Ever since we pruned the grapevines back in February I have anticipated our harvest! It was always going to be a bit of a gamble whether or not we’d get much fruit. The vines had been neglected for many years and even if we managed to coax some life out of them, we then had the weather gods to contend with. Would we get enough rain to keep our grapes going? Would a freak hail storm ruin the crop?
But finally it is time to harvest! And yay – we have some grapes to harvest!
As with everything on the farm, this is a manual job – best achieved by team effort. It involves hand picking the grapes into buckets and loading them onto the donkey to go back to the house for crushing.
Many years ago hubby’s dad built a wooden, hand driven, grape crusher! It basically achieves the same thing as a woman in bare feet stomping on grapes in a barrel and is marginally less messy. The grapes are fed into the crusher by the bucket load… scooped in leaves, twigs, bugs and all. Once crushed the grapes are poured into 200 litre drums and sealed. The mulch will be stirred daily for the next few weeks while it ferments.
The best grapes are set aside for wine. The rest are used for raki. In a few weeks the wine barrels will be opened and the liquid will be siphoned off from the mulch and put in smaller barrels. And that’s it… nothing else it added… that’s the wine… and it won’t last the year before it’s drunk. Village wine is not left to age!
In a few weeks we’ll be back at the farm to distil the barrels of raki grapes over a log fire… the resulting clear alcohol is the firewater that keeps Albania turning!
This whole process has been so satisfying! I’ve really enjoyed the manual labour – working out in the sun in the gorgeous Albanian countryside. I’ve enjoyed learning the process and, for someone who has never managed to keep even a house plant alive, it’s been rewarding to have successfully contributed to the production of an entire crop of grapes! With any luck we’ll get to taste the results of our hard work before we leave for New Zealand in a little over a month.