Any wine region surrounded by forested land has to cope with the damage wrought by wild boars (sometimes known as feral pigs). The critters not only eat grapes; they rip up vines more efficiently than most tractors. Growers try fencing to keep them out, loud noises to scare them away, and guns and ammo to clean house once and for all.
In Tuscany, the preferred method for controlling the pesky cinghiale is cooking and eating them, preferably in a richly flavored , braised in juniper berries. It’s an age-old win-win (well, except for the boar): fewer vineyard pests, happier humans.
Our hosts at Castello di Volpaia told us a cautionary tale about this form of boar control gone wrong. Two winery employees were racing along one of the area’s many stretches of twisty road when they smacked into an errant boar on the road, knocking if flat into the ditch on the side. Rather than feeling bad for the beast, their immediate thought was, “They hoisted the fallen porker into the back of their van and drove off, salivating. ”
A few turns later, the boar sprang back into action; it had apparently just been stunned, not done in. It began ripping up the upholstery and charging toward the front seat, mad as hell. They stopped the car, jumped out of harm’s way, and closed the doors—which simply allowed the boar to loot and pillage the interior with unfettered abandon. Finally they let it out one of the doors, stayed out of the way, and watched it charge back into the brush, squealing as it went. They drove on to the winery, more carefully now, and no doubt restored their nerves over a glass or two of well-aged Chianti Classico Riserva.
Sometimes the critters are so plentiful that taking them out one by one isn’t sufficient—some method has to be found to drive them away en masse, at least over the hill to the next vineyard. By far the most creative method we encountered was explained to us by the vineyard manager at Castello di Meleto. After trying all the usual techniques, he rigged up audio speakers in the vineyards and through them piped the heavenly sounds of Radio Maria, Italy’s 24/7 devotional station. He could not say whether the Virgin herself put in an appearance among the vines, but the four-footed foes all high-tailed it onto the adjoining property. This immaculate conception worked divinely; Meleto has ever since been a boar-free zone.