Did you know that you are sipping on thousands of years of history every time you have a glass of wine?
The divine drink consumption could be as old as humankind, and its discovery is most likely accidental. Fermentation happens naturally and spontaneously because the yeasts that ferment the sugar are present on the grape’s skin. Just a couple of crashed fruits and the magic would start happening.
Although there is evidence that fermented grapes were typical in Asia in 6000 BC, the oldest archeologic winery ever found was in Armenia, dating 4000 B.C: the site had a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups.
In ancient Egypt, the wine was mostly found in festivals and special occasions. It was believed to have divine qualities, therefore associated with deities such as Osiris, Horus, Hathor, and Shesmu. The intoxicating effects would help to connect with the ancestors, breaking the barriers between life and death.
Traces of wine were also found in some of the Pharaoh’s tombs, together with hieroglyphs showing cultivations, harvesting, and winemaking.
Thanks to an extensive trade in the Mediterranean basin, wine spread quickly in the Greeks and Romans’ empires.
The ancient Greeks took viticulture (the cultivation of grape) very seriously, studying soils and matching it to specific grapevines. Some regions implemented techniques of cultivation to gather better quality of the wine. They often added resins, herbs, and spices to improve the taste.
Wine was always mixed with water, as they believed that the undiluted drink could drive a man insane, and even kill him.
However, the Greeks used it also for its medicinal properties: doctors prescribed it to cure fevers, as an antiseptic, or to aid digestion.
Dionysus was the God of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, wine, fertility, theatre, and celebrations. Wine was a symbol of his icona, and several festivals were held in his name.
Trading and the cultivation of Vitis Vinifera throughout Greek colonies in Europe made spread wine culture to other parts of the Mediterranean basin.
The Roman Empire made winemaking a real business, improving technologies to ease the drink’s production, storing, and flavoring.
They believed that wine had to be available to everyone, rich or poor. Hence, to ensure a constant supply, grapes cultivation was spread to all Roman Empire parts. We also have to consider that water was often not potable, so adding a little bit of wine could decrease health risks.
La vendemmia: harvesting in Italy
Now that we traveled through time, let’s take a trip to our favorite country for a super special time of the year: la Vendemmia, or harvesting. Find here more links to the best locations for grape harvesting in Italy.
Throughout the year, differing from Region to Region, but mainly starting mid-September, Italy is bursting with Fairs and Festivals where you can celebrate the grape harvest.
Although not in the top 5 wine producers, Tuscany is one of the main Regions for celebrations. You might not be able to participate in the actual harvest, but the events usually held in the main squares of some of the villages will be displaying stands where you can taste local food and wine while enjoying arts and music. You can check Tuscany’s calendar event before organizing your trip to experience more than one.
Quite unmissable is the Grape Festival of Impruneta, one of the oldest running Italian Festival. The 4 neighborhoods will be challenging each other with floats and locals in medieval and traditional costumes.
While most of the Festival will be held in Fall, the Region of Veneto – the land of the world-famous Prosecco – has its main event, “la Primavera del Prosecco,” from March throughout June.
Grape harvesting is hard work, but especially for smaller vineyard, it is always a great way to get all the family and friends together. Once the grapes reach the perfect grade of ripeness, each cluster will be harvested manually and carefully put into a basket. It is particularly important not to break the skin, or the fermentation process will start. The fruits will have to be destemmed, put into tanks where they will be pressed, and start fermenting.
Once the bubbling is finished, meaning the yeast ate all the sugars, the wine will be transferred into a “damigiana.” This is a large round glass bottle covered in a protective straw layer where the wine will sit until it is ready to be put in smaller bottles (750ml).
As you might imagine, stomping, or crushing wine by foot, is no longer done due to hygienic reasons.
Red, White, or Rosè?
The production of red wines will keep both skin and grape seeds, while white wines will be with the pulp only.
As for rosè wines, skins and seeds will be fermenting with the pulp from 24 to 36 hours max.
All skins will be removed for the production of white wines.
If you are a wine lover, we gave you another reason to visit the beautiful Bel Paese of Italy.
If, however, you want to take your palate on a sensory journey, come by our Restaurant. Our extensive Wine Menu will take you to some of the best Italian vineyards.