After rashly offering the other day to help with the local grape harvest – the “vendemmia” – we were invited to meet at the bar in the village at 8am yesterday for a day of grape picking. So with nothing much else planned we turned up on the scooter and met with the other workers; Mariella, Carol, Danilla, Ilvo and Tiziana (see, I’m a shameless name-dropper) then followed their cars the five miles or so up and over the hill past Perinaldo then up a steep minor road, where we parked and walked down to the vineyard. We were issued with secateurs and plastic containers and set to stripping the vines of their burden. The grape is the Rossese, a black variety used to produce the wine of the same name, special to the dozen or so towns and villages of this immediate region. The wine was said to be a favourite of Napoleon Bonaparte and is highly regarded, though supplies are limited owing to the small growing area.
Neither of us has ever picked grapes before. It was easy to start with in the cool of the early morning, but then the sun rose over the hill and temperatures rose, knees and backs started aching and the work grew steadily more difficult tramping up and down the steep hillside. Fortunately, refreshment breaks were frequent; especially lunch, which lasted a good hour sitting by the side of a dusty track and comprised barbecued kebabs, fagioli (beans), hardboiled eggs, Gorgonzola cheese and cake, accompanied by last year’s Rossese from the same vineyard. And coffee of course; what Italian meal would be complete without it? We were there in total for about six hours before we had to admit defeat; a pair of out-of-condition English softies up against the Ligurian best.