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First International Congress on Mountain and Steep slopes Viticulture

17th - 18th of March 2006 – Saint Vincent (Aosta Valley - Italy)

For two days the Aosta Valley hosted the "First International Congress on Mountain and Steep Slope Viticulture". The event, of great technical and scientific importance, was organized by CERVIM (Research Center, Studies, Safeguard, Coordination and Enhancement for Mountain Viticulture), based in Quart (AO)in collaboration with the Autonomous Region of Valle d'Aosta and with the patronage of the O.I.V. (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin).

More than 300 participants took part in the congress (university professors, researchers, wine technicians, students and professionals) from 6 European countries (Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy)as well as Brazil and North America. A total of 51 research papers were presented, 26 of them as oral submissions and 24 in poster form.

Prof. Fernando Bianchi de Aguiar (President of the Scientific Technical Committee of CERVIM) will lead the three congress sessions.

The following topics were discussed:

Technology of viticultural and oenological production (moderators François Murisier and Osvaldo Failla);
Environment, territory and wine landscape (moderator Régis Ambroise);
Socio-economic aspects (moderator Maurizio Sorbini).

The session Technology of wine production and oenology highlighted the following aspects:

  • a great interest for the autochthonous varieties able to give originality and typicality to mountain wines. The ampelographic biodiversity of these wine-growing areas is invaluable and must be preserved. The rehabilitation of these varieties, which are often carriers of severe virosis, is also essential to ensure quality and commercially viable production;
  • the need for careful management of vineyards and the adaptation of management systems, with the aim of protecting soils from erosion and increasing the possibilities for mechanisation, to ensure a production that makes it possible in terms of quantity and quality to cover production costs;
  • at the oenological level, the importance of the study of aging indices, for the sugar/acid balance and for phenolic compounds, which allow the characterization of mountain oenological productions. The selection of indigenous yeast strains can contribute to the originality and typicality of the different products.

In the session Environment, Territory and Wine Landscape, the speakers highlighted how the environmental, climatic, geological and pedological conditions, altitude and slope, have profoundly influenced these forms of viticulture, and how wine-growing has over time drawn landscapes of rare beauty, often protected by UNESCO (Douro in Portugal, Cinque Terre in Liguria).
The specific territorial and landscape conditions of mountain areas contribute to give a particular sense to the concept of 'terroir'. The agronomic genius, able to adapt the cultivation of the vine to extreme situations, has allowed the winemakers to produce wines of great originality, playing an essential role in the management of the territory, especially in relation to natural risk factors (hydrogeological disturbances, erosive actions, fires). Winegrower as producer of the landscape, whose excellent quality is a wealth for the community.

During the session Socio-economic aspects, encouraging reports were presented, in contrast to the widespread opinion that a deep crisis in all European wine-growing was detected. The analysis shows the surprising resistance and relative prosperity of heroic mountain viticulture, both Alpine and Mediterranean, in many European areas. Despite its relative impact on European vineyards, the importance of heroic viticulture emerges explicitly when considering the socio-economic values it represents. What was once created to alleviate the rigidity of rural poverty and the poverty of food consumption in some European and Mediterranean areas, ends up becoming a symbolic model-for the whole wine sector and an indirect economic policy instrument for the benefit of the whole community in difficult areas.
These areas lend themselves in particular to the development of tourism centered on the landscape and marketing operations aimed at emphasizing the uniqueness of the different production realities.

At the end of the scientific reports, a debate was held in which representatives of the institutions, including the President of the Autonomous Region of Aosta Valley On. Luciano Caveri, the Undersecretary for Agricultural and Forestry Policies Hon. Teresio Delfino, the Senator of the Autonomous Region of Aosta Valley Augusto Rollandin, the President of the Regional Council Ego Perron, the representative of the European Commission - Viticulture Sector Sterghios Tatayas, the Secretary General of the AREV Herbert Dorfmann, Minister of Agriculture of the Piedmont Region Mino Taricco. François Stevenin, President of CERVIM, concluded the meeting.

The year 2006 will be marked by a profound reflection at all levels for the reform of the COM, the Common Organisation of the Wine Market, within which the European production system will have to outline medium and long-term strategies to win the competition with emerging viticulture and cope with the decline in domestic consumption. The need for a formal recognition of the specificities of mountain and steeply sloping viticulture emerged from the interventions of the representatives of the institutions, who committed themselves to supporting the CERVIM in future steps in this direction.