Gaiole in Chianti, Italy — 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 these 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 delicate Tuscan ecosystem, in addition to provoking hundreds of car accidents a year and damaging the production of their treasured Chianti Classico.
The toll is estimated at $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 they mar 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 Ricasoli, twice the prime minister of Italy and creator of the modern Chianti wine recipe in the 19th century — even he is on the defensive against the onslaught.
“It is not the Chianti we dream of,” he said. “It was time that the region acted.”
Act it did. In February, after years of lamenting, the region approved a law aimed at drastically reducing the number of wild boars and deer over the next 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 and not governed.”