Piacenza has always been a land of wine. Evidence of this are the many archaeological finds unearthed in the territory, such as the famous Roman silver goblet, called "Gutturnium", found in the waters of the river Po in 1878; the small bronze statue of a drinking Hercules dated I cent. AD, dug out during excavations at Veleja Romana in 1760; and the well-known "Etruscan liver" (2nd cent. BC), which was found in Settima, near Gossolengo in 1877. This small bronze model of a sheep liver used in divination is covered with inscriptions, including the name of the Etruscan god of wine.
During several excavations, many fossils of vines and grape-seeds were also found, together with stumps and small vessels (paterae) used in libation, which date back to the pre-Roman period.
However, a major influence on vine-growing in Piacenza were the Greeks, who grew vines on low stumps, one next to the other, and pruned them heavily. The same training system of Greek descent can also be found, besides the area of Piacenza, in Piedmont, Liguria, in the south of France, as well as in Spain and Portugal.
According to the figures for the 2005/2006 vintage, vine-growing in the province of Piacenza covers an area of 6,313 hectares of agricultural land, 100% of which located on the hills, at an altitude ranging between 150 and 450 m. The hectares included in the Register of CDO Colli Piacentini are 4.515, that is 71,5% of all lands cultivated with vines.
The number of vine-growing estates amounts to about 3,323. Grape production in the province of Piacenza totals an average of 60,000 tonnes per year (with an average yield of 10 tonnes per hectare), from which approximately 400,000 hectolitres of wine are made. Most vine-growing estates produce their own wines directly, although only part of the grapes are made into wine. Nearly 1,400 estates have wine-making plants and equipment for the production and the bottling of wine. The average yearly production of CDO wines in the last three years is about 226,000 hectolitres, that is to say 56% of the total production in the province. 40% of the local production is sold in bulk and in demijohns; the rest is bottled.
There are two vine-growers' cooperatives in the province and they process almost 16.000 tons of grapes, 30% of the provincial yield.
The Controlled Designation of Origin (CDO) Taking into consideration a number of quality and quantity indicators, the CDO Colli Piacentini ranks 16th out of the 360 Controlled Designations of Origin (2% of the total Italian production) and 1st on a regional level (17% of the total Emilia-Romagna production). Limited yields, compared to other vine-growing areas; vines grown exclusively on hilly sites; the use of modern technology; a good quality-price-image ratio; a wide product range based on CDO wines (about 567% of total production, compared with an average of 20 % in the rest of Italy); all these factors enable producers from Piacenza to be at the forefront of the wine market and to win over an increasing number of consumers every year.
Part of the merit for these excellent results should go to the Consortium for the Protection of CDO wines Colli Piacentini, a non-profit association established in 1986 on the initiative of 19 producers, under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce of Piacenza. Its role is two-fold: on one hand, following a government authorisation granted in February 1992 by the Ministry of Agriculture (now called Ministry of Agricultural Policies), it protects, control and supervises the production of CDO wines; on the other hand, it undertakes to promote the DOC Colli Piacentini wines in different ways Colli Piacentini;
Every year the Consortium carries out checks on member estates, it watches over the enforcement of DOC regulations, and it controls the quality of products and the use of trademarks, making sure that the self-regulating agreements drawn up by the Board of Directors and approved by the General Assembly are fulfilled.
By virtue of an agreement with the local Chamber of Commerce, the Consortium samples wines which comply with the CDO standards and, by virtue of another ad-hoc agreement, has them analysed by a laboratory authorised by the Ministry and accredited by SINAL. The Consortium also acts as a consultant on European and Italian rules and regulations, and it keeps its members informed through the in-house magazine “Terra dei Vini” [Land of Wines]. The final check is carried out on the retail market. The Consortium can carry out all sorts of checks and inspections on CDO wines Colli Piacentini wines at any stage of production, in cooperation with the local Anti-Fraud Squads.
At present, the Consortium is working to obtain a better commercial qualification of CDO wines Colli Piacentini. From 1993 to 1995 the Consortium carried out a major work on the management, organisation and future of the CDO Colli Piacentini, which saw its wines increase from only 3 in the 70s (Gutturnio, Trebbianino and Monterosso) to 11 in the 80s (Gutturnio, Barbera, Bonarda, Trebbianino Val Trebbia, Sauvignon, Valnure, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero, Ortrugo, Monterosso Val d'Arda, Malvasia),up to the current 18 (the above-mentioned wines plus Novello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin Santo, Vin Santo di Vigoleno, Chardonnay, White or Rosé Pinot “Spumante” and the different types of Gutturnio: "Riserva", aged for a statutory period; "Classico", from the central and best area of its region; "Superiore"). Its work has been invaluable to establish the boundaries of certain sub-areas suitable for the production of some DOC wines, as well as to describe the organoleptic, chemical and physical characteristics of such wines.
At the moment the Association numbers 130 member estates, plus the 640 members of the vine-growers' cooperatives, producers of CDO wines Colli Piacentini that represent the majority of local wine-makers, own the majority of land cultivated with CDO vines and produced the majority of certified product. Every year the members of the Consortium as a whole bottle and commercialise 12.000.000 units (with a capacity going from 0,75 to 1,5 litres). Two wines have the main share of the market: Gutturnio and Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, which sell respectively about 5.400.000 units and about 2.000.000 units.. In the last few years, an indigenous white wine has boosted its sales: it’s name is Ortrugo and it sells almost 1.500.000 units. The sales of Barbera are also catching up with almost 650.000 units sold. The king of Colli Piacentini wines is however Gutturnio, sold in three different varieties: sparkling or still, if young; "Superiore", "Riserva" and “Classico” if aged.
The vine-growing and wine-making sector is therefore a leading agricultural force in the province (it covers nearly 25% of agricultural GP), and its products are very much appreciated by consumers all over the world