Grape harvest in Puglia

Grape harvest in Puglia

The grape harvest in Puglia is still a family affair. Both housewives and lawyers lend a hand during the vendemmia grape harvest in Puglia.

They started work at four in the morning and now their backs ache, feet burn and fingers are red and sore from grape juice and scratches. Still, the two families picking grapes in the scorching Puglian sun keep their spirits high. There’s even time for a laugh and a joke, while the body moves on like a beautifully tanned Duracell Bunny.

Grape-harvest-in-Puglia2-copy Grape harvest in Puglia

We are in a vineyard owned by Carlo Schiavoni on the first day of the Primitivo harvest in late august 2012. The Bari lawyer retains a close attachment to the area around Manduria, where his family has lived for generations, and every year he goes back to supervise the harvest. After a very long and very hot summer, racimothe yield and quality of the grapes look promising, and Mr. Schiavoni inspects the clusters and maturity with satisfaction.

–        We had a little rain a couple of weeks ago, and that generated some new  and tender shoots that are susceptible to vermin attacks, but the rain came late in the season, so the damage is limited, he explains while we walk the red soil between straight rows of 180 cm tall vines.

Here and there odd clusters of immature grapes have been left by the harvest team, and they will probably remain on the vines until they have turned into raisins. The economy of winemaking does not allow for a second picking, and unlike some of the other winemakers in the area Mr. Schiavoni does not experiment with ‘rasinate’ wines made from dried and shriveled grapes.

Grape-harvest-in-Puglia3-copy Grape harvest in Puglia

Instead he has delegated the cultivation to Pasquale Brunetti, who is “the best vine farmer around”.  Pasquale Brunetti is also responsible for the harvest and the experienced team of six pickers consisting mainly of family and friends. Wives and daughters select and cut off mature grape clusters, while the two men empty the buckets and do the heavy lifting. It’s a highly skilled and organised process practiced for about two weeks a year. After about 10 days the grape harvest in this part of Puglia is over and the six vineyard workers can go back to their ordinary lives as farmers, housewives, student and newly graduated lawyer.

Italian Notes was a guest of CPVini in Manduria but all opinions and mistakes are my own.

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11 replies
  1. Leigh
    Leigh says:

    Harvesting grapes in Italy has romantic connotations in my mind even though I know it’s back breaking work. Still I’d like to help out one day – and then sample the product down the road from my labours.

    Reply
  2. Mary @ The World Is A Book
    Mary @ The World Is A Book says:

    What a great family tradition! I love how they seem to enjoy these hard tasks despite the aches and pains. I’ve always wanted to pick grapes or do the stomping on grapes. It would be a great experience just to watch them work and seeing that whole process.

    Reply
  3. Steve
    Steve says:

    Unlike our friends, I have no desire to get up early and go pick grapes in Italy. I’ve helped out with a grape harvest where I live, and it’s a phenomenal amount of work. I’m very impressed that they can get this done with just six pickers.

    Reply
  4. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    Impressive. And would be fun to join in, for a few hours. But year after year… makes me wonder why there isn’t more modern/less back-breaking methods these days, methods that are still careful with the grapes…?

    Reply
  5. Stefania
    Stefania says:

    I am the daughter of the entrepreneur that you see in the movie. The cultivation of wine grapes is a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for many years … it’s hard, but do it with the whole family is also fun …. but the fatigue you feel when you hear about everything passes of the goodness of primitive Manduria all over the world!

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi Stefania – It was obvious that you were enjoying yourselves as a family in spite of the hard work. And we are ever so grateful to you and your family for sharing the experience and for the great Primitivo di Manduria you’ve help to produce.

      Reply

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