Today is the International Day for Monuments and Sites, a milestone that encourages citizens of the world to explore UNESCO World Heritage sites. The 21-country World Heritage Committee gathers annually to determine whether a property has earned a designation due to “Outstanding Universal Value” (OUV) — a status that defines the place as significant to all of humanity of both present and future generations.
“There is more to UNESCO World Heritage sites than meets the eye. We must remember that these extraordinary places carry deep meanings for communities and beyond – urban centers layered with history, monuments embodying experiences of generations past, ancestral homes, and hotspots for biodiversity,” according to UNESCO. “The protection of World Heritage, therefore, contributes to the remembrance of who we were and the inspiration for who we want to become.”
These monuments and sites are not guaranteed to be permanent — in fact, UNESCO research estimates that 60% of World Heritage forests are threatened by climate change-related events. This research suggests that glaciers in one-third of World Heritage sites will have vanished by 2050.
The wine world, being both an agricultural and cultural endeavor, is aware of the threats to its identity and production in the face of change. Climatic shifts, geopolitical influences, infrastructure changes, labor shortages, and many other factors contribute to a rather fluid framework for viticulture.
Some of today’s most respected wine-producing regions, beloved by enthusiasts around the world, also have UNESCO World Heritage designations. There are dozens of wine-producing places that are recognized as holing Outstanding Universal Value, some elevated specifically due to viticultural presence. Before taking your next trip, search the list and determine if one of these treasures will be on your route. Only a tiny taste, here are five of these zones that you can visit now. Notice the balance between human know-how and the contribution of nature to uphold a superior growing environment.
Champagne Hillsides, Houses, and Cellars
Chosen for exhibiting evidence of the specialized artisan activity that presents an agro-industrial enterprise, the world’s most famous sparkling wine region earned the World Heritage designation in 2015. “These three components – the supply basin formed by the historic hillsides, the production sites (with their underground cellars), and the sales and distribution centers (the Champagne Houses) – illustrate the entire champagne production process,” according to the list entry for Champagne.
The Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy
Since the Middle Ages, people have acknowledged that the environment of Bourgogne (Burgundy) vineyards is exceptional. Not only is the terroir unique, according to UNESCO, but the human influence on cultivation is also significant. “Firstly, the vineyards and associated production units including villages and the town of Beaune, which together represent the commercial dimension of the production system,” states the list entry for Bourgogne. “The second part includes the historic center of Dijon, which embodies the political regulatory impetus that gave birth to the climats system.” The climat is not only the conditions of the vineyard plot but also the human contribution of discovery and cultivation.
Wachau Cultural Landscape
Fans of Austrian wine are dedicated to Wachau, a terraced microclimate associated with impressive, single-vineyard gems. “The Wachau is a stretch of the Danube Valley between Melk and Krems, a landscape of high visual quality,” according to UNESCO. “It preserves in an intact and visible form many traces — in terms of architecture, (monasteries, castles, ruins), urban design, (towns and villages), and agricultural use, principally for the cultivation of vines — of its evolution since prehistoric times.”
The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
If there’s one spot in France that brings stately châteaux to mind, it’s the Loire Valley, and thanks to an ancestral dedication to this beautiful architecture, it’s like nothing else in the world. “The Loire Valley is an outstanding cultural landscape of great beauty, containing historic towns and villages, great architectural monuments (the châteaux), and cultivated lands formed by many centuries of interaction between their population and the physical environment, primarily the river Loire itself,” according to UNESCO.
Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands
One of the most photogenic spots in Italy, the lands and islands of Liguria combine diamond-sea sparkles and breathtaking slopes (especially for those trying to scale them). “The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value,” according to UNESCO. “The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.”