Walking in the vineyards regularly allows one to see the grapes maturing, from the negligibly small flowers (if you haven’t looked closely, you’ve probably even seen them) to the full bunches of small fruit.
At first all grapes are green, but then sometime in August some of them turn purple/blue while others turn a yellowish sort of green. Strangely enough there are bunches which have both blue and green grapes. It is rather difficult to distinguish the grape varieties that are grown in the Oltrepo’ Pavese, our region south of Milan: pinot nero, croatina, barbera, riesling, moscato, to mention some of the most common ones. The pinot has a rather compact bunch, as in a fist, from which locals say it gets its name. Pinot ~ pugno= fist. (The French will say it is a derivation from “pineau”: small pine cone). But for the others …
Depending on how the summer goes, the vendemmia (harvest) usually starts mid-August, after ferragosto, the national holiday on the 15th. When we first came here, early September 2007, the harvest was already completed, which was exceptional. This year, 2014, is particular for another reason: it has been one of the wettest and coldest summers on record. In fact, our local friends tell us they have no recollection of a summer like this one. This wet summer doesn’t seem to have influenced the maturation of the grapes much, although the greater amount of fungicide that was needed will drive up this year’s costs.
In any case, the harvest is about to start, 2014 being a record year or not. Within a few weeks the seasonal laborers, mainly from Romania and Albania, will arrive to do most of the manual picking and the tractors with wagon-loads of mature grapes will hold up traffic on their way to the cantine sociali (wine co-ops). Not a bad thing to get stuck behind such a wagon. Time to slow down and enjoy the sweet odour of next year’s wine!