In Italy every stagione — la primavera (spring), l’estate (summer), l’autunno (autumn), and l’inverno (winter) — has a different feel and focus. L’autunno is the time of the grape harvest (la vendemmia). Vine-growers (viticoltori)) keep a close eye on their vines (viti) to determine when the grapes (uva) are ripe (matura or vendemmiabile).
La vendemmia begins with white grapes (uva bianca), which ripen before the red. If there’s a threat of damaging rain, grape pickers (vendemmiatori) may have to work by the light of the harvest moon (luna della vendemmia or luna di Settembre) to save their crops.
At the cantina, bunches of grapes (grappoli d’uva) are sorted, washed, stemmed and crushed to prepare for la pigiatura dell’uva (the grape pressing).
Then everyone waits, hoping that this will turn out to be una buona annata (a vintage year). The novello (new) wine is uncorked and enjoyed during Italy’s equivalent of America’s Indian summer — l’estate di San Martino, the summer of St. Martin, whose onomastico or saint’s day falls on November 11. As a traditional saying puts it, “Per San Martino, cadono le foglie e si spilla il vino." (For St. Martin, the leaves fall, and the wine is tapped.")
Words and Expressions
Cogliere l ‘uva – to gather grapes
Pigiatura dell’uva — grape pressing
Vitigni – species of grapes
Uva da tavola – dessert grapes
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. \ LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language and LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World (coming in April).
Click below for some scenes and sounds of the season by the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi: