One of the more popular traditions in Tuscany, and more, in particular, Chianti, is the much-awaited harvesting of the grapes, or as it is called among the locals – la vendemmia. It brings a certain satisfaction to all those involved. The vineyard owners start to touch and smell the fruits of their labor. The connoisseur begins to dream of the flavors of this year’s vintage. And visitors and guests can participate an activity that is as old as the Etruscans … and even older.
There are so many ways you can harvest grapes – but you have to admit, that a hands-on approach is so much more tantalising to the senses. And for those who aren’t feeling the urge to go into the vineyards, perhaps you would prefer to visit a grape harvest festival where you can taste the flavors first hand ??
Waiting for the OK
Every year – indifferent to the weather, predictions about the yield or even the thought of the hard labor involved in the harvest – Elena loves to participate in the mayhem. She tugs on her boots, grabs a pair of gloves, sharpens her clippers, ties back her hair and brings her camera along to capture these special moments. This year will be no different. The word is that the Chianti summer mixed with just the right amount of rain at the end of the season is promising delightful things in the fermentation process – things that we will only be able to taste and savor in the years to come.
The harvest, however, it is a bit more intense now then it was before modern technology took over. As the grapes start their final push to maturation, the local oenologists start their prodding and probing, testing sugar levels. Sugar is necessary for the fermentation process – which is one of the basic steps in the production of wine. Too much or too little can change the outcome of the end product and vineyards are very attentive to find the “momento clou” . As soon as the right percentages have been detected, harvesters swarm into the vineyards – because now time is of the essence.
Selecting the Grapes
After participating in a harvest, you will find that the next time you open a bottle of Chianti Riserva, the flavors will seem more intense … because you will remember the time spent under the sun, sifting through the leaves, looking for the next bunch of ripe grapes. It will take you back to the perfume of the earth as you knelt down to grasp a hidden bunch and you will recall the camaraderie of harvesting with a group of people – who quickly became fast friends bonding over the necessity to protect these precious round parcels before they get to the stainless steel fermentation vats.
Legacy of the Harvest
Certainly there will be photos, exchanged holiday greeting between new friends and even, maybe, a return stay at Borgo Argenina and Chianti where you can relive the excitement. But the best memory will be that special bottle that you keep tucked away on your shelf, waiting for the right moment to enjoy.
Or maybe, you will just let it stay there, and every time you look at it your vacation in Tuscany and Borgo Argenina during the harvest season will come floating back to you – to savor all over again.
So many of our guests at Borgo Argenina ask about the grape harvest season in Tuscany. Whether they are staying a few nights at the B&B or have opted for a longer stay in one of the vacation villa rentals – almost everyone wants to know where they can go wine tasting and are there any special events that they should be visiting.
In the last blog, hike to Castello di Brolio, you can find one of Elena’s favorite wine tasting suggestions. Now, for a list with some of her favorite wine festivals. They cover all of Tuscany, so it will be easy to include a bit of sightseeing while venturing out to one of these fun events. And though she will tell you Gaiole in Chianti is the best area to see the authentic side of Tuscany – she has to admit a few of these other places throw one great party!
When to Visit Borgo Argenina & the harvest
August might be a bit early for the grape harvesting, but there are a couple of festivals that really should be on your radar when making plans to visit Tuscany. Many festivals take place in September and each one of them is just as exciting as the others.
No matter when you decide to visit Tuscany and Borgo Argenina, you will find Elena Nappa and a festival waiting for you.
CALICI DI STELLE – all over Tuscany
2 – 11 August
A wine tasting event that takes place all over Italy and generally takes place on the night of San Lorenzo, also known as the night of the falling stars, thus the name “wine glass of stars”. A much-loved event by both locals and tourists, the Calici di Stelle promises an unforgettable experience. Many towns, and sometimes individual vineyards, will program an entire evening with music, wine, food and of course – the final show, an abundance of falling stars. From the beginning to mid-August, the wine cellars of the Tuscan Wine Tourism Movement will dress up and organize tastings … under the stars.
