A Semester in Italy – Wine Making! – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Ciao ragazzi! I am staying in the Tuscany region, which is in central Italy. The area is known for the beautiful landscape, including hills full of vineyards and olive orchards. It makes sense that it is known for it’s exquisite wine. Last week I had the privilege of touring three different styles of vineyards. I was also able to learn about the different steps in the wine making process as I worked with the grapes in vineyards.
Each vineyard is organic and focused on sustainability. The first was smaller, family run vineyard. The family focuses on complete sustainability by using six solar panels, producing enough electricity to power their home and any machines used to press and store the grapes. I enjoyed this vineyard because it was small but very beautiful. The owner said that the Mona Lisa was painted only about a mile or two from the property! It was apparent that the farmer felt much pride in his grapes and wine, which I have found at all of the vineyards that I have been to so far. He talked about how nobody else’s wine could taste exactly like his own because these grapes were grown in a specific climate and location. Nobody could replicate this authentic taste. We were also taught how to correctly taste wine, who knew that wine has legs?
The next vineyard that my class visited was a large scale wine producer. The vineyards covered land as far as the eye could see, producing enough grapes for 300,000 bottles of wine to be sold yearly. These farms have all gotten the organic label, which takes three years of this type of farming before it can put ‘organic’ on the label. However, this does not stop many of the farms in the Tuscany area. ‘Organic’ simply means grown without excess chemicals sprayed onto the plants. These local farmers use copper if they need to help the plants grow.
The last place that I visited is on the residence that I am living on. It is family owned and consists of vineyards and olive orchards. This week I spent two days working in the vineyards pruning and harvesting grapes. I also spent a few half-days laying grapes out to dry. Pruning the grapes means that we pull off the leaves that are blocking the sunlight from reaching the grapes. More sunlight for the grapes means more sugar in them, it also starts to dry out the grapes. After the grapes have been exposed to the sun for a good amount of time and reach a certain age, they are removed from their vines. When we harvest the grapes we simply cut the bunch off of the vine and place them into buckets. Once we have filled the trailer with our buckets of grapes, they are either laid out to dry or squished right away depending on the quality of the grape.
When we lay out grapes we go through the buckets for a selective process. The grapes that not too small, broken or bunchy are laid gently on mats to be dried out. We fill as many mats as we can fit onto wooden structures. Then lift the mats up to the top of these structures so that we can fill every row. This process is not very common anymore because it takes patience and space. The entire top floor of the castle is designated to the grapes so that they can dry with natural air flow through the windows. This job can be tedious but the students made the best of it by singing songs while we worked! These grapes will be dried for a few months, until they are taste tested and determined to be dry enough to continue the wine-making process. It is interesting how this process is very much reliant on the human behind the wine, a worker even mentioned that the grapes are never finished drying at the same time. The month, week and day that the grapes are removed from the mats is strategically chosen to make the best wine possible. So much thought is put into this process, it is easy to understand why people here value their wine so much!
About our special correspondent Sara: I am a junior at St. Scholastica majoring in Computer Science with a concentration of Software Engineering. I am staying in a small town about 25 minutes outside of Florence, Italy with a HECUA program. My current studies are focused on Agriculture and Sustainability, which is very interesting to learn about in Europe. I chose this program because Italy has always been a place that I wanted to visit, mainly due to the fact that my great-grandfather came here from southern Italy. This is my first time in Europe and it has been quite the experience so far. I am excited for even more experiences as I gain a better understanding of the community!
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
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