Friday, July 7, 2017
Wine produced in Italy is consumed all over the world, with Tuscany’s Chianti region one of the most well-known varieties of Italian wine. The grape-growing region is located not too far from Florence, so if you are looking for homes for sale in Tuscany, it will be easy to take a wine-tasting tour to find your favorite vineyard. Better yet, you just might find yourself fortunate enough to participate in the annual vendemmia, or grape harvest. It happens only once a year, but it is the adventure of a lifetime.
Regular residents of Florence, whether renters or homeowners, anticipate autumn for its ritual celebration of the harvest of grapes and olives that go into producing two of the regions biggest exports: wine and olive oil. In Chianti, many agricultural estates have land devoted to both crops. Whereas olives are sometimes removed from their trees by mechanical means, it is still manual labor that is responsible for separating and selecting the grapes that will become wine.
Indeed, one of the reasons the vendemmia is such an important ritual is that it represents a continuity of work that has been done on the land for centuries. Technology has changed a lot of aspects of life, even in rural Chianti, but there is no machine that can replace the work done by human hands when they collect the fruit of the vine. And even if machines could pluck the grapes, it takes trained people to select the best ones and removed inferior ones from the collection.
At some facilities, grape growers invite seasonal workers, including tourists, to help with the collection. In this part of Italy, the typical time is mid to late September, although it can slightly vary year to year based on weather and other environmental factors. If you are enjoying a short term rental in Florence during the autumn months, you can experience the vendemmia in Chianti.
It is not boring work; to reward the labor of the harvesters, many vineyards organize art exhibits, musical performances and food tastings. Some producers invite visitors free of charge while others request a nominal fee. If you do not want to get your hands dirty, the Rocca Della Macie in Chianti’s Castellina charges 15 Euros to explore the vineyard with a technician, followed by tasting of its Sangiovese.
If you participate in the vendemmia, it is important to realize that the grapes you pick this year cannot be enjoyed until at least next year (as if you needed a reason to return to Tuscany?). Therefore the wine you enjoy with friends after the work of the harvest is done is likely from last year or perhaps a few years ago. It really is a way to feel connected to the community across time and space.