A grape harvest in Tuscany in the fall… sounds pretty romantic, right? I thought so, too, until every single person I talked to about it said something along the lines of ‘You know it’s really hard work, right?!’ But, thinking strong thoughts, I packed up my backpack and headed to Poppiano, Tuscany for two weeks of harvesting at Podere Gualandi through a WWOOF opportunity.
Now, I’m not going to say that harvesting isn’t hard work. Because it is. It’s also very purple and sticky work. Here’s some photo proof:
What I am going to say is that my two weeks at Guido Gualandi’s vineyard were two of my favorite weeks in Italy. I could gush all day about how lucky I feel to be one of 12 WWOOFers chosen to help in 2015 out of 1,500+ applicants. Or about how the food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.
And the wine paired with it turned me into a red wine drinker. (Unless we were having sparkling rosé… in which case, I was definitely a sparkling rosé drinker.)
First, a little background on Guido: His family has roots in the Tuscany area for over 1,000 years. The Gualandi name was even mentioned in Dante’s Inferno.
As a trained archaeologist, Guido has worked on excavations in the Middle East and at the Louvre in Paris. He was also an international reporter. Currently, he is a professor of food and wine at Gonzaga University in Florence. And most importantly (because it’s the reason I got to meet him and his wonderful family), he acquired land in Tuscany which contained vines planted in the 1970’s (some even older than that) and has cultivated it to yield an amazing harvest for making wine. One more talent? He’s an artist whose work is featured on every bottle of wine and olive oil he makes.
One of the things I appreciate most about Guido’s way of harvesting and wine-making is that he uses techniques that are thousands of years old. He’s studied ancient texts by Columella (born 4 A.D. and an important writer on agriculture) and others, and tries to stick as closely to the methods they describe as possible. That means hoeing the fields by hand, caring for the vines all year long, picking the grapes by hand, pressing by hand, and aging… all without the use of machinery.
Even the bottling and labeling is done one-by-one, by hand.
The work is more strenuous, takes more time, and the method of pressing yields less liquid… but the end result is a higher quality wine.
Did you know that most of the wine that you drink has chemicals in it?
These chemicals cause wine to age more quickly, so it can be bottled more quickly, which allows for less storage space to be required. And the craziest part is… these wineries are not required by law to report chemical use! In the past, many of these wineries used egg to help with the process, but the FDA does require allergens to be reported on labels. And so… out with the eggs and in with the chemicals.
If your palate is not up to sommelier standards, you may not notice a chemical taste in other wines… so aside from the fact that chemicals aren’t good for you, you might be wondering if Guido’s no-chemicals-added method is worth the trouble. How’s this for proof? Podere Gualandi’s wine was voted 13th best in Europe… in its first year of production!
If you’d like to try this kind of archaeological wine for yourself, head on over to the Podere Gualandi website and order a case.