Vendemmia (Grape harvest) 2015 - 4th SEPT 2015

With an introduction from a friend I was able to spend a day learning to pick grapes at a small local producer and to watch some of the processes involved in producing wine. The farmhouse Terre del Sillabo is located just north of Lucca in the Valfreddana valley on the road to Camaiore and is proudly owned by Giampi Moretti with his wife Clara and shared with their young daughter Allegra. The farmhouse in a shallow valley is partly surrounded by hills covered with pine which produces a particular microclimate most suitable for growing white wine grapes, although Giampi does grow the merlot grape mostly in another location just over the hill at Mutigliano. For over twenty years he has been producing good quality wine from seven hectares resulting in around 20,000 bottles using mostly Sauvignon and Chardonnay planted in 1993 and now reaching their mature productivity.

I arrived at the farmhouse mid-morning after twice missing the entrance off the main road and was greeted by Giampi with a warm handshake. I explained I had never picked a grape before so he went through some simple instructions about cutting with the sharp secateurs, mainly so I wouldn’t damage the grapes before pressing and also not to snip a finger or two! He placed me with my plastic crate at the top of a row of vines where noticed and heard the light-hearted banter of seven or eight young Italian workers. 

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After taking my time filling 3 or 4 crates, around one crate per row of vines, Giampi said Clara insisted I join them for a simple lunch of spaghetti with home-made salsa di pomodoro, parmesan and a little grated lemon zest and we shared a bottle of red wine. By around 4pm one hundred crates had been filled which Giampi knew would fill his on-site press. He informed me the press does not come into contact with the grapes but squeezes the juice out under air pressure. Once this was done taking 2 to 3 hours, the juice was pumped into stainless steel vats to start the fermentation process. On the other side of the cantina were the oak barrels used for fermenting and maturing.

Terre del Sillabo annually produces two Chardonnay wines both using 100% Chardonnay grapes namely Chardonnay IGT (14%) and, in years of extremely good harvest from cru vines, Spante IGT, meaning ‘sublime’ (14.5%). Similarly, two types of 100% Sauvignon wines are produced, Sauvignon DOC (13.5%) and again in extremely good harvests Gana DOC, meaning ‘desire’ (15.5%) matured and developed over 10 years. Mati IGT, named after an old pet called Matisse, (13.5%) is also produced from 70% Trebbiano and 30% grechetto, colombana and vermentino. As previously mentioned Giampi produces a Merlot 100% named Niffo, from a Lucchese dialect word ‘nifido’ meaning grumpy, 14% proof. A small production of Extra Virgin olive oil named Sortu completes the total output. All the bottles have a simple distinctive label design drawn from decorative elements on the San Martino cathedral in Lucca in the form of two types of flower, a leopard, a bird, a griffen and a double- headed dog.

Although I wished to work another day, Giampi said the vendemmia is a special period in the working calendar and a friend’s unpaid help is limited to only one day otherwise I would become an employee. My bandaged little finger from a momentary lapse of concentration bore all the hallmarks of a beginner yet I returned home with a greater understanding of the hard work, skill, dedication and passion needed for a small producer making good commercial wines.