The end of the harvest is the end of a great emotional tension. You know that the harvest is in the cellar – your grapes or the grapes you’ve purchased – and you know that it’s now time to clean and wash all the equipment that has allowed you to finish the harvest, and put them to rest until next year. It’s the moment when water mixed with must drains into the ditches and dirt roads. But the availability of water, which to us seems guaranteed, wasn’t at all until the early 1950s. The aqueduct of the southwest Langhe was built in 1953. Before that, there was only water from the wells, which were first dug by picks to be able to then pull up the water in buckets. When the older generation said that good wine was made with water, that meant that they were aware of how much effort went into getting the water, and how much they needed it. Today, using the pressure washer to remove the very last grape that remains in the press is no longer a problem. Thanks, in part, to them.
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THE END OF THE HARVEST
The red crates used for harvesting have already been rinsed with a hose several times during the harvest, to prevent the must that remains instead from starting to ferment in the sun while they’re in the vineyard, and then be dumped into the vats together with the freshly harvested grapes. Now it’s time to clean them not only to remove the dried must or skins, but also the dirt that has accumulated on the bottom when they’ve been passed from one row to another or placed under the vines. This takes patience, as well as nailed wooden boards that act as type of wall, because otherwise under the jet of the pressure washer the crates don’t want to stand still in their place and they try to escape, and washing them becomes difficult.
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Cleaning the cellar is an activity that naturally doesn’t take place only at the end of the harvest, but all year. At the end of the fermentation, however, the barrels that will collect the new wine must be cleaned with particular care. You must freshen them up to remove the last residue of sediment, and in cleaning them you feel as if you’re rinsing a year away. The cellar returns to that silence and darkness that seem to have left it for a few weeks. The pace slows down, and yet the fertilizers will soon start a new year in the cycle that always begins anew. You’re a winemaker but also a marathon runner, and if you don’t talk much it’s not because you have nothing to say, but because you’ve learned to save your breath for the hill that awaits you once again.