Asti”, a pretty strong red wine with a bit of genuine acidity that makes if very fit for important meat courses such as braised veal or beef, or some good broth-boiled stuffed pasta.

Barbera Vites in Agliano Terme (AT). Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

I am not a wine expert but based on the number of visitors that roam in the area all year round, hopping from one wine cellar to the next and from a wine tasting to the next, I believe the local production is supposed to be very good.

Should you not be a wine lover, the area deserves a visit anyway, even just to enjoy one of the nicest countryside landscapes of Italy and some amazing sunsets over the Alps that are well visible from a distance, from every little village in the area.

If you are not yet familiar with the area, you might read what the UNESCO Committee wrote in its Decision for the inclusion of these hills in the World Heritage.

The vineyard landscapes of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato in Piedmont consist of a selection of five distinct winegrowing areas and a castle, whose names evoke profound and ancient expertise in the relationship between man and his environment. They reflect a slowly developed association between a diverse range of soils, grape varieties that are often native, and suitable winemaking processes. They offer panoramas of carefully cultivated hillsides, following ancient land divisions punctuated with buildings that lend structure to the visual space: hilltop villages, castles, Romanesque churches, farms, ciabots, cellars and storehouses for cellaring and for the commercial distribution of the wine in the small towns and larger towns on the margins of the vineyards. The serial property is outstanding for its harmony, and the balance between the aesthetic qualities of its landscapes, the architectural and historical diversity of the built elements associated with the wine production activities and an authentic and ancient art of winemaking.

Unesco Committee. June 22nd, 2014
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