Wine, landscape and territory: In search of a humanist economy

Wine tourism

06/07/2017

The current socioeconomic context presents us with an opportunity to rethink the present paradigms of economic growth. In terms of the wine industry, the impact of climate change and a globalized economic and value system demands that we engage in a process of introspection and brings us to a turning point—a cyclical condition inherent in every crisis.

The current economic recovery provides us with a wonderful opportunity for sustainable growth by turning the winemaking and rural experience into the cornerstone of a new economic model that aids territorial cohesion and draws on humanist principles. This would reconcile us with our environment, providing a strong local base from which to engage with the world directly and confidently.

Current consumer trends seem to indicate that the moment is now or never. The growing (yet never sufficient) concern for the environment, the rise in social awareness, and the emotionally-rooted, almost archaeological interest in craftsmanship all look to the nobility of an unadorned past free from artifice and superficiality.

The importance of wine and the rural environment

The wine industry could be essential to the revitalization of rural, depopulated or  abandoned areas. Repopulating these areas could also reintroduce old traditional practices that respect the natural environment.

In the long term, the abandonment of rural areas has consequences that come at a price.  The recent wildfires in Portugal, which were of an unprecedented magnitude, underscore this dire statement.  Without human intervention, vegetation grows wild—notoriously flammable vegetation that spreads out uncontrolled in the absence of a “human” landscape of firebreaks, barriers and paths.

This is why we need to revive our winegrowing heritage wherever possible; an architectural heritage comprised of dry-stone huts, wells, ditches and shafts; troughs, small reservoirs and paths; vertiginously stepped and terraced vineyards. Marking out parcels, considering the slope of a hillside to gain farmland... these are all examples of commonsense engineering that is bold and wise, a beautiful and lasting testament to a past that seems to show us the way. Yesterday was today and there is no place for tomorrow.

The preservation of the rural experience reinforces and enhances the identity of everything that derives from it, bringing an intangible added value to every wine we make. The landscape reflected in a glass. Terroir once again as an identity factor.

The decline in economic activity during the crisis has been good for the landscape, giving it time to breathe after the boom-time expansion of commercial parks and various industries. As I mentioned earlier, we should take advantage of this situation to rethink our growth model. But how?

Spreading the word through wine tourism

The development of wine tourism plays a crucial role in territorial sustainability and cohesion. It is ideally suited to promoting this new paradigm of economic and social dynamism based on environmental protection and adaptation and the new climatic and economic rules of the game.

The writer and sommelier Ruth Troyano, an expert in landscape and territory, sums it up perfectly:

“The landscape unites a variety of values that are natural, ecological, aesthetic, historical, social, symbolic and spiritual in nature. We're thrilled to see winemakers vinify grapes at over 1000 meters in stone winepresses built by monks in the 12th century; we're fascinated by the ancient Roman Via Avgvsta that cuts through the vineyards of the lower Penedès; and we love that an ancient dry-stone structure provides a natural shelter for a vinegar that ages in oak barrels with 20-year-old soleras.”

Today the wine industry has come together to uphold the legacy of its culture and landscape, and it is doing so by reaching out to various social agents that promote the region.  Thus, a range of state-level initiatives, such as the 6th Congrés d'Art, Paisatge Vinícola i Enoturisme, celebrated this past June in the Penedès, seek the institutional support and commitment of those of us fortunate enough to be a part of the winemaking experience to champion and herald a better future.

The following are some of the main conclusions reached at the congress:

  • Wine tourism as comprehensive, human, economic and territorial development. A communication platform to promote cultural projects that showcase and enrich our winegrowing landscape.
  • To manage and regulate a territory by addressing the variety of professional and personal profiles contained therein and involving local and autonomous administrations.
  • To take into account that an outstanding wine or cava can only derive from an outstanding landscape.

We might not be able to save the world, but we can restore part of the dignity it has lost. The land—our land—is giving us this opportunity. It always has. It is up to us to not betray this trust and bring the forces into balance.  Let's be humble and respectful; let's look to and praise a past that is showing us the way, which has always been there, patiently biding its time.  Let's drink and live well.

 

Rafa Moreno

Categorías: Wine tourism