2014 Harvest Diary
Today on Mount Etna, there is an orange-tinted dawn, and snow. After four months of dry heat, a single stormy night has brought in the cold. We drive down the mountain from the winery to taste the nerello mascalese; our vineyards are the only ones left with grapes this late in the season, as the others have picked theirs already.
The berries are starting to show some crazy flavors. Starting today, the moon is waxing and the season is closing; the grapes will taste different every morning, and we may harvest any of them, anytime, in vineyards at all altitudes, when they become suddenly ripe.
We have called a large picking team. Contrada Porcaria’s fruit reminds one of a dark red velvet; Contrada Guardiola’s is more ravishing. We will pick Porcaria tomorrow.
We have harvested large areas very quickly, as we realized that the hot summer had managed to cook whole vineyards quite evenly. One half of the harvest is already in the tanks. The many pickers come from towns situated all over the mountain; they have gathered invisibly around the winery in the dark before daybreak, then they grow large and loud again on the pickup trucks as they head to the vineyards, exchanging jokes in Sicilian.
I have tasted the grapes at four more Contradas. We can harvest the grapes destined to the Franchetti wine after they push past their simple-sweet taste tonight; they will be ready tomorrow. Then more nerello picking all day across the Contradas of Chiappemacine, Sciaranuova, Guardiola, and Malpasso.
We are nearing the end of the 2014 harvest on Etna. The highest terrace on the property was harvested early yesterday, and the grapes came in by 10am – cold, hard berries that in the tanks looked like roasted coffee beans. They were so ripe and flavorful that I thought, Maybe we should also harvest the old plants of nerello further up the mountain? We went after those and then also to the remote terraces of Rampante, which we usually pick in November. To harvest those, one has to climb down steep walls with the boxes of grapes collected from the terraces to the pickups parked below.
By the 1st of November the moon will have waxed hard enough and drawn even the vines that are living in the coldest corners to perfect ripeness. We will harvest the last tank of the vintage then. Outside, the sunlight is shining through thin rain, and there’s snow everywhere in the woods above us. Every tank, barrel, and vessel in the winery is fermenting.
– Andrea Franchetti