View RSS Feed

Flinn

The life of a winemaker - the vineyard really ties my life together!

Rate this Entry

I'm quite sure that by now many of you already know about my second life as a winemaker, in particular those who have followed my struggles in the PH&A know well about it, but no one really has the full picture and how much this activity gives value to my life, so I said to myself "Why not making a blog out of it?"--"Because people does not care about your silly hobbies, dude!"--"I don't care, they'll have to swallow it in any case!!".. and so here we are!

First things first, in order to get an idea of what I'm going to talk about, you need to know that I've started to work on my family's vineyard sometimes around 26 years ago, when I was 13, so it's not going to be a short story, you are warned..

How it all become, then? Basically, wine making has been an important activity in my area for ages, even though not the most important business-wise, this because in the past times only nobles could afford to have enough workers to maintain a vineyard and therefore the wine was mostly a luxury good used locally; then, after things started to change around halfway between the two World Wars, more independent farmers begun to have their own vineyards, this because with better agricultural techniques and with the introduction of the breed of trees resistant to the peronospora (also knows as late blight or potato blight) the production capacity increased dramatically, and wine became a fundamental element on the subsistence economy, and for a good reason too: the life of a farmer requires a huge amount of calories to be a productive worker, therefore having a source of calories that could be accessed all the year long, was a big step forward in the quality of the life of these people; in normal conditions meat with fat was very rare and sugars were almost totally absent, apart from those coming from the fruit, which were mostly available only in spring and summer and from those coming from the bread (that's why wheat and flour have always been so important). For this reason the wine became soon very popular as a "food" rather than as a beverage, because of its importance in terms of sustaining the physical activity, which in return was essential for the survival. Don't forget as well that at the time, before the introduction of public water treatment, water in itself could be an issue; it's not like today that you go at the market and buy a crate of 6 bottles for few euros or dollars.. at the time water could be a serious danger for the health, and in order to avoid issues, unless it was proved that the source of water was 100% pure, they had to boil it or to let is settle for a day or two before drinking it.

In this scenario, it becomes easy to understand how much the wine was important, and so you can imagine yourself what owing a vineyard meant for the old generations... the only other agricultural product that surpassed wine on that regard was olive oil, but my area is only very limited apt for the growing of olive trees, so for the people, those who were owing a large vineyard were always "wealthy" dudes...

Fast forward; after the end of WW2, my grandfather came back from being held prisoner in the UK (he participated in the African War and he was held captive after El Alamein) late '46, and the first thing he did after being employed in a local big factory, was to buy some land to build up a vineyard.. in the first following years he planted 4 more vineyards, but it was really too much and later he settled to "only" 3, with a total of approximately 1000 trees around late 70's (when he retired from his regular job). He spent a lot of time, efforts and money in his vineyards, but at the time it was as well an extra source of income: people from the big cities, especially those who moved from countryside, where always eager of purchasing biological products from local farmers, wine included; at the time my grandfather could easily cover all the yearly costs he had for the whole agricultural production with what he earned from wine.

However, things changed over the years.. from one side the direct sale of biological products decreased dramatically, especially after the 21st century begun, form the other weather became very much unpredictable, with a discontinuous alternation of very good and very bad seasons, which of course impacted on our ability to make any business out of it (if one year you have a huge surplus of wine and the year after you have almost note, this will affect the perception customers have of you.. anyone who's familiar with business mechanics will easily understand what I'm referring to, however I'll talk more about the business of wine in the future). I did learn everything from the "old way" of tending a vineyard and making wine during those years, basically I started doing the most tiring jobs to help my grandfather and eventually I ended up being trained to do everything by myself. It was a long and slow learning process, the variables in agriculture are simply infinite and experience plays a central role, but along the way I did not only learn, but I also started to love what I did and the reason why I was doing that...

Life goes on, my grandparents aged and eventually passed away around 2007, which left me completely responsible for the managing of the vineyard (well it actually started a couple of years before, around 2005, when my grandfather became too old to do any more handwork), and that's where my story as winemaker begins..

Comments