The deep values of the Italian harvest : it’s Vendemmia time!

The harvest season is what I miss the most from my childhood in Italy. Harvesting in the vineyard with all my family, under the instructions of my Grandpa (the wise wine grower) is something that has been imprinted in my DNA and maybe is the reason why, after all, I chose this carrer path, to tell wine stories and to work in the wine business.

This year I asked to the Italian wine producers to share with me highlights, videos and images of the harvest days and through them (and my dearest memories) I will show what a true Italian harvest looks like. The aim of this post is to make you feel part of the wine making process, of the families behind the wineries, of the thousands of workers’ lives, whose efforts transform fruits into the mysterious nectar you have in your glass. I assure you that that wine will taste better if closing your eyes you can picture faces, places, moments…

So, buckle up and come with me…

WHEN HARVEST IS FAMILY…

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My Granma, Pasqualina, is 90 years old, here she is, harvesting in my family’s vineyards close to Bergamo, Italy.
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My dad, Paolo and its labrador, Birba, carrying the Merlot grapes in the cellar for pressing

As I mentioned, the first word that pops up in my mind for harvest time is FAMILY. Most of the Italian wineries are family owned businesses and even if they became bigger and increased the production, hiring employee and workers, that sense of family is never lost along the path.

It is the moment when the elders transfer their knowledge and their skills to the young generation and when the little ones fell empowered, recognised and seen as the future of the family. These harvest days are so important for the children: they can see the hard work of their parents, they learn team work, they take part to the emotional stress of the vintage outcome… It has been for me the best life school ever!

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From Ca di Rajo winery, Treviso, Italy
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Little winegrowers… Ca di Rajo, Treviso, Italy

WHEN HARVEST IS TEAM WORK

There is no boss, no superior, no hierarchy in the vineyards during harvest: there is one goal and one team. The wine producer and owner often takes part to the harvest operations. The goal is to select and harvest only the best grapes and to carry them safely and quickly to the press. The harvesters need to be focused and determined to play their important role for the quality of the juice and thence the quality of the wine.

Motivational moments before working in the vineyards and relax time after an exhausting day are the best friendships enhancers you can imagine.

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Velenosi Winery, Le Marche: in the center there is Angela Velenosi, owner and founder
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Velenosi Winery, Le Marche
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Cantele Winery, Salento, Puglia. Paolo Cantele, owner and founder takes a selfie with the harvest crew before starting operations.

WHEN HARVEST IS TENSION AND PATIENCE

The right time is everything. The decision about when is time to harvest is crucial for each vintage. The measurements days are the most stressful: not only the wine makers have to continually check the sugar and acidity levels, taking samples from the vineyards, but they have to keep an eye on the weather forecast and praying for no rain and storms when the harvest time is declared.

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Poderi del Castello Winery: checking Brix (sugar levels)
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Checking PH at Le Sode di Sant’Angelo winery, Montebamboli, Tuscany
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Ripe Chardonnay berry

WHEN HARVEST IS SATISFACTION

And then, finally, the die is cast and the grapes needs to be carried to the cellar quickly, with no skin damages, and intact. This because oxidation is the number one enemy at this point of the wine making process: it can cause unwanted fermentation and unchangeable defects in the wine. Once at the winery, the grapes are checked again and usually undergo a second hand selection.

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Tenute Emera, use of spray ice to keep the grapes cool and preventing unwanted spontaneous fermentation
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Hand selection of the grapes at Villa Crespi, Franciacorta
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The joy of Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, the owner of Ricci Curbasto winery, in front of the harvest ready to be pressed
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Mr. Angelo at Cristo di Campobello winery, checking carefully on the grapes…

WHEN HARVEST IS HARD WORK BUT ALSO FUN

To conclude this post, here some pictures of happy wine growers during hard working days… When I am being asked why do I tell wine stories, why did I choose this job, I have no doubts in answering that I have rarely (maybe never) met a sad person in this business. The wine producers struggle, work hard, but they are always smiling. This is a job you choose for passion and vocation, not to become rich. And here they are, sweating and smiling! Happy harvest Italy, buona vendemmia!

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Venica & Venica winery, Collio, Friuli
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Terre del Sole winery, Pantelleria, Sicily
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Manlio Manganaro, Marsala, Sicily

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