September is the month when most contadini make their wine for the following year. Although some still tend their own vines, owing to the fastidious nature of growing them, many visit commercial vineyards to buy grapes.
Annoyingly there were once 800 vines on our land but these were ripped out by the previous owners father around 20-years ago as they were too much work.
This has meant that we get to join the merry band of contadini filling the roads with their Ape’s, vans and trailers groaning under the weight of several hundred kilos of grapes.
We bought a second-hand wine press the first year we were here and under the tutelage of the irrepressible Angelo we made a drinkable but decidedly pear-tasting wine using the traditional foot-stomping method.
Having sampled all of our neighbours wine, we decided we liked that made by Pasquale and his son Thomaso the best, so we have followed their instruction ever since and have learnt how to make surprisingly quaffable wine.
Normally we head off at around 5.30am with Pasquale’s extended family to a vineyard in a neighbouring town. As we didn’t have the cash when our neighbours picked grapes last week, however, we had to wait until yesterday to pick ours. I forgot my camera yesterday though, so you’ll have to make do with pictures from a couple of years ago.
Thanks to long hot summers winemaking in Italy is a relatively simple affair and there’s no need to add chemicals, water, sugar, nor yeast. The grapes we pick are Montepulciano – which is normally branded up as ‘di Abruzzo’. It makes a smoky-flavoured, robust red. As there’s nothing added other than grapes, moreover, it produces a strong yet, hangover-free wine. In the interest of science, I’ve put this to the test many times and can confirm it gets you very drunk indeed, but neither of us has suffered unduly the next day.
We picked around 250 kilos of grapes, which will make about 160 litres of wine. We’re debating whether this will be enough for the year and whether we should pick some more at the weekend.
Decent red wine is relatively cheap in Puglia. You can pick up quaffable wine for just €1.20 a litre in most enotecas, so long as you provide the bottles for them to fill. By making it at home it works out at about 60cents a litre; so it’s not only cheaper but, in my opinion, better as you can guarantee no nasties have been added.
Following a leisurely drive back home with a trailer-load of grapes, Jeremy and a friend ran bunches of grapes through the carrollo (a mechanical version of the foot stomping method given to us by a friendly neighbour who now has an electric version) which squishes them into a giant bucket.
We then pulled out the majority of stalks as they make the wine too acidic. The remaining liquid stays in the bucket, covered with netting to protect it from fruit flies, for several days for primary fermentation. While in the bucket the grapes get a good stir a few times a day to keep the grapes submerged to ensure a dark red coloured wine.
Then the grapes go through the winepress and into the demijohns, for secondary fermentation.
The wine will stay in the demijohns until the Festa di San Martino on November 15th (or thereabouts depending on humidity conditions) when the wine will get transferred into different demijohns.
The wind plays a major role in when you transfer the wine. The sirocco is humid and comes laden with sand so it’s recommended you transfer wine when the cleaner and colder tramontana is blowing from the north.
The wine will need racking off two further times before bottling and drinking sometime around the end of March.