The grape harvest dates back to the past, and the finding of organic residues in jars discovered in Sicily, has induced to consider the wine production in this region among the oldest one all over the world and dating, at least, to six thousand years ago.
The ancient Romans devoted to the grape harvest a celebration called “Vinalia Rustica”, celebrated on August 19th and that’s why still today in the collective imagination the word “grape harvest” lets everyone think of a celebration.
In a recent past, after establishing the starting day of the grape harvest generally after September 8th, when the farmers’ wives in the west part of Marsala territory, on Holy Mary Child Day, carried to church baskets full of grapes to be blessed in order to have a good vintage.
The preparations for the grape harvest involved everyone, without age or sex distinction.
Boys helped adults to clean the bins for the harvest “cartedde” and to group the tools: scissors, funnels and buckets.
At dawn, men and women with “cartedde” and boys with “panareddi” (small baskets) to pick grapes, went to the countryside estates.
When the baskets were full, were put on the edge of the rows where the “carricaturi” (charger) empitied them in the “tineddi” (vats which were oval like a half barrel) put on the centre of the cart (typical Sicilian chariot).
When the “tineddo” was full, the grapes were unloaded on the “paramento” (working stone) linked to the “scarricatura” (openings on the stone to let the grapes be unloaded from the carts).
Then some barefoot men in big boots called “pigiatura” started to work. They, holding on the ropes which hang from the ceiling, pounded the grapes, giving themselves the rhythm.
At a certain point from the “pozzetto” linked to the stone the “mosto fiore” (first pressing juice) was flowing and it was joy for everyone.
Meanwhile the remains of the crushed grapes were put inside the “coffe” (bins of crushed grapes) which were pressed, before in the “viti” (presses) put, one above the other one (about ten bins)and from 1900 in the “torchiu”(another kind of press) until the dry residues remained: the “vinazzu” which was preserved in the open air and was gradually given to pets.
During the harvest days meals were eaten among the rows or in the court of the main house called “bagghiu”.
The grape harvesters ate bread with salted sardines or with olives and tomatoes.
The warm meal was eaten in the evening at home: women came back home earlier or sometimes they stayed at home in turn to prepare dinner and men, after washing themselves in the “tinozzi” (vats) with the water of the well, gathered to eat home made pasta “lasagni o tagghiarini, gnocculi, busiati o maccarruna”.
The pasta, seasoned with tomato sauce, cooked with onion and garlic browned in the oil and basil, was poured on a tray called “maidda” which was put on the centre of the table and everyone served himself.
The second dish was meat, generally home raised chicken or minced meat balls, sometimes roasted sardines.
After dinner, despite the tiredness, everyone entertained himself a little longer under a carob tree with jokes, pawn games and serenades, someone played the “fiscalettu” (flask made of reed).
The families: Alagna, Angileri and Caruso from CANTINE VINCI started to arrange the harvest before the end of August with the tuning of stones, vats, pumps, first carts and then lorries, baskets and at the end scissors.
Women remained at home plucking chickens and preparing the tomato sauce which would have been used to prepare dinner for the guests- grape harvester coming from the inland areas of Sicily who would have appreciated the meal watered by a good wine of high alcohol content.
From time to time, bustle with their tomato sauces, they invoked the will of God and prayed in order not to have rain and not to have a difficult and long harvest.
There was a celebration atmosphere and also children didn’t miss the opportunity to play with stalks loading them on their vans imitating adult people.
The must, then, passed from the stone to the barrels where it was fermenting for a long time waiting for Saint Martin’s Day when “Ogni mosto diventa vino” (every must becomes wine) and the fateful moment that involved everyone arrived.
The householder drew off the new wine, poured it in a glass, watched the colour, smelt the perfume and at the end, tasted it.