Harvest time in the vineyards brings to mind an old tradition of feet squelching into grapes, juices oozing, mushy and mulching, in an old cellar that reeks of wine enough to inebriate while stomping.
And while this is no longer the case, it’s still an arduous job, and the old cellars are still headily intoxicating at this time of year.
At the Cinque Terre the harvesting started early September and most of it was finished in 3 weeks with everyone in the community giving a hand, either in the vineyards or behind the scenes, emptying crates and providing lunches for the workers. Many still have vines over trellising (the old tradition) to expose grapes to more sunshine and protect them from the strong wind, which means sitting or crouching to pick. Sounds fun, and was, when I took some tourists to help out, but back breaking when the whole vineyard needs to be harvested in this way.
The mono rail is the saviour, taking the crated grapes back up or down hill to the closest roadway. From there locals send their grapes to the Agrarian Cooperative for processing. A far cry from carrying baskets on shoulders along the terraces.
Around my home area and Chianti the harvesting started later and is still going on. Many of the vines are still dripping with grapes, bathed in sunshine. their purple hue already boasting a great wine to come. I find it reassuring to be blocked behind a tractor on the local road, a sense of belonging to an agricultural community.
It has been a good year this year in both regions. The long hot Summer has been favorable, perhaps a little to dry so the quantity will be less but a sigh of relief after last year. 2014 was blighted with a long wet Spring and Summer and many of the grapes rotted away, particularly in the 5 Terre so it was a very bad season.
If you plan to be over around grape harvest time in Tuscany, think about giving a hand, it’s a great opportunity to feel part of the place and a fun experience. Toscana go website offers a list of places to stay where you can also participate in the harvest. If you really want to go up market you can pay around €262 to Sting to harvest on his property, although there is no guarantee he will sing while you work, or even after!?!
And of course if you are in the Cinque Terre area contact Save Vernazza to give a hand to the locals.
And indulging in the local ‘Schiacciata al ‘Uva’ flat bread with grapes! Yum yum!