The Traditional Method of putting the rest of the grapes in Valpolicella candidated for intangible heritage by UNESCO

The process of candidacy for UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of the “Setting the grapes aside”: a virtuous technique, handed down from generation to generation for over 1500 years in Valpolicella.

Valpolicella, 27 October 2022 – In the Valpolicella area, for about three years now, the Consortium for the Protection of Valpolicella Wines has developed the idea of ​​nominating the technique of setting grapes aside as an intangible heritage of humanity.
This ancient technique consists in a “slow drying of the grapes which, as soon as they are harvested, are placed on arele or marsh reed trellises” explains Christian Marchesini, President of the Consortium for the Protection of Valpolicella Wines and of the Promoting Committee. Matteo Tedeschi, secretary of the Promoting Committee, continues “This methodology fully reflects the cultural evolution of this area and its people and its historical vocations. The local realities, in order to safeguard this precious tradition and to ensure the transmission of the relative knowledge to the new generations, have set up a Promoting Committee and have started the process of candidacy of the element in the Representative List of the intangible cultural heritage of the 2003 UNESCO Convention ”.

In April 2022, the Promoting Committee of the candidacy for intangible cultural heritage was set up for this purpose, spokesperson for the Consortium for the Protection of Valpolicella Wines, as well as for the community of the Snodar Confraternity, the Palio del Recioto, the University of Verona , the Valpolicella Foundation, the Valpolicella Wine Route and the Verona Academy of Agriculture, Science and Letters.

The Committee is an organization responsible for animating the territory and raising awareness among citizens on the subject of drying, collecting testimonies and historical documentation to prove the ancient roots on which this technique is based. This grape processing technique uniquely qualifies the wine produced in the territory of the Denomination. The drying of the grapes is a transformation process with a strong identity of Valpolicella, handed down since Roman times, from generation to generation, today closely interconnected with the social and cultural fabric of this territory.

In synergy with the Promoting Committee, the Scientific Committee also works for the candidacy process, a consultative body of expert anthropologists, oenologists and jurists with the task of activating the articulated process of study, analysis and documentation of the drying technique of Valpolicella grapes , necessary for the preparation of the application dossier.

The drafting of this document requires a long time, in-depth studies and goes through a process of raising awareness among citizens. The involvement of the population is a fundamental part of the candidacy process and is expressed through the organization of public meetings where the population is educated on the path undertaken and the activities necessary to achieve UNESCO recognition. These meetings are called “calls to action” and the Consortium for the Protection of Valpolicella Wines has scheduled four to date: in the “Classica” area, in the “Valpantena” area, in the “oriental DOC” area and a final call to action in the city ​​of Verona, the most planted in the Veneto with 1,300 hectares within its borders.

On 21 October 2022, the second call to action was held in the “Valpantena” area, with great support from institutions, the media, citizens and the production chain. However, the process of recognizing the technique of setting aside the Valpolicella grapes as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity is still long and uphill. At the end of 2022, with good reason, a first draft of the dossier could already be ready.

The content of this promotional campaign represents the views of the author only and is his sole responsibility. The European Commission and the European Research Executive Agency (REA) accept no responsibility for the possible use of the information it includes.

The Consortium for the Protection of Valpolicella Wines, in addition to being at the forefront of the candidacy of the technique of setting grapes aside as an intangible heritage of humanity, is one of the partners of the European campaign “That’s Amore – European lifestyle: taste wonderfood”, which aims to promote and encourage the diffusion and knowledge on the Italian, German and Czech Republic markets of certified products with high quality and food safety standards as well as strongly representative of the territory of origin and production. In addition to the wines protected by the Valpolicella Consortium such as Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG, the other protagonists of the campaign are some of the flagships of Made in Italy such as Asiago PDO cheese, Nano Vialone Veronese PGI rice, Garda PDO extra virgin olive oil, Tergeste PDO extra virgin olive oil and Veneto PDO extra virgin olive oil, all varieties protected by the Verona Oil Producers Association.

Historical notes on the technique of setting aside the Valpolicella grapes

The appassimento technique in Valpolicella has a history as old as the vine: already in 580 AD, Cassiodorus, adviser to the Ostrogothic king Theodoric, described the Valpolicella appassimento technique in a letter to the king, explaining its rituals and connections with the community . It is a cultural element that reflects the social, political, economic history of this area and shows its evolution. When in the second half of the 1200s the new “sovereigns” wanted to resize this territory, the first decision was to adopt a “statute” to prohibit the withering technique (referring to the “statute” of 1276 by Alberto della Scala).

A century later the technique was restored and since then described by all Renaissance writers not simply as a winemaking technique but as an expression of deep cultural roots and identity. The slow drying of the grapes which, as soon as they are harvested, are placed on the “arele” or on marsh reed trellises, in fact, fully reflect the cultural evolution of this territory and its people and its historical vocations. The same “arele” were formerly used for the breeding of silkworms and, with the disappearance of this tradition, they were “recycled” for the drying of the grapes. The rural architecture of Valpolicella reflects this tradition, with the construction of the so-called “fruttai”, the physical places where the “arele” are placed, built according to the direction of the winds and in positions such as to allow a low level of humidity and a high natural ventilation.

This technique has evolved over time also undergoing the effects of climate change as the scholar Benedetto Del Bene already pointed out in 1791 in his study “Above a new way of making wine” when, describing the technique and its connection with the society of Valpolicella, underlined the climatic effects, and its changes, on the same tradition.
The grape drying technique, far from being just an indispensable tool for the production of a quality wine, has represented the Valpolicella community for over 1500 years, so much so that there is a total identification between this technique and the territory. It is no coincidence that there are many legends, popular stories, rituals, idioms in dialect, popular festivals such as the Palio del Recioto which takes place during the Easter period, which recall the drying technique or are based on it.

With this awareness, several years ago the candidacy project was promoted and the work for the preparation of the dossier was started: with the support of the Veneto Region, the promoting committee was set up, made up of the most representative subjects of the communities of practitioners l ‘element, and now we start the process of patrimonializing the element.
In this logic, all the promoting communities have felt the need to set up a scientific committee that supports this path, directing and clarifying it, as well as helping it in dialogue with national and international institutions.

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