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Italian Prosecco Leads France's Champagne In This Year's 'Bubbly' Battle

Early export stats suggest that so far this year, Italy's Prosecco variety of sparkling wine is outselling Champagne, its better known - and generally more expensive - French counterpart. A victory for the underdog? Not so fast, says France. Chri

Prosecco on ice (James Cridland)
Prosecco on ice (James Cridland)
Alberto Mattioli

PARIS - With the countdown to 2012 officially on, one question looms large - at least in France and Italy: Prosecco or Champagne? For people outside of Europe, choosing which sparkling wine to toast the new year may seem like a minor issue. For Italians and French it is a matter of national pride.

Going into the holiday season, Prosecco - the sparkling wine produced in northwestern Italy - seems to have the edge this year, according to Coldiretti, Italy's largest farming group. Coldiretti reported that in the first nine months of 2011, 200 million of bottles of Prosecco were exported, versus "only" 192 million of bottles of Champagne.

Italians are already claiming victory for its "underdog" Prosecco, which doesn't enjoy the same global name recognition as its more expensive French counterpart. France's Champagne makers, however, aren't quite ready to concede.

"Italians are crowing over a victory. They say their sparkling wine is exported more than Champagne is," read a recent article in the French newspaper Le Parisien. "But French wine makers dispute these data," the paper added.

"We are comparing two wines that cannot really be compared," says Thibaut le Mailloux, communications director for the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, an organization that involves many of the Champagne industry's major players. "Spumante is an obscure denomination of sparkling wine, while Champagne has a guarantee of origin, and is produced in a specific and unique way," he added.

France is also quick to point out that Coldiretti's export stats don't include the final two months of the year, when according to Le Mailloux, 30% of Champagne business takes place. The battle over the New Year's toast, in other words, is not over yet. France's pricier bubbly might still rise to the ocassion.

Read more from La Stampa

Photo - James Cridland

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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