WWOOF Work: Etruscan Winemaking
I was ready for my second week wwoofing at Castello di Potentino! After a long weekend of rest, I felt refreshed and actually itching to get back to work. Well, it turned out that this week was starting off tough.
Our first day started off with picking a few more crates of grapes to make the Etruscan wine. The usual wine-making process I mentioned previously produces the line of Castello di Potentino’s bottled wines: Lyncurio (white), Jaspidem (rose), and Piropo, Balaxus and Sacromonte (reds).
However, the Castle also makes their own version of Etruscan wine, which — as far as I know — is only served at the Castle during some meals.
Well, the day we went out for Etruscan grape pressing, it was cold and miserable. It was during this week that a strange cold spell had come through the area.
Although the temperature during my stay was typically a high of 20-something degrees Celsius and lows still in the double-digits, the cold spell saw temperatures in the single-digits.
A few people hadn’t bargained for this level of cold, and were shivering as we waited for the wwoofie gang to round up that morning.
Also joining us that day was Michael Woolley, a fashion photographer who was working with Charlotte and Alexander to create a book about Castello di Potentino.
Michael wanted to capture some shots of us making the Etruscan wine, and would be toughing it out with us that frigid morning.
As an Italian TV show crew was scheduled to arrive at the Castle that day, we were required to stay out of sight during filming. So, off to the river we went, where an ancient Etruscan wine-making stone awaited us.
First, we had to de-stem all the grapes we had just picked from the vines by hand. It started to rain and a tarp went up, over the stacks of grape crates we were working through.
We passed the long, dreary morning by playing a fun “Guess Who?” game. Each wwoofer/Michael got a turn at thinking up a person or character (alive, dead, fictional or real), the name of whom was passed around in whispers to everyone but the Guesser for that round. The answers ranged from Princess Diana to Miss Piggy.
The Guesser would ask the group questions about the mystery “Who”, which could only be answered by a yes or no. As they accumulated more info, the Guesser would attempt to guess the secret identity. This game was quite likely the only thing keeping us alive that morning.
After de-stemming all of the grapes, they got poured into the Etruscan stone basin. A few wwoofers got in to stomp away, while Michael snapped some photos. The juice was collected into buckets and poured into a container in the truck.
At some point, Uran made a fire (some say he lit it with his eyes) and we all hovered around the dancing flames, gratefully warming up our frozen hands and feet.
The rest of the week continued to see some rain and cold, and we ended up doing a lot of cleaning as being out in the fields wasn’t a viable option.
We scrubbed crates, weeded the courtyard, deep-cleaned the cantina, sewed up holes in the olive harvesting nets, put away firewood, organized Uran’s workshop, and swept up the boiler room.
By the end of it, I was in dire need of a back massage and lifting anything – like the amazing pot of hot chocolate Sita brewed up Thursday evening – felt like cruel and unusual punishment.
Looking back, it seems that we participated in a lot of hard work! But that’s to be expected if you are working the land, whether on a farm or vineyard. There is never a shortage of things to be done to maintain the place and the products it yields.
I think having been a member at Cavaleiro Farm before coming to the Castle had mentally prepared me for the kind of wwoofing work life I would experience there.
(I am currently sitting in a cafe in Florence editing this, and while I’m incredibly grateful to be here, I do believe that everything tastes better after you have put in a hard day’s work!)
At the end of the week, there was a mass exodus of wwoofers as we said good-bye to Matt, Suzi and James on Friday, and Will, Natalie, Sita and Laura on Saturday.
It would be interesting to see how our upcoming work days would look like with only a few of us left to wwoof at the Castle.
>> Read the next post in the WWOOF Italy series: WWOOF Work: Olive Harvest