The vendemmia (grape harvest) this year is reckoned to be a good one in our area of the Luccan hills. The wet start to June may have been a blessing after all and there was certainly plenty of sunshine afterwards! A couple of days of heavy rain a week ago did little to spoil the grape and it was all go at a friend’s vineyard the other day.
The men were picking and transporting the juicy products of what virtually defines the Mediterranean character. The women were stalking. (Not us, I hesitate to say but removing the grapes from their stalks, ready for the mulching machine which in this case was a piece of industrial archaeology manually driven as traditionally done).
I remember when rather young I was taken on holiday with my parents to Italy. I was particularly sad to return to a drizzly and grey UK. ‘Why does everyone look so glum in Britain after Italy?’ I asked in my childish philosophy. Before they could answer me I replied to myself ‘it must be the wine they have over there!.
Despite political and government strictures, every part of the world has their own consciousness expanding (or liberating?) products. Sadhus in India wouldn’t quite be sadhus without their ganja, South American Indians wouldn’t be quite the same with their coca leaves, Britain wouldn’t be Britain without its warm beers, and Italy certainly wouldn’t be Italy without its vino.
In all cases there is a social etiquette regarding these godly gifts. Like the ambrosia of ancient gods these substances should be taken in in company and in moderation. Italians seem to know the exact balance between enlightened joviality and drunken disorder – something certain northern European nations could learn from.
Anyway, enough of moralizing. La vendemmia is a great social event and, with a fine day before us, we started in the cool September morning gradually heating up to a lunchtime climax when the work was virtually finished. Just the time to gather round the table, wipe off the sweat and de-hydrate with, of course, a glass of vino which in my friend’s vineyard has improved by leaps and bounds since he first started on his venture of creating the human equivalent of heavenly drink not those too many years ago.
PS I hope you are making your elderberry wine in those parts of Europe not blest by the grape!