[16/80] Discovering where the wine comes from on Sicily

I like wine. Especially my time in South Africa was infused with this delicious grape juice. When I booked a trip to Sicily, I didn’t have anything planned for 80experiments. It was meant as a week of reflection. Then, I booked an Airbnb on a vineyard. Located on the slope of the active volcano Mount Etna. A hopeful thought entered my mind. Would it be possible to help to make wine? Do they still crush the grapes with their bare feet? And do you have to wash your feet first?

How do you find your experiments? is a much asked question. Well, this one happened as a surprise. By paying attention and making use of the opportunities that come by.

Meet Davide

Davide is a former corporate manager working in Germany. A well paid international job. He liked it. For a while. In his mid-thirties, and his roots still burried in Sicily, he started asking himself: “Is this it?” The answer, for him, turned out to be, “not so much”. He resigned, negotiated a compensation and started a vineyard on Mount Etna. “We make organic wines. We add nothing artificial. It’s pure, clean, delicious wine”, he says proudly smiling before he makes a toast. “And it’s harvesting season, so we need all the help we can get. We go out into the field by 09:00. But first, we enjoy our wine.” An offer I can’t refuse..

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The next morning we wake up to this amazing view. After having our espresso, we go out into the field to hand pick the grapes. Exactly, hand pick them. Davide gives instructions about what good quality grapes look like, hands us a crate, and of we go.

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The vineyard is built up like the rice fields in Sa Pa, in the north of Vietnam. There are multi level terrace decks with a width of about 5 meter, all the way up the hill. You choose your terrace floor, and pick grapes until your basket is full, or when your back hurts.

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We need about 12 crates this morning. After 3 hours we’re done. This whole wine making thing is seriously labour intensive. Something to remember when you sit down to enjoy a glass.. Also, if you have a phobia for spiders or insects, this is the job to do. They are literally all over the place. And after an hour you stop noticing. And caring. It also helps that I’m on day 19 on my 21 days of no complaining. I’m not breaking my streak for a tarantula!

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Back at Davide’s place, it’s time to crush some grapes. We throw a crate into the reservoir.

“With spiders and all?” I ask Davide. “Yeah, sure. They won’t filter through.” I look a bit puzzled. On the other hand, I’m happy that we don’t have to clean all the grapes before we start crushing. “Where do I wash my feet?” I ask next. Now Davide looks puzzled. “You don’t. Just hop in..”

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We gently start crushing. At first, the texture of the grapes in between your toes feels funny. Also, the stems of the grapes hurt your feet. After 20 minutes of intensive crushing the juices start to flow towards the corner of the reservoir. This is as cool as I imagined it to be.

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Davide hands us a shovel to move the pulp that’s left around. You develop a system in how you scoop everything around. We thought we were almost finished, but there’s still a lot of juice left. We get competitive. After hand piking everything, you don’t want to waste anything. Determined to get every single drop of juice bottled up, we keep on crushing.

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An hour in, we agree we’re finished. To be honest, we’re exhausted. We crave an espresso, and it’s time to have a nice Italian lunch. Making wine makes you hungry. We step outside and wash our feet. Yes, this time we do..

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Stepping outside, I overlook the magnificent view of the Sicilian landscape. It’s almost unreal. My feet hurt. So I don’t have to pinch myself. It’s not a dream. We just made wine in Italy. Hopefully the wine will be as good as I feel right now. But that we’ll only know in a few years time.

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Godetevi la vita. Ciao!