The Langhe People and the Wine Harvest
You can dream of living in a great place, and that dream can become a reality. But then life flashes by you with the velocity of a jet airplane loaded with all the responsibilities that are ours for the journey. Sometimes though, it's good to hit the air brakes, force an emergency landing and feel the ground beneath your feet - even if it's just for a few hours. Refueling, after all, avoids nasty incidents.
It was with this in mind that we set off to the Langhe on Monday morning. You see, it's a very special time here. The most important time of the year. It's the month that the traffic is obliged, with deep respect, to slow right down, making those rushing Italians hit the literal brakes and follow red tractors of all shapes and sizes, all carrying the precious cargo of this year's Vendemia - the Wine Harvest. Grapes. The smells and colours of the most important fruit production in the Roero, Langhe and Monferrato. For years I've meant to get out and photograph it and this year we made the time, and it was well worth the effort of breaking from routine.
The need to get a much needed part for our little Fiat 500 led us to Neive. I'd found a parts (ricambi) shop on the Internet located there. They didn't have the part I needed.. So onto the Vendemia. We took the little road up to Coazzolo. Now, if you want to see the best part of the Langhe, it's here. The road eventually arrives in Mango, and it's beautiful. The hills are high and gentle sloping with the Alps dominating the skyline. Almost immediately we spotted workers in the vineyards so stopped the car and wandered over.
We saw a group of about 8 people, mostly Italians and some Eastern European workers. Asking if I could take a photo they shyly agreed it was OK. A young women with 'Kill Them All - God Will Sort 'em Out' written in English on her T-shirt asked who we were. The thought ran through my mind that this slogan might be for nosey foreigners trespassing on their land.. but she seemed more friendly than that. Perhaps her English was not good and she imagined it said something nicer. We continued to hope for the best and take our chances.
I snapped away (my request for 'un foto' was a gross understatement). The workers carried on working and quickly accepted our presence and questions. The 'kill them all' lady then started to load us with grapes. They were harvesting two types of Moscato - sweet and more sweet. They were all destined for the co-operativo. In fact, most vine growers are not wine producers but sell the grapes to a co-operative that then produce the wine. These were heading for Cinzano and Fontana Fredda, local wine producers, and would end up as Moscato wine and Asti Spumante.
She was extremely kind and seemed happy we had dropped by. We then crossed the road and spotted an elderly man working his vineyard. He was harvesting Nebbiolo. He was very kind and again offered more grapes. Grapes straight from the vine are a kind of perfection. Get them home an hour or two later and already the taste is draining away. I took a photo of him and my wife Ula standing beside his beautiful little red tractor that would later, no doubt, be holding up the local traffic.
Grapes straight from the vine are a kind of perfection. Get them home an hour or two later and already the taste is draining away
Later back in the Roero we came across more workers that were also very kind and friendly. They explained how next week they would start to harvest their Nebbiolo. The Roero has very steep hills, too steep for tractors and the vines are old and crooked - so much harder work was ahead of them. Here they were harvesting the Arneis grape, the 'little rascal' in local dialect as they are difficult to produce but we were told this year things had gone well. The hail stayed away and the weather was optimal.
Sip the local wines and agree the tastes and fragrances are something fantastic and then reflect on the question, why? The answer is simple. Love, hard work and passion tuned to perfection. Coca Cola will always taste like a disgusting concoction of chemicals and sugar made to make big profits - no passion, no love and the only hard work goes into advertising it. If you want to experience the best things in life you have to make a little more effort. Something the local people understand perfectly.