How Drinking Wine Can Help Save a National Park

November 25, 2013 / Local Interest
Monterosso, Liguria

One of the most striking things you see when arriving in the National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Cinque Terre, after you acclimate yourself to the incredible blue sea that stretches before you or the charmingly colorful houses that hug each other hanging over the cliffs, are the terraced hills laced with vineyards sweeping up to the Mediterranean sun above.

Terraces over Monterosso al Mare on the left
View of the terraces in the Cinque Terre over Manarola seen from the boat

The hills that separate these Cinque Terre, or five lands, are neatly lined with hand built dry stone walls that support the many small wine producers in the national park.  The fragility of this region can’t be ignored as you hike one of the many trails that winds through the vineyards connecting the villages, seeing remains of houses and livelihoods washed away in floods and landslides of the previous years.  Though there are many factors at play when we talk about the delicate balance between man and nature in the park (and in the world), one of the most visible is the terracing system that you are walking through, gazing at, or reaping the benefits of every time you sip a glass of the cool, dry whites, or the sweet and rich sciacchetrà, the dessert wine of the region.

Terraces in Corniglia

The terraces function as a way to support the structure of the hills around the villages, and their continued use and development is increasingly more important in a continually changing climate.  These mostly small, many family run wine producers, are providing more then just wines, they are helping support the land- literally- and so are you when you support their products.  And it’s not easy. Centuries of heavy labor, working with the difficult land here instead of against it, bringing grapes up and down steep mountainsides by hand, under the hot sun, makes a long day’s work, a hard trade, but an incredible story and product.

Preserving the terraces is integral for preserving the national park, the land, and a beautifully ancient and difficult tradition of winemaking in this little slice of paradise.  And drinking local wine is a wonderful way to help out.

View from the Cheo vineyard down to the village of Vernazza
Dry stone walls at the Cheo vineyard in Vernazza

Terraces over Monterosso al Mare

Christine Mitchell

by Christine Mitchell

Christine has a Master’s Degree in Food Studies and Culture from New York University, and spends most of her waking hours cooking food, serving food at La Cantina Di Miky, happily talking about food and writing about food – and wouldn’t have it any other way, except maybe with an Italian craft beer in her hand.

You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.lifeinliguria.blogspot.com and you can follow Monterosso’s continued progress on www.rebuildmonterosso.com.

21 Responses to “How Drinking Wine Can Help Save a National Park”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    A timely reminder that we need to ‘*support* the land and its people in both senses. Thanks for this eloquent note and the beautiful photos.

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  2. Well said, Christine! I cherish this area of Italy as do the women I take there every September. May it continue to be taken care of.

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  3. John Perides

    Hey Christine, the NYU popped out at me. I am Class of 1969, Engineering at the Heights Campus (The Bronx). Coming to your neighborhood in October of 2014. I hope you are still there. If they only had such a program when I was at NYU I would have loved it! Continued good luck in Heaven on Earth!

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  4. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    what beautiful photographs! And what a glorious way to “help” sipping that lovely wine.

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  5. Was there in ’99 with my family and hiked the trail, what a beautifl place. Do you have any wine suggestions from the area and/or websites where we can buy the local wines? I live in San Diego California….some of the wineries won’t ship out of Italy.

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  6. Tony Cogan

    Try a local Vermentino at Belforte restaurant, overlooking the sea in Vernazza. Bliss!

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  7. we recently returned fom the cinqe terre(monte rosso & vernazza) and feasted on all the area has to offer! cin cin great article & great photos!

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  8. We visited the five towns of Cinque Terre in July 2011 and truly loved it. The beauty was just stunning. We will return in September 2014. We will look forward to drinking the wine to support the people who live there and helping to save this wonderful World Heritage Site.

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  9. Toni Sannella

    Grazie Mille for the wonderful story and beautiful pictures…hope to visit this region soon!!
    In the meantime, can you share names of wines from the Cinque Terre that we can buy here in California? I live in a huge wine region but would absolutely support buying CT wines….,I have some favorite Italian wines, but would love to try others… Saluti

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  10. Christine Mitchell

    thanks guys! :)

    @paul re: shipping wine…I have seen wines from the Cinque Terre in very few places not in the Cinque Terre or surrounding area. Once was at a small wine shop in DUMBO in New York City. They are mostly pretty small producers – some under 2,000 bottles a year, so shipping to an international market isn’t something they really do too much of. I’d contact some local boutique wine shops and see what they say, or contact the vineyard directly and maybe ask them. I know some different enoteca wine shops here that do international shipping, so it can certainly be done!

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  11. Donna Smart

    We visited the Cinque Terre in April 2013. We stayed in beautiful Monterosso and walked to Vernazza and Corniglia. The other trails were closed so we didn’t make it there. We caught the train instead to Manarola and Riomaggiore. All glorious places. Had the best meal of my 6 weeks in Italy in Vernazza and a great local white to match. Will be going back to this spectacular place in 2015.

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  12. Hi Christine, I really enjoyed your article. We love Cinque Terre! Visited there in April. In fact we ate at your resturant! Best calamari, best olive oil, pesto & of course best wine. We bought a few bottles to take back to the states. I’ve been trying to find wine from this region at local liquor stores but not finding any, can’t even get it ordered. Do you know of any distrubitors? I’d love continue to support this beautiful countryside!

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  13. Christine Mitchell

    Hi – again – Laurel,
    I’m glad you liked the Cantina! As for local distributors, as I noted above, I’ve seen the wines totally randomly in stores in the US, but usually they are such small cantinas that they do not ship internationally – I’d say ask a local boutique wine shop if they can help you OR just come back here on another vacation and load up :)

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  14. Mary Alice Tetro

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures and information about Cinque Terre. Although I was fortunate to have lived as a teenager and young adult in Rome, my family never went to this region. I think in the 1960’s it was less well-known and just as beautiful. Am reading a book, Beautiful Ruins that talks about this area and love it.

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  15. I would love to tour a winery in Vernazza during my trip next May. Do you know how to contact one? Is it possible to go into the vineyards?

    Reply

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