Bubbles for aperitifs and toasts. The prosecco, especially in recent years, has reached huge popularity, so much so that its production increased rapidly especially on the hills in the north-east of Italy, the place where they are make some of the best prosecco in the world.
But now, according to a new study by the University of Padova published on the BioRrxiv peer-review website, the land of those vineyards is crumbling at a very fast rate. Among the cities of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, in the province of Treviso, or in the more traditional areas of prosecco production. The new analysis has estimated that approximately 400 thousand tons of soil are eroded every year in the vineyards.
The region, the researchers point out, produces about 90 million bottles of prosecco a year, which is equivalent to saying that 4.4 kilograms of land are lost for every bottle of prosecco.
To understand this, the team took into account rainfall data, the type of soil in that region and the type of land cover, if present, in the vineyards. These have less vegetation growing in the soil and therefore rain can erode more easily. More precisely, in the region studied by the team of researchers, prosecco must comply with strict quality controls and is marked with DOCG (controlled and guaranteed designation of origin) on the label, or an Italian brand that indicates to consumers the geographical origin of a wine.
But, although erosion occurs throughout the area, the new study suggests that it is precisely the vineyards that are responsible for almost three quarters of the total loss of land, even if they cover only a third of the region.
Based on the analysis of the European Commission, the problem of the erosion of the area that produces DOCG Prosecco is about 40 times greater than the tolerable limit for our continent. The researchers therefore suggest that erosion could be halved allowing the grass to grow between the rows of vines, thus protecting the underlying soil from rain.
However, as reported by New Scientist, an association of Prosecco DOCG producers has stated that this is “already a fairly common management practice”, also disputing that the results of the study have not yet been reviewed. “These estimates of soil erosion are, in our opinion, imprecise,” said a representative of the consortium in an email: “Managing erosion is one of the primary interests of a winemaker”.
To mitigate erosion, Chris Foss, a researcher at Plumpton College in the UK, suggested planting more hedges and switching to horizontal terraces instead of continuing to develop sloping vineyards. “There is already too much soil loss on a global scale due to bad agricultural practices,” he told the expert to New Scientist. “The wine industry should definitely not add to this problem”.