For The Love Of Wine
Wine is core to the identity of Southern Europe. It’s a story of love and tradition, one that is so rooted in the memory of the land that it’s become inseparable.
Europeans are proud – that is fact, but for a reason. Wine making in the southern regions is a craft that has been perfected time and again throughout the centuries.
In September the air in the Italian countryside starts buzzing in anticipation. People turn watchful eyes into vineyards, where millions of grapes glisten in the sunlight, ripe and sweet. It’s time for harvest (also known asvendemmia).
That time of year truly unties all Italians. Football rivalries and political differences lay forgotten in favor of wine making.
Although humans can’t compete against machines (they lose out 1 to 200 tones in a day of picking), many fields are still harvested by hand (a mano). It is believed that a human picking out the bad grapes, something impossible for a machine, makes the difference between good and great wine.
Approximately 220 grapes are needed for a single 750 ml bottle (roughly 1 pound), while the harvest takes from 8 to 15 days.
The French take great pride in their wine – so great that the first month of The French Revolutionary Calendar revolved around the grape harvest.
It takes 100 days for the very first blossoms to transform into ripened grapes, although the date varies from region to region. Corsica and the south of France are the first to begin, the colder and more northerly areas trailing behind.
It is a little known fact that there is a ban on grape-picking in France. Every local prefecture decides on a date to lift the ban independently (known as le lever du ban). In Avignon that day marks a celebration.
At that point wine growers are meticulously checking the levels of sugar and acidity inside the grapes, looking for the perfect time to send their workers out into the fields. More than 300 000 people take part every year.
The wine business is as impossible to predict as the weather – and is also shaped by it. A hot and dry summer makes for small, sweet grapes. Rain helps the fruit swell, but can molder grapes on the vine.
Since Spain is a peninsula, the climate varies widely from region to region. That makes for a great variety. There are in fact over 400 grape varieties in Spain.
La Rioja is one of the region with the longest history of wine making in Spain. In fact the very first mention of it dates back 1000 years. A harvest festival takes place on the 21st of September every year. It pays homage to San Mateo, the patron saint of Logroño.
Picasso famously took inspiration from Spanish landscapes. On more than one occasion he slept under the stars in the vineyards. Wine is also a common feature in his works, such as Bottle and Wine Glass on a Table from 1912.