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ENVIRONMENT

Italy’s booming Prosecco production is ‘unsustainable’, say researchers

Skyrocketing global demand for Prosecco may be putting too much strain on the precious soil in northeastern Italy’s vineyards, Italian researchers reported.

Italy's booming Prosecco production is 'unsustainable', say researchers
The UK and US are Italy's biggest export markets for Prosecco. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The boom in prosecco production in recent years may be an environmental hazard, as it is contributing to the erosion of some 400 million kiograms of soil every year, according to a new study of Italy's biggest prosecco-producing regions by the University of Padua.

Letting too much earth wash away with rain and irrigation could jeopardize the future of the region’s vineyards, which produce 446 million bottles of prosecco every year, 90 million bottles of which are for export.

The research looked at three of Veneto's biggest Prosecco-producing areas, incluidng the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area.

 READ ALSO: Brexit could make Prosecco pricier for British buyers, Italian winemakers warn

The research found the prosecco industry was responsible for 74 percent of the region’s total soil erosion, and estimated that the “soil footprint”, or amount of soil lost, for the production of each bottle is about 3.3 kilograms.

“The soil is a non-renewable resource.” states the report. “A territory like the Prosecco area gives excellent results from an economic point of view, but this level of production in the long run will hardly be sustainable “.

Prosecco vineyards could reduce their soil loss, the scientists say. One solution — leaving grass between vineyard rows — would cut total erosion in half, simulations show.

Other strategies could include planting hedges around vineyards or vegetation by rivers and streams to prevent soil from washing away.

Prosecco is more popular thn ever before. Photo: Depositphotos

Demand from abroad for the famous Italian fizz is higher than ever before. Last year's figures show record-breaking sparkling wine sales abroad valued at over 1.5 billion.

Much of that was Prosecco, but the figures included sales of other Italian sparkling wines such as Asti or Franciacorta, which are less well-known outside of Italy.

The UK ranks as the biggest market for Italian sparkling wines, followed by the US and Germany.

Repubblica wrote that rthere have been numerous “false reports” about Prosecco in the British press, which it said had “launched an attack” after the commercial success of prosecco “caused beer sales to drop in the pubs of Great Britain.”

It quoted the president of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, as saying British are “purely envious” of Italian prosecco.

Zaia, a controversial figure, has previously dismissed negative reports about Prosecco as “fake news” and “the umpteenth Anglo Saxon crusade against Italian products.”

Italian wines in general are undergoing a difficult period in their relations with the UK. Producers and stakeholders alike have expressed fears regarding how Brexit could affect Italy's wine industry

READ ALSO:

  • US vows to put tariffs on products including Italian olive oil, prosecco and pecorino cheese
  • Why Italy wants Unesco heritage status for its Prosecco hills
  • Can Prosecco help Italy finally crack the Chinese wine market?

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CLIMATE

Central and southern Italy brace for storms and heavy snow

Storms and snowfall are forecast across much of central and southern Italy over the next few days, according to weather reports.

Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy.
Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy’s Civil Protection Department on Monday issued ‘orange’ alerts for bad weather along Campania’s Tyrrhenian coastline and the western part of Calabria, while Sicily, Basilicata, Lazio, Molise, Umbria, Abruzzo, central-western Sardinia, and the remaining areas of Campania and Calabria are under a lower-level ‘yellow’ weather warning.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts is warning Italy’s central-southern regions to prepare for a blast of polar air from the Arctic Circle that will bring heavy snowfall, rain and storms, reports national weather forecaster Il Meteo.

The village of Grotte di Castro in the province of Viterbo, two hours’ drive north of Rome, mountainous parts of Sardinia, and much of the province of Campobasso in the central-eastern region of Molise were already blanketed in snow on Monday morning.

The department is responsible for predicting, preventing and managing emergency events across the country, and uses a green, yellow, orange and red graded colour coding system for weather safety reports.

An orange alert signifies a heavy rainfall, landslide and flood risk, while a yellow alert warns of localised heavy and potentially dangerous rainfall.

The current meteorological conditions mean that snow is expected to reach unusually low altitudes of around 450-500 metres, with flakes already falling thickly on parts of the southern-central Apennines mountain range at 500-700 metres altitude.

The hills of Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Lazio, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Basilicata are likely to see heavy snow around the 500m mark, while areas at an altitude of 1000m or higher will see between 50-60 cm of fresh snow.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO /AFP

In areas where the snow is unlikely to reach, heavy rains and thunderstorms are anticipated, with rain forecast throughout Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Lazio, reports Il Meteo.

Strong winds are forecast over the whole country, with the island regions of Sicily and Sardinia facing windspeeds of over 100km/hour and the risk of storm surges, according to the national newspaper La Repubblica.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

The north of the country, meanwhile, will see sun but low temperatures of below 0°C at night in many areas, including across much of the Po Valley.

While conditions are expected to stabilise on Tuesday, cold currents from Northern Europe are forecast to trigger another wave of bad weather on Wednesday and Thursday, with Sardinia and Italy’s western coastline again at risk of storms and heavy rainfall that will move up towards Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto in the north.

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