Grape picking in Puglia

By Evy from Life is a cocktail.

You know those people who love the sunrise, who are energized with the first rays of sun reaching out through the sky? You know those people who are extremely chirpy in the morning? So yes, I am not those people. I have been once more convinced about that when Pierluigi woke me up to get ready to go pick grapes that morning. And the other thing I didn’t really realize was that Southern Italy in October in the early morning just before the dawn is rather… let’s say, brisk. I called it freezing at the time but it’s always a matter of interpretation! 

All that said it was also dawn to the day when for the first time in my life I would no longer be able to say I had never picked grapes for the wine I have been enjoying for quite a few years now. It was a big day for me and I suppose quite a usual routine day for the rest of the family. 

Nero di troia an ancient grape variety

nero di troia

Considering the fact that I was maybe a bit more helpful than a decorative addition, I felt a lot of joy doing the grape picking experience. My surprise was how low and intertwined and picturesque vine trees were, weighted down by the beautiful dark purple and pale yellow bunches of grapes. The specific vines are of an old wine grape variety called Nero di Troia which got its name from the town of Troia in the province of Foggia. The legendary founder was the Greek hero Diomedes, after he had destroyed the ancient city of Troy. He apparently planted vine cuttings brought with him from Greece, just outside the city walls, where it still thrives today.  This is a story that’s being disputed by professors and grape geneticists but I will leave that to them as I love the romanticism of the story of Greek heroes and ancient times.

Puglia through the eyes of the locals

And while I pick the fruit filling the large buckets and enjoying the jolly banter of zio Mimmo (or uncle Mimmo) in the background (or sometimes really close to me!) I cannot help but wonder how this wine will taste next year. I feel so lucky to experience all the different parts of the South Italian life and culture. My connection with Pierluigi allows me to discover, taste and experience it all! I have been extremely lucky to experience Italy and especially Puglia through the eyes of locals in small towns as Pierluigi is like a brother to me. I usually skip the word “like” and just call him my brother. From traveling a lot in my life I know the massive difference of experiencing the place through the eyes of a tourist and of someone who is just tagging along and experiencing the “normal” life for which I am so grateful to Pierluigi and his family that feels like my family in many ways. 

And so as the sun rises higher and higher the car gets fuller with grapes and only zio Mimmo doesn’t seem to get tired, everyone starts moving to the place where magic happens. That’s where I am removed from the caravan and leave it to people who know better and I know better not to be in their way. It’s also a pretty sacred time – time for lunch. Perhaps I will tell you about the further adventures including wine pairings with sea animals, as Pierluigi calls them or how olives can be “mummified”. And yes lunch – of course served with Nero di Troia from the year before. Feels not as amazing, I imagine, as the next years lunch with the wine that was collected today. More about Puglia? Read about Salento here.

Written by Evy of @lifeisacocktail

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