Approaching our vineyards in the early morning, bright spots among the vine foliage are visible from the road. These spots are the grape pickers who have been working since dawn. Handpicking our grapes allows us to be selective; it’s a gentle way to harvest, and it ensures us that the grapes arrive to the winery in perfect condition. The rustling of grape leaves and the sound of the rhythmic blade snipping as bunches of grapes are cut and dropped into a crate all tell us where the grape pickers are when we go looking for them to see how it’s going.
While the rest of the vineyard is sunk in a quiet reverie, the winery, on the other hand, has been bustling with activity since the early hours of the morning, with tractors accumulating bursting loads of ripe grapes; grape-stained winery workers busy destemming and crushing the berries; and in the background, the buzzing sound of the winemaking equipment. The big sink-or-swim moment, the event the whole year’s efforts have led up to has arrived: it’s harvest season, which over here we call vendemmia. During this recent period we have been closely monitoring the development of the grapes. Samples have been taken from different parcels of the vineyard and examined in the lab inside the winery. We have also visited the vineyard on a daily basis to personally taste and examine the grapes. What we winegrowers have been seeking is a good balance between sugars, acidity, tannins, and flavor compounds.
Winemaking is part science and part craft. Many winemakers will tell you that the magic happens on the vine and we absolutely agree. If the grape isn’t good, your wine won’t be either. You can’t think of fixing a wine later in the winery by adding a little of this and a little of that.
It’s the busiest time of the year for our family and all four of us are actively and personally involved: from harvesting in the vineyards to following all the different stages of the winemaking process to ensure the excellence of our wines. We are the sixth generation of winemakers and, by working hard, we don’t only ensure the quality of our product but we honor our ancestors and keep up a family tradition which we are very proud of and that, one day, we will pass to the next generation. A sustainable and organic lifestyle is embedded in our family’s blood and that is why we’ve developed gluten-free, organic, and vegan wines.
We first harvest our sparkling wine grapes (Prosecco and Moscato) to ensure low sugar levels but good acidity, which is what you want in a sparkling wine. Next, most of the white wine grapes (our Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay) and last but not least, the red wine grapes which need a bit longer to reach full maturation (our Merlot etc.) .
During la vendemmia grapes and wines are the stars of many events planned in September and October all over Italy. While most tourists prefer to sample the delights of our homeland during the summer months, if you’re a wine aficionado, why not visit the areas where your favorite wines are being made during the harvest season? In this period there are many foods that have grapes as their key ingredient. From the sugolo, a grape pudding made with must, typical of the regions Veneto and Lombardy, to the grape schiacciata in Tuscany. But there are many, many others.
Since ancient Rome, with their festivals in honor of the god Baccus, the grape harvest has been celebrated with fairs, wine tastings, and events of all sorts. With friends and relatives we will celebrate the end of the grape harvest, and this occasion is twice as important for us because it is also the birthday of our father, who is the founder of Candoni De Zan wines. But this is a story for another blog post….