Freitag, 18. März 2016

New York Times: They Feast on the Vines of Chianti, the Swine


Fences are rising. There is talk of a brutal and destructive insurgency, invasions and a slaughter that could include hundreds of thousands in the years ahead.

If that sounds something like a war, the battlefield is the prized vineyards of Chianti, Italy's vaunted wine region in the heart of the rolling hills of Tuscany.

And the enemy? An exploding population of voracious wild boars and deer that savor the sugary grapes and the vines' tender sprouts, but that are also part of the region's famed landscape, hunting traditions and cuisine.

Long allowed to thrive as part of that heritage, the wild ungulates, the group to which this species belong, are now four times as numerous in Tuscany as they are in other Italian regions. In Europe, only parts of Austria have more.

Wine growers and farmers here say that population now threatens a d licate Tuscan ecosystem, in addtion to provoking hundreds of car accidents a year and damaging the production of their treasured Chianti Classico.

The toll is estimated to $11 million to $16 million a year in lost harvest. There are also the costs of erecting and keeping up fences, which have proved controversial because of criticism that theymar the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.

“We now live enclosed“, said Francesco Ricasoli, the owner of the Barone Ricasoli estate, which includes about 2,000 acres of oak and chestnut woods where the boar and deer live and hide, as well as more than 500 acres of vineyards, where they love to forage.

Though the heir of one of Tuscany's most prominent men, Bettino Rcasoli - twice the prime minister  of Italy and the creator of the modern Chianti wine recipe in the 19th century - even he is on the defensive against the onslaught.

“Our vineyards are rather protected“, Mr. Ricasoli said, “but our fields are prey to wild boars and roe deer recurrent incursions and have holes that look like Ho Chi Minh trails.“

“It is not the Chianti we dream of“, he said. “It was timethat theregion acted.“

Act it did. In February, after years of lamenting, the region approved a law aimed at drastically reducing the number of wild boar and deer over thenext three years, bringing the population to around 150,000 from more than 400,000 today.

“This law is at least a first step“, said Marco Remaschi, the Tuscany region's councilor for agriculture, who acknowledged that the proliferation of the species here had been “largely undervalued andnot governed.“

“We nowneed to apply it well, and to make hunters, farmers and environmentalists understand that it's in everyone's interest to reduce the number of wild boars and deer and to take Tuscany back to normalcy“, Mr. Remaschi said.

But the law, it seems, has settled one argument and sarted several others.

It extends hunting outside the regular three-month season to licensed hunters or prpfessionals, but allows them to shootonly wild boars and roe and fallow deer of a certain age and gender and with regimented procedures.

Hunters, of course, would simply hunt the animals as usual, unleashing dogs that chase the boar from the forest into areas where the hunters, arrayed in a line, can shoot at will. They consider the method as more efficient than selective hunting.

The law also extend the areas where the hunting can take place to include, under strict conditions, fields, parks, vineyards, and even more urban areas. Environmentalists fear the militarization of the peaceful Tuscan countryside.

Yet the law adds nothing to discourage hunters from leaving out food to lure their prey, a practice that environmentalsts and winegrowers contributing to the exploding of the boar population and for drawing the animals into fields where they wreak havoc.

In the mountains above Brolio Castle, a fortress dating to the 11th century, of the Barone Ricasoli estate, Massimiliano Biagi, the technical director, and his colleagues say they have found vans belonging to the “chingialai“, as the hunters of wild boar are known, packed with loaves of bread and containers of corn.

The hunters tell another story.

“Fist of all, feeding wild animals is prohibited, unless authorized“, said Marco Cocchi, a manager at the hunters' association Federcaccia in Tuscany.

“Even as they did it, why would they feed the animals in protected areas where they cannot shoot them?“ he said. “We also want to limit this proliferation. And this law is inefficient and provided inadequate means to reduce the number of wild ungulate in Tuscany.“

So fences continue to rise. Those, too, have been a source of discontent, but for some the only solution.

Through colorful bureaucratic battles with the local authorities, Paolo De Marchi, the producer of the famous Chianti Classico wine Isole e Olena, started fencing his vineyards in the western section of Chianti as early as the 1990s.

Today, all Isole e Olena vineyards are authorized to be fenced, and now have a six-and-a-half-foot-tall, zinc coated steel mesh perimeter, with gates for access for the adjacent forest.

“We now manage to avoid the complete disruption of the product, and reduce the damage by 90 per cent“, Mr. De Marchi said.

It was well worth the cost - about $110,000 for laurum and evergreen bushes - to embellish the fences to preserve the beauty of the landscape, he said.

Other estates in Tuscany, however, remain vulnerable to the violent invasions of wild boars and deer, which has set off something like an arms race.

Some wine producers have tried small gas-fueled cannons to keep the animals out. Others have used electrical wires. The newest and least invasive tool, but one still being refined, are machines that produce ultra high frequencies that only the animals can hear, which drive them away.

“We had and are having enormous damage because of this uncontrolled phenomenon“, said Roberto Da Frassini, the technical director who joined the Tenuta de Nozzole estate in nothern Chianti in 2011.

Mr. Da Frassini said he had seen the situation worsen year by year. “We can't even harvest in some of the vineyards, especially those adjacent to the forest“, he said. “The plants are killed by fallow deer or the grapes are sucked by wild boars.“

The Tenuta di Nozzole has built about six miles of fences in the last two years. Just in 2015, Mr. Da Frassini said, he invested about $ 90,000 to build fences, instead of buying new technology for the cellar.

“It's extremely ugly, we know it“, Mr. Da Frassini said. “It's like building a camp on the vineyards, but what is the alternative?“

“We don't live off philosophy“, he added. “Tuscany's landscape is beautiful because it's human shaped. I can't preserve it if I don't pay the salaries.“


Fazit: Sehr unbeliebt in der Toskana ist das Schwein, wenn es sich ergeht im Wein.


Zur Reportage der NYT