Not so long ago, two new expressions for Italian wines have been approved: “vigneto storico” (historical vineyard) and “vigneto eroico” (heroic vineyard).
To be considered historic a vineyard must be plant before 1960 and use traditional forms of training (bush vines, pergola trentina, pergola romagnola, vite maritata) and/or being provided with peculiar landscape/trellising arrangements. Areas protected by UNESCO or registered in analogous preservation lists are also considered “historic” (the date of planting must precede the year 1960 notwithstanding).
To be considered heroic a vineyard must satisfy one of these requirements: have a 30%+ slope gradient, being at 500m altitude (plateaus excluded), being on terraces, being on a small island (I suppose all Italian islands excluding Sardegna and Sicilia) or keeping a traditional form of training (the same referred above).
What is this? Is it something created to help us consumers in identifying the better wines coming from better vineyards?
Sadly the answer is no. As you see there is absolutely no direct quality requirement in the law, no maximum yields, no planting density and nothing related on how the wine should be made in the winery. We may infer that from such old or impervious vineyards the wine is likely to be good, but that would be a bold stretch. This law stems from the ever-going love of us Italians for the past and from the need to identify older and more difficult vineyards that may enjoy financial helps for their maintenance and what kind of helps those may be.
Measures for promoting these vineyards are expected in the future, but at present there are no regulations on how “historic” or “heroic” may appear on a wine label.
They may come, but after all they won’t tell us much about the quality of what’s inside the bottle.