In the shadow of an awesome medieval castle, you will find an incredible opportunity to savor the true flavors of Tuscany, both the culture and the wine. Though not exactly in an area known for its wine production, you will find that the town of Poppi has much to offer all the same. During the festival, the locals open the family cantinas (cellars) where their ancestors once produced wine and vinsanto. This is really a double treat, because not only will you find producers from all over the region but you will also be invited into someone’s home – even if it is their basement.
The name of this event is a fun little play on words in both Italian and English! Settembre Divino or a Divine September – in either case, it is a September filled with (divine) wine. Much like the event mentioned above, the locals open up their wine cellars – many of which have been carved into solid stone – and offer wine tastings from some of the most well-known vineyards of the area. Pitigliano is often a little bit off the beaten track, but well worth the extra km to see the incredible Tuscany landscape, the town and of course savor its wines. Plan to get their early and visit the area before heading into town and the wine tastings.
CHIANTI CLASSICO EXPO – Greve in Chianti, Florence
September 5 & 8, 2019
This is just a little closer to Borgo Argenina. In the popular little town of Greve in Chianti, you will find that the town square is sectioned off into tables (lots of tables) filled with local wines. Each vineyard will be calling for your attention! You purchase a glass and a ticket book that allows a certain number of tastings – then you wind through the throngs till you see a label, a photo or catch the aroma of just the right wine. Besides wine, you will also be treated to some of the local specialties including olive oil and hand-cut salumi.
Here we are in the south of Tuscany, together with a selection of its unforgettable wines. A weekend entirely dedicated to the Maremma winemaking tradition, with excellent wines and traditional products, musical entertainment and … much more! On Friday evening, a horse-drawn procession with torches crosses the main street of the village and starts the party. After the torchlight procession, the cellars are opened, here you can taste the typical local products, all accompanied by excellent local Maremma wines, white and red. Besides the wine, you will find many traditional dishes including wild boar to ciaffagnoni, fried pizzas, and acquacotta!
The parade is the last Sunday of September, But there are events during the entire month of September
Perhaps one of the oldest wine festivals in Tuscany, and, even though it was suspended during WWII, it can boast over 90 years of celebrating the vendemmia (the grape harvest)! The festival consists mainly of a parade of floats (which can even reach ten meters in height) presented by each of the four districts in the city of Impruneta. Obviously, the theme is grapes and the harvest – but the fantasy of the locals is fabulous including dancing, music and a large open-air market. The winner of the parade is awarded a simple cup made of terracotta, another one of the famous local products..
CARRO MATTO – Rufina & the city of Florence, Florence
The last Saturday of September
Perhaps one of the more spectacular traditions of Florence. Centuries ago, the city folk would load up a cart with empty bottles and send it out to the nearby wine-producing area of Rufina. The oxen-pulled wagon would make it’s way back into Florence with over 1500 bottles filled with wine stacked in a pyramid shape. They would stop in front of the church on Via Calzaiuoli for a blessing. Then they would present the rulers of the city with the first bottles of the season. It is this tradition that is now reenacted every year at the end of September by the City of Rufina, to the northeast of Florence.
For some, being on vacation means a frenetic itinerary but for others, it can only be described as a moment of … getting away from it all. Making time to do things like trekking Tuscany through the hills of Chianti. Elena Nappa grasped this concept immediately when she set eyes upon what is now Borgo Argenina, family-run vacation villas and B&B, located just outside the ancient walls of Siena.
Rick Steves picked the newly restored Borgo Argenina, restored and run by Elena Nappa, as his point of reference when he first started exploring the landscapes and traditions, like that of the Siena Palio, many years ago. The accommodations of Borgo Argenina have evolved to include private villas and cooking lessons, the surrounding vineyards, and medieval towns are prettier than ever and the Palio, that started hundreds of years ago, still goes on every year – twice!