On July 7, at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene joined the list of more than 1,100 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. The area becomes Italy's 55th World Heritage Site, joining Piedmont’s Langhe Roero and Monferrato winegrowing regions, historic Rome and the properties of the Holy See, and the Venice lagoon.
Other sites earning World Heritage recognition this week include the ancient city of Babylon, Iceland's Vatnajökull national park, Burkina Faso's iron works in West Africa, India's Jaipur, and eight buildings designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
"I am extremely proud,” said Innocente Nardi, president of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG Consortium, “because UNESCO recognition is confirmation of the unique value of the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene landscape, fruit of man's work in harmony with nature."
The Prosecco Hills area, encompassing 50,000 acres of land around northeastern Italy’s towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, was recognized under the category of a “cultural landscape.” Other wine-producing areas to hold the World Heritage Site distinction include Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux's St.-Emilion in France, Austria's Wachau, Germany's Rhine Valley, Hungary's Tokaj region and South Africa's Cape, among others.
The “cultural landscape” classification recognized the steep hillside vineyards in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area, a visually stimulating checkerboard of small, terraced vineyard plots, known as ciglioni, with vertical and parallel vine rows intermixed with patches of forest, farmland and small villages. This area necessitates manual labor, and includes the 260 acres designated for Prosecco’s top wine denomination, Cartizze Superiore.
The nomination process lasted 10 years, but with recognition the region, which is less than an hour’s drive north of Venice, can expect to see a significant jump in tourism. The UNESCO honor includes a management plan to sustainably develop the registered area, including tourism, while preserving the natural and cultural beauty.
“It’s a great recognition for the territory,” Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, owner of Valdobbiadene’s Villa Sandi, told Wine Spectator. “We have grown and lived in a breathtaking scenery made of vineyards—embroidered hills [with] neat rows of vines up and down steep slopes—aware of the extraordinary beauty of this area …. The UNESCO status will be a great opportunity to further strengthen the identity between this unique area and the wine produced within it.”