Harvest 2016: The Final Week

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We are (finally!) approaching the end of Harvest 2016, up here in Castelcerino, in the Soave hills. It’s been by far the longest harvest that anyone here at the winery can remember. Since the 1st September, between 3 and 6 people have been hand-harvesting the 15 hectares, meticulously arranging the precious bunches of grapes into small boxes.


Looking Back Over Harvest 2016

The Preparations – starting the yeast pied-de-cuve.

Early September – at the beginning of the harvest, when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Mid-September – at this point I still had plenty of energy and had concretised my place in the team.

End of September – with the end of harvest in sight, I was feeling tired but happy.


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I’m Hanging In There!

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Apparently, it’s the 27th September; however, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. All I know is that we started harvesting on Sept 1st and we’re only just over half-way. I’m now one of the old hands – one of two people left from the original team of pickers.

At the weekend, the team of Polish labourers arrived.

You can say what you like about the EU but in the agricultural sector, free movement of people is essential.

We started harvesting with a team of Italians. Half were friends and family of the winery; the other half were hard-core contadini from the local area. Continue reading

Harvest 2016: the second week

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We’re approaching the end of the second week of harvest here – Day 12, to be precise – and I can’t tell you how exhausting it is.

I fall asleep at 10pm and dream about tractors and trailers until 6am when the alarm goes off and it all starts over again.

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The Turbiana vineyard – the highest vineyard in Soave and completely surrounded by woodland.

The morning routine is so comfortable now that I don’t even need an espresso to locate the same old trousers, trusty straw hat, water bottle and my forbici (secateurs.)

We’ve moved from the guyot-trained vineyards to the more traditional Veronese pergola. It’s gone from being absolutely back-breaking (I even googled “hunchback” at one point) to being an Ironman workout for the shoulders.

The last two weeks have been seriously hot: over 30°C every day. However, today the weather changed dramatically and a heavy thunderstorm meant that we’ve had to take a break from harvesting. I’m now making the most of this overdue “down-time” to get bash away at my computer keyboard in a futile attempt to whittle down my burdensome inbox.

It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the past three weeks. Culturally, linguistically, and also personally, I’ve learnt so much in this short time.

If you’re planning on moving to Italy and/or learning Italian, there are two really essential verbs that I hear all the time here but which I hadn’t seen in the textbook:

spostare: to move something. i.e.  we need to move the pallet – dobbiamo spostare questo bancale

=> spostarsi: to move (or relocate) yourself

buttare: to chuck or throw away. i.e. butta il grappolo – throw away the bunch

I’d always used gettare – because it is more similar to the French word jeter – but buttare is what I hear most commonly here.

There’s so much more that could be said but I’d better sign off this blog post and go back to the cellar to do the final rimontaggio (pump over) of the day.

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Tasting wines just off the press. Photo to prove that not every wine tasting has a sexy or idyllic setting.

 

Harvest 2016: the first week

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Harvesting started last week here in Soave. We’re not actually picking the garganega (the emblematic grape variety here) for at least another ten days but the chardonnay, merlot and trebbiano is done.

If you were wondering what life is like here at the winery, here is a run-through of my day today:

08.00 – I’ve just wolfed down breakfast, which, this morning, consisted of just a coffee and a couple of biscuits. My boots are on and my water bottle has been refilled; I’m ready to jump on the tractor and head out to the vineyard. Normally we start at 7am, but last night we got home at 1am (after the Soave Versus tasting in Verona) and such an early wake-up call would have been very difficult.

Until 13.00, there’s a team of five of us in the vineyards picking the last of the chardonnay grapes. There’s an experienced Polish guy, a local Italian, winemaker Filippo and his nephew (on work experience) and myself. The banter back and forth doesn’t stop. Continue reading

The Italian Job

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It’s been a remarkably busy week. It’s the case for many people across Europe as they come back from holidays and go back to their office jobs. I always quite like this time of year because it’s full of good energy and many new projects are undertaken.

It’s a stressful week if you’re a winemaker because you’re carefully watching the weather and judging when to start the grape harvest. 2016 has been a disastrous year in France and I think most vignerons are just happy to have made it to the finish line. In Italy, however, it’s been a very hot and dry summer and it’s shaping up to be one of the best vintages of the decade.

For me personally, it was the week that I finally packed up the car and rode off into the sunset…

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Well… except, in my case, riding off into the sunset means crossing the border between France and Italy. Continue reading