Traditional Grape Harvest
September is traditionally the wine grape harvesting month in Greece and it has been a family matter for the longest time, as every member of the family, neighbours and friends work hard to complete this demanding agricultural labour. Next time you visit Greece, plan ahead and experience this age old tradition.
Grape harvesting in Greece always had its rituals and customs, which have been passed down from one generation to the other. Some custom have lived on up to today while other have stopped. Every year on the 6th of August winemakers use to fill a basket with the first ripe grapes and send them to church to be blessed. On the first day of wine grape harvesting, they also used to bring a priest over to say a prayer. As a sign of gratitude to the Divine they used to leave a small portion of the vineyard unharvested.
Greeks have a verve for life. They combine the hard work of harvesting with some brief moments of respite and feasts. At noon all harvesting participants take a break and gather together to eat the food offered by the wine grower. While they eat and drink they make their first assumptions as for the quantity and quality of the crop they are currently working on.
Next stop, the patitiri (meaning wine press); undoubtedly this is one more occasion to celebrate. Therefore, while some participants do the pressing others enjoy a large variety of meze (tidbits) and drinks. Who do you wish to help out?
From the Vineyard to your Wine Glass
The weather is pretty unstable in autumn and all chores in the vineyards must be completed in an appointed time before sudden rainfalls, which could ruin the crop, therefore Greeks have grown accustomed to helping one another. Friends, neighbours and family members gather and start working in the vineyards from early in the morning throughout the day while they sing along popular songs or tease one another. All participants are appointed to a specific task: youngsters and women usually are in charge of harvesting the grapes and placing them with care in the baskets, while the strongest hands on deck are the ones who carry and stack the baskets on the trucks (donkeys were used in the past).
The crop is then transported to another stage of the winemaking process, the press, where another group of people takes over. The grapes were manually processed in the past with the traditional foot-stomping and the wine fermented in wooden barrels for a period of three months. Nowadays, the traditional foot-stomping process has been replaced by easier and more cost effective methods.
Wine tasting began on the celebration of two of the following Orthodox Saints; the 26th of October, Agios Dimitrios or on the 3rd of November, Agios Georgios Methistis (methistis comes from the Greek word methisos that means drunk).
Nothing can compare to the pride the winemaker feels when the wine is on the table and ready to be served. It will keep him and his family company on happy or sad occasions throughout the following year until the whole winemaking process starts over again from scratch. Till next time, cheers!