Cosechando uvas del viñedo de Il Bagolaro para la vendimia
The Italian word for the grape harvest and wine-making process is vendemmia, very similar to the Spanish word vendimia. In Cafayate, Argentina I participated in a vendimia, see posts under Cafayate. I actually never planned to participate in another grape harvest here in Italy, but it was just my luck that Il Bagolaro celebrated their first vendemmia during my stay. Their vineyard is huge, but very young. It was planted only 4 years ago and it takes that long for the plant to begin producing grapes.
Everyone at Il Bagolaro was excited for the big event. They invited their family and friends and we spent an entire day preparing a feast of Sicilian dishes, like zucca al’agrodolce and caponata. We even slaughtered one of our goats to serve to the guests! We were all prepared for an intense, never-ending work day.
At 8 in the morning we hiked up to the vineyard and started harvesting. By 10:30 in the morning we had picked all the grapes there were to pick! Around 300 kilos, much less than we had expected. Some folks seemed to be a little upset that the plants had not produced more. I, on the other hand, was thankful! Harvesting is the easiest part of the vendemmia, destemming is the most monotonous and drawn out.
Los musicos que nos entretenian durante la vendimia con musica típica Siciliana
We got to work destemming all the grapes by hand, and thankfully, by this time more people had arrived. We ended up destemming the grapes in about an hour and a half. Excellent! The next vendemmia duty is fun and easy: pressing, by foot! At first, one little girl was lowered in to the
tub, eventually everyone hopped in! One of the other WWOOFers beat his tambourine in time with a friend who played Sicilian folkloric music on his soprano sax. Both in Argentina and in Italy when grapes are pressed by foot the custom is to dance to music. A beautiful tradition. We ended up producing about 150 liters of juice that is currently fermenting and will be enjoyed next year.
pisamos la uva a pie!
Todos los amigos y familiares que nos ayudaron con la vendimia
We ate a glorious lunch outside and I was happy that the day’s work had gone by smoothly. Little did I know, that was only day one of the vendemmia! Just because there were no more grapes on the property didn’t mean we couldn’t acquire more. That week we ended up repeating this same process twice with three times the amount of grapes minus all the extra help from family and friends. Both other times we harvested from abandoned vineyards where weeds often grew taller than the grape vines! By the end of the week I was so sick of grapes. My fingers are still stained black from the pigment in the grape skins! But it was very enjoyable work and I’m happy to have been able to participate in such an important event for Il Bagolaro.
Mostarda Siciliana: un caramelo que se hace con jugo de uva, maizena, almendras y cenizas de las ramas de la planta de uva. Es rico, pero un poco extraño.
We actually ended up making much more than just wine with the grapes. We juiced one batch and bottled 225 liters delicious, bright red grape juice. We also set some grape juice aside and made
mostarda, which is not at all related to mustard! Mostarda is a candy-like confection made only during the vendemmia because it must be made with freshly pressed grape juice. The process is strange, as is the appearance of the end result, but it’s quite delicious. Grape juice is boiled with ash from burned grape vines (yup, ash is an ingredient in the recipe!). This dark brew is left to sit for a night and carefully strained the next day. Then the dark liquid is boiled once again, this time with the addition of a thickener like cornstarch, and lastly, toasted almonds, ground cloves, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla are mixed in. Once the candy has thickened it is usually poured into molds to cool, or in our case, into tea cups. The candy ends up being flexible like gelatin and can be stored for weeks and even months, getting tougher as time goes by. I liked it best warm, scooped right from the sides of the hot pan. It tastes like a smoky pudding with almonds. Indeed, an acquired taste for some!
Too bad I wasn’t able to taste the wine I helped make…I’ll just have to come back to Sicily next year!