It’s 9 a.m, Friday, the end of October. Humid air envelops Piedmont hills and the castle of Serralunga d’Alba can be barely seen behind a heavy of water curtain. The sun is trying to break through the low clouds and although a beautiful and warm day is forecasted, I bottom up my jacket. I’m in the Rivetto vineyard and with a camera in my hands I’m waiting for a start of Nebbiolo harvest. The last big grape picking this year. Year not easy for wine producers with rainy spring, moderate hot summer and capricious autumn: sunny and warm September, but irregular weather in October.
I greet with a group of grape pickers and we have a small talk. They live in the Langhe and they work for vineyards in the neighborhood, helping in harvest time. I’m observing their work in pairs with interest while they are cutting down bunches and putting them gently down in cases. Containers fills up in a flash because devoid of leaves grapevines expose fruits making work easier . Once a case is full, they leave it under a plant and move to fill another one.
I’m moving between grapevine rows and I try to immortalize extraordinary images: blue clusters against a background of thin wires stretched between balding plants that looks like a stave with a music written in notes; crystals of dew glittering on a white thick film protecting berries from morning cold; colorful carpets of leaves interweaving with old trunks.
The silence. Dimmed colors, sleepy nature – all this makes a nice and relaxing atmosphere. Only a small group of people is working dutifully and a curious dog is watching a business.
After half an hour I feel my feet wet. A clay soil keeps water perfectly and after few days of rain transforms into a plasticine mud. Well, this time a made a mistake wearing a material shoes. But fortunately although the grass is covered by dew, somehow it is stabile and it enables getting about in the vineyard and a little tractor, that has just brought a new portion of cases, didn’t get stuck.
The harvest in the Langhe is exclusively manual. It’s not a matter of tradition but a landform. Sharp slopes exclude machine work. A greasy clay I mentioned before, which is a calcareous marl, provides a perfect food for a demanding variety that offers full bodies, tannic wines – Barolo, Barbaresco and Langhe Nebbiolo.
The Langhe area is rich of endemic wine grape varieties, especially red one. But there is also an interesting white grape variety – Nascetta that gives a aromatic dry wine Langhe Nascetta DOC. More information you can find in my article “La vendemmia in the Rivetto vineyard“.