The Harvest millennial rituals

“Wine is one of the greatest signs of civilization in the world,” said Hernest Hemingway. Already Omero tells us about the wine, symbol of social prestige, that the Greeks drank for breakfast, lunch and dinner; present in banquets as in oaths, in funeral rites as in religious ceremonies. Drinking wine for the Greeks also represented the seal of the collective rite and of the community dimension to which they were very sensitive, handed down to the present day. Even in ancient Rome there was a similar diffusion and importance: the edict of the emperor Domitian, in 90 AD, imposed on the peasants to uproot half the vines due to overproduction present throughout the Italian peninsula. The harvest is all this: nature, charm, history, rituality, work, care of the territory. There is no doubt that today it is rare to see that collective work in the vineyards where relatives and friends once gathered, and which ended celebrating with a rich banquet. That magnificent rural dimension of fatigue and satisfaction can be found in a few small realities. On the other hand, where the surfaces are very large, dedicated to an “industrial” production, it is clear that the harvest is made almost exclusively mechanically, but this does not remove results from quality. Three are essentially the right periods for the harvest: August-September, September-October, and October-November for late-ripening grapes. There are also three main stages of processing: harvesting, crushing and fermentation. The grapes must be harvested at the precise moment, before they dry up and ruin the vineyard. As we said before, the difference between “industrial” crops and very limited crops is evident: in the former there is a series of on-the-spot checks to decide when the harvest should begin, while in small vineyards the calculations are based on experience or on the combination of hypotheses, perhaps also through a comparison of opinions between family and friends. However, what can be found in both types of processing that revolves around the harvest is the small amount of necessary tools: normally enough sharp garden shears, or a small knife, a basket, a bin, a crusher. And of course the large stainless steel tanks where the precious liquid is stored. The harvested grapes are placed in small wicker baskets: this is a passage that requires extreme delicacy. The baskets are then emptied into the plastic bins, but also this step requires kindness because you can not risk to break the grapes, if you do not want to attend a deleterious premature fermentation. Furthermore, to avoid the latter, the bunches must be dry. The grapes placed in the bins are then moved to other containers to be beaten with a wooden rod: this is the right time to start the fermentation. Breaking the husk of the grapes is, perhaps, the most magical moment because the sugars that come out feed the yeasts that will turn the juice into wine. When the product is finished inside the large stainless steel vats and the yeasts have used the sugar and therefore the fermentation process is finished, the wine is left to rest: typically this happens in small oak barrels (barriques) which give the wine a soft and rounded taste thanks to the fact that the aromas of the wood are more easily released in these small spaces. As a consequence, the wood and the aromas that will be felt on the palate will be all the more intense the longer the period of maturation and aging will have been. We can conclude with the words of Leonardo da Vinci when he affirmed and believed that “a lot of happiness is to the men who are born where good wines are found”.

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