The Italian wine-producing zone that includes Medford's sister city, Alba, has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
The designation of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato zones came last Sunday at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, of the U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The zones are in the Piedmont region of Italy, with Alba the principal city of the Langhe zone.
According to the UNESCO website, the region's connection to winemaking stretches back to at least the 5th century B.C., with vine pollen from that era discovered in the area.
The website notes, " ... Piedmont was a place of contact and trade between the Etruscans and the Celts; Etruscan and Celtic words, particularly wine-related ones, are still found in the local dialect. During the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder mentions the Piedmont region as being one of the most favourable for growing vines in ancient Italy; Strabo mentions its barrels."
The UNESCO designation is intended to help protect natural and cultural sites. There are more than 1,000 designated World Heritage sites around the globe. U.S. sites include Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and the state and national redwood parks in Northern California.