The crush is in full swing here in Manduria. Today we picked grapes for the harvest. We learned so much about grapes and wine today my head is spinning (okay so those of you who know Dick well can imagine what his comments were to that). Anyway, after breakfast at a cafe we took off for the vineyards. If you think the roads in Oregon are bad, I beg to differ. Potholes and bad road patches are the good roads. I’m not saying this didn’t add to our experience, I’m just saying I won’t be complaining about the roads when we return home.
Today they were picking San Genovese and Cab Sauvignon grapes in the field we visited. These grapes picked right off the vine tasted really sweet, like a nice red grape (okay, that’s what they are before squeezed – LOL). Antimo taught us how to cut the grapes so we don’t cut any fingers off. The local picking crew was very nice and tolerated how slow we were and just worked around us. We would move down the field and within minutes the regulars were caught up with us and had moved on. Just so you know, we will not be changing careers to grape pickers anytime soon.
Antimo had a nice snack prepared for us, coffee, juice his mother made, pucci with olive and bacon, and foccia with meat and tomatoes – just in case we would faint away from hunger from not eating every 2 hours. We sat down for this snack under the arbor of the grapes. The table was decked out with a tablecloth and the food and drinks were set up like something you would see in a movie. So cute and picturesque. It was wonderful.
Now you have to know that as Dick was picking the grapes, he would say, “vintage 9:30”, a row away it would be “vintage 9:35” OMG! These fields were very interesting because some were planted natural – just plants next to each other, no supports of any kind, some were trellised like an arbor, some were espalier on wires or like they do with some of the vines in Oregon and California. Most of these fields had to be picked by hand because you could not get large equipment down through the rows.
Next we went to the winery where all these grapes were going to be processed. It is a co-op but on a very large scale compared to some I’ve seen in Oregon. The original building that the winery now uses for tastings, and purchasing wine has cement rooms below that the farmers could use to ferment their grapes years ago. You would drop the grape juice down a hole in the floor (these rooms were originally sealed off from each other). I can’t imagine this large facility with holes in the floor about every 10-12 feet. Hopefully you had your “hole” well marked for your family grape storage. There are about 45 of these rooms, 35 of which they opened up so you could go from room to room and turned them into a museum. Each room held different artifacts from earlier times. The walls were sometimes very red, which represented the type of wine it held. Each of these rooms when used for wine storage held 11,000 gallons. Dick figured he could have 33,000 gallons if he converted our 3-car garage. Heaven help me!
Back upstairs to the tasting room, you could taste the different varietals just like any winery. Or you could go to the bulk pumps and fill your gallons from any of these pumps. You may remember we saw something similar in Tuscany a few years ago. However, these really look like gas pumps. (see pic below) Well, you haven’t had a complete wine experience until you’ve used the wine vat bathroom. We saw these in Sicily being used for wine, here they have turned some of them into storage and one was a toilet. How many of you can say you’ve tinkled in a cement wine vat? Maybe after a few bottles of wine you may think you have – ha ha.
We returned to town and Antimo’s mother was ready to show me how to make a special kind of pasta from this area – pizzarieddi. It is a simple mixture of flour and water, kneading the dough, and then rolling into tube. Then cut off small bits of the dough and roll it on a metal stick (much like a knitting needle). I did something similar in Sicily and was much better at it then here. I did such a great job that after Anna was done teaching me this method, she rolled up the dough I had made, and was going to feed it to the chickens. Thank goodness we weren’t eating it. Luckily she had already prepared some for our lunch, along with grilled eggplant and braciole (rolled up meat).
Antimo’s parents gave us the grand tour of their home in Manduria. While the main house in on one floor, the property has a basement where you could cure cheese and meats and an upper level that
had a large outside patio with storage rooms that currently housed their latest crop of tomatoes.
There are a few barking dogs around town, really nothing more than any town would have. However, just as Dick was nodding off to sleep for an afternoon nap they started barking about something. He shot up in bed and said, “that *#&$% dog is barking in dialect.”
Tonight we are going to join John and Debbie for a gala opening event of a massuria. John and Debbie are Portlanders here in Manduria at the same time we are. We all took Italian lessons at the same time and will be sharing a few experiences while we are here together. We are dressing up in our finest tennis shoes and clean jeans tonight, well, actually grabbing the best we have to wear for this event. I’ll even clean out the branches and bits of grapes from my hair for the evening.
We had a little time to kill before the evenings event so we walked around the town. This was about 5:30-6:00 pm. Well as you know the shops close between 2:00and 5:00, however, here it is a guessing game when the shops will reopen for the night. Or, in other words, you have to consider Italian time. So the sign on the shop may say they are re-opening at 4:30 but at 6:00 pm it is still closed. When we returned to the town that evening around midnight everything was open, the streets were busy with people – in fact we couldn’t find a place to park near a gelato store – and it was midnight!
These are the typical vases used to collect wine from the winery – they are quite large – some standing 3-4 feet high.
Dick with Antimo at the wine dispensing machines.
One of the horses in the barn.
Evening event at massuria. What a surprise. This massuria is a horse farm. They have stables and riding ring and all that goes along with that. So here we are all dressed up and before we go into the building, we are walked down this dirt road to the stables. They had about 8 or 10 horses, all beautiful animals. One of these horses even had his own goat in his stall to keep him company. The event was good, the facility was beautiful. I’m shocked at how well restored these buildings are for farm properties. As you will see from the picture below all the chairs at the tables are faced slightly out. This is to invite you to sit down. And never are you to leave your chair tucked into the table as we do in the US. This means you didn’t enjoy your meal. We learned this from another guest from Holland. They brought in a chef from Rome for this event. The evening started with wine (of course). They weren’t quite organized with their appetizers as they didn’t put them on a tray and bring them around, nor did they serve them from the buffet. We weren’t quite sure what to do and neither did their staff. Learning curve for everyone at this new venue. After standing for what seemed like a long time, we decided to sit down. Once we decided to stay for dinner, then they served the appetizers. Puzzling. All around a nice evening.
Toilette at the winery
Beautiful grape arbors