“Room With A View”
Bongiorno! From Cilento (Chi – len – to) National Park, in the Campania region of Italy, covering 699 square miles of beautiful terrain. I have been here for 2 weeks, and wake up to the most gorgeous view of the mountains meeting the ocean. What do you think of when you think of Italy… pasta? limonchello? gelato? wine? yes.. wine! I was lucky enough to be working on an organic vineyard in Italy during La Vendemmia.
“We Harvested About One Acre Of Vines”
La Vendemmia, or the fall grape harvest, is a time of year when the grapes are at the peak of ripeness, and are ready to be picked. The exact time varies year to year, and La Vendemmia requires many long hours of work and many encounters with spiders. The process also depends on the size of the vineyard, and whether the process is done by hand (as ours was) or by machine. It was amazing to be a part of La Vendemmia, and to actually see how wine is produced! After a long day picking in the fields, hours of turning the grapes and picking the stems out, and pressing them with our feet, we have officially participated in La Vendemmia! Cross that off of the bucket list!
“Fellow Workawayer Michelle From Canada Harvesting!”
For the first two days we picked all the grapes in the acre of vineyard at San Fantino. Sebastiano, our host, said that this is the “big day of the year”! How exciting that we got to participate 🙂 . The grapes cannot be harvested if it is raining, so we needed to get them picked as soon as we could, as they were perfectly ripe.
“The Search For The Perfect Bunch – And Avoiding Spiders Along The Way”
At San Fantino, they harvest a variety of grapes from Adriatic to Cabernet to Merlot, Shiraz, two different varieties of Muscat and more. The wine that is produced is a delicious blend of varietals, though the entire process from beginning (La Vendemmia), to end (a bottle of vino), will take 2 years to complete. Sounds like the perfect excuse to return in the future to try the wine that I pressed with my own two feet!
Throughout the harvest I couldn’t help but munch on the grapes, and they were delicious! They exploded with flavor, and each variety really taste very different. I will forever have a new found appreciation for grapes when I buy them at the supermarket. It is not an easy job to harvest grapes.The long days, the hot sun, and the mammoth size spiders that harvesters need to watch out for really make the task interesting! Don’t get me wrong, it was so much fun, and being part of La Vendemmia was unforgettable, but picking up a grape bunch with a brown spider the size of a reeses cup attached to it does not give me the warm fuzzies!
It took us about 9 hours over two days to cut all of the grape bunches off of the vines. You would think that I would begin to be desensitized to spiders, since I have been encountering them frequently over the last few weeks but, surprisingly I still screamed and jumped at each and every spider that I found in the grape bunches! The first day we harvested 200 kilograms of grapes, and the second day about 500 kilograms. After all, we came in with around 750 kilo’s of grapes!
“Our New Friend Julia From Australia Getting Excited About Grapes!”
The grapes first need to go through this hand cranked machine that gives them an initial “squash”. After each bin of grapes goes through, we remove the crancking machine, and with our hands, reach into the container and remove as many big stems as possible. This is just a first pass, and later on in the process the wine will be filtered many times. The machine takes some muscle to crank, and we all got many chances to use our strength to squash some grapes. It was a fairly slow process, and very hands on!
Next came the fun part – the actual pressing! Here at San Fantino, this is done by foot. Just like you see in the movies! We literally jumped right in and pressed the grapes for about 20 minutes once in the morning, and once at night. By the second day the grapes – juice mixture was up to my mid thighs!
“Day Two – Getting Higher”
It was so special to be in Italy for La Vendemmia, and even more special that I was able to work the harvest. I really have loved getting to see where things that I enjoy, like wine, come from. From the actual care of the vine, to what goes in to the process. This is something that as a consumer I am completely removed from; the process. It takes a lot of work, time, dedication and resources to make a glass of wine from of a bunch of grapes. I think being part of this process will allow me to appreciate every future glass of wine that I have a little bit more. Salute!