It is September 21st tomorrow and almost by decree that is when the grape harvest (vendemmia) starts. I can find no reason why this is the chosen date but it a tradition down here and a tradition is a tradition and that is that. Now my ” how to grow wine” books spends chapters on choosing the right time to pick your grapes. Every book will tell you this is the most important step in the making of a good wine. You should collect a few grapes and first look at them ( do they look ripe and juicy) smell them ( do they smell good ) then taste them ( are they tart or sweet each grape develops what vintners call varietal flavours don’t you know- no ? well nor did I ). After that taste them again and imagine what the wine will taste like as it comes out of the bottle. Finished yet ? No we have hardly started
So to the lab work and first test the Brix level of the juice of a few grapes you have squeezed,. This is the sugar content of the grape and will tell you the kind of alcohol level you can expect. After that test we move on to test the ph level .Now those of you who didn’t flunk Chemistry like what I did, will know that ph is a measure of free hydrogen ions and is also essential to making good wine. Phew so now we are finished. Not a hope.
You can’t just check a few grapes guys you need to pick a selection around your vineyard and test all those too as they will vary because of shade , sun exposure etc. This allows you to decide where to start picking and where to leave till later.
You begin to see why some clever guy years ago here in Puglia said ” stuff this for a lark let’s pick a date and go for it, how about 21st September”. The wine we make is anyway only to last for this year though some we will bottle to keep for two years so we are not trying to win any gold madals. This is slurping wine for sitting around a table , not too strong so you can get plenty down your throat but tasting good so you will want to.
Today is getting ready day when you wash down the wine making gear, make sure the grape crushing machine still works and is clean, get the big vats ready for the fermentation and put out the big tubs by the rows of vines to be picked which we will put the picked grapes into.
Arcangelo is who I shall be taking orders from.
Busy morning as well as the gasman cometh. We missed him last night being delayed at a small drinks party down in Latiano and so he arrived at 8 a.m. this morning to put 500 litres into the tank ready for winter.
We have both wood heating and gas central heating in the house as we like to be warm . The two systems work independently of each other and have their own radiators . Gas heating during the day and wood heating in the evening and overnight as the fire stays in to heat during the wee small hours.
Gas is expensive here €0.84 cents a litre but we console ourselves with the fact that we bought the condensing boiler (made in Italy by Ferroli) at British Gas for £620 plus £50 shipping and the self same model here in Italy is €2,000 . My plumber tells me we bought the top model which would run the Queen Mary but that’s good I think, better not to have it straining away. He kindly turned up this morning after I phoned him last night to meet the gasman as well. I had also failed to get to the bank for the €423 ( cash only here as always ) and so he paid him and I will pay him back. On days like this I really do love living here.