GRAPES & RATS

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Continuing the guide to how not to make wine ( you can read yesterday’s preamble here), we reach the stage where there is no escaping the inevitable – the harvesting:
The skies threatened rain on September 16, and so it was with heavy heart that Fernando’s offer of a wine press for the day was accepted. I tossed and turned in the night at the prospect of some actual farming work.
Wasps were getting up about 10am so I got up at 6am. (I even got Dave up early because he fears wasps even more than I do). I put on the kind of protective clothing worn in films when cleaning up after a murder, or looking for stolen anthrax, and it was a bit hot, even at 7am. I also applied a liberal spraying of Jungle Formula, stuck a large can of wasp spray under my belt, and took clippers, some sacks, and a wheelbarrow to the edge of the killing fields. With grim determination we dropped to a crawl and set off down our respective rows, remaining in radio contact. Occasionally Dave would break through the canopy to display a bunch of grapes in the hope that I’d take a picture and use it for a wine label. In some places grape-picking is offered as an activity holiday, but I’m not sure this is what people have in mind.
It turns out most of the wasps had gone (where, I do not know); a few were hiding inside the bunches but knew their time was up and didn’t put up much of a fight. Still, probably worth a month of wasp fear and military style preparation.
Over a period of about five hours we picked 10 large sacks of grapes. Some of the grapes were huge – press your thumb and forefinger together and you wouldn’t be able to squeeze them through the gap. And some of the bunches were a metre long and too heavy to haul out of the tangle of vines. I actually picked a lot more than that and ate them.
After all that, feet up, coffee and a couple of hours of Sierravision (this week’s one available TV channel) was called for. Unfortunately, we had to press the grapes.* Looking past my guests to the olive trees behind them while serving dinner a few weeks back, I’d been mesmerised by the sight of large rats trotting briskly back and forth between the vineyard and the outhouse. I didn’t think it would take them long to work out their vineyard had been plundered, and track down 10 sacks of grapes. There was nowhere to hide that volume of grapes; the only thing to do was to press on . . . pardon the pun.

* After we had pressed the grapes, Juan the horseback chimney sweep commander, and the chimney sweep, told me I should have spread them out in the sun for three days first to get all raisiny and slightly fetid before pressing them. However I can’t help thinking this approach is more rodent friendly than I’m currently capable of being.

Anyway, I’ll explain how we ‘made the wine’ in the next post. It may prove useful to someone with several hundred kilograms of grapes and no patience for proper procedures.

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