Anne's Blog

Wine-making in Umbria: il Vino di Pino

Date: November 26, 2019 - categories: , , , , - Leave your thoughts

It’s still un vino giovane (“a young wine”) but buonissimo.

Pino had assured me that it would be when he’d offered me a first sip late September, after pressing the grapes.

Pino’s talents go beyond stone restoration: he’s a creative chef and an adept wine-maker, too.

Using a small press in an improvised “wine cellar” (the storeroom where he keeps his motorcycle, motorcycle jacket and helmets), Pino transformed about two hundred kilos of grapes into vino rosso.

For pressing, Pino had purchased a small wooden press – a type usually used for making vin santo – reinforced with red metal bands. First task: placing it at a height for pressing which would minimize back stress. The solution? Pino used a discarded gray plastic stool as the wine press “pedestal.”

Using a plastic kitchen sieve, Pino then transferred the grapes from the steel vat into the press….

…..and firmly pressed down on the grapes…..

….before turning the lever of the press:

His system for transfer of the grape juice to the large steel vat for aging was a simple invention: the juice flowed over a plastic plate balanced on the gray stool into a white bucket below….

…and then Pino poured the grape juice into the stainless steel vat. From the vat, we’d later fill bottles with il vino di Pino.

We’d had to buy half of our grapes for il vino di Pino this year: there was no yield from our vineyard up on the hill. Vineyards have to be pruned annually, logicamente, and Pino’s work overload this year had not permitted vineyard time, much to his chagrin.

We did have an abundance of grapes, though, on those vines twisting up the trunks of the European maples near our house. The trees – called le madri dell’uva – were traditionally planted by the farmers in the middle of their fields as a way to increase grape yield. Farms in the Umbrian hills were generally quite small with one area designated for a vineyard; the grape yield was insufficient, then, for the rural family’s annual needs.

Most of the land had to be sown with wheat, oats, or barley and crops for hay (alfalfa or clover). The solution? Le madri dell’uva – each trunk wrapped with a climbing grape vine – were planted in widely-spaced rows in the fields so as to avoid interference with plows and harvesting equipment.

Wires were extended between the maples and the grape vine spiraling up around each tree trunk was pruned to reach out and wrap around the wire connected to the next tree.

Grape yield for the farm family was thus maximized. Ingenious. Another example of that creativita’ italiana.

The farmer Giannetto who had built our farmhouse in the 1920’s had planted madri dell’uva near the house (where we now have our vegetable garden). Nearly a century old, those vines wrapping around the trunks of their madri, still produce a generous yield: this year about one hundred kilos of grapes. This was the grape abundance last August:

In these November photos, you can see Gianettto’s vine-embraced maple trees in front of our farmhouse:

Like many a farmer, Gianetto had also used the south-facing side of the farmhouse wall as a trellis to support additional vines (as you can see in this 1978 photo of our house)….

…and note the vines clinging to our farmhouse wall in this photo of our 1975 grape harvest (our first) with farm neighbors, Mandina and Peppe:

But the walls of our farmhouse – restored by Pino – no longer support vines.

We needed more grapes than those yielded by our madri dell’uva for our wine and so we bought another one hundred kilos from our friend Renato who had harvested cabernet grapes with three workers

Renato’s grapes and ours are united now in that vino di Pino, maturing in the stainless steel vat near his motorcycle in our downstairs storage area. Over the vat is a photo of my Dad, World War II co-pilot (middle figure, back row). That seems like a good omen to me!

Read about– and see! – our grape harvest, 1979

Read about another Pino wine-making adventure

Click here to read about wine lore

Click here to read about the Montefalco wine festival

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