Bursting the Bubble? The Hidden Costs and Visible Conflicts behind the Prosecco Wine ‘Miracle’

Stefano Ponte*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Prosecco, a wine that two decades ago was virtually unknown outside of Italy and was considered inferior to other sparkling wines, has become immensely popular. But how did Prosecco producers gear up to meet a booming demand in a highly regulated wine industry such as Italy's? Is this an example of an inclusive growth trajectory? Who is capturing the benefits of this growth and who is bearing its hidden costs? Through the case study of Prosecco, I identify the everyday practices and struggles that underpin the growth of Prosecco in relation to nature, landscape and land use, and examine how the environmental, health and other hidden costs of agro-food value chains shape various layers of visible conflict. The great growth that has characterized the ‘Prosecco miracle’ of the 2010s arises from the reinvention of a geographic origin that was under threat following the 2008 EU wine reform. The ‘discovery’ of a village named Prosecco, located quite far from the original core area of Prosecco production, provided the vector for a large expansion of Prosecco viticulture and wine production, and the emergence of a veritable export bubble. This expansion, supported by key institutions, regulators and the regional political elite, is putting pressure on nature and landscapes and is fomenting local protests against indiscriminate agro-chemical spraying. I find that, while the industry claims to be addressing its key sustainability challenges, a number of conflicts and tensions persist. Ultimately, the case study of Prosecco provides key insights to current debates on the hidden costs of agro-food value chains and their resulting conflicts – confirming that commodity expansion is often linked to processes of appropriation of nature, landscapes and territories, and to the ability of business to capture surplus while externalizing the hidden social, health and environmental costs of production.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Pages (from-to)542-553
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Value chain
  • Hidden costs
  • Conflic
  • Wine
  • Prosecco

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