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

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!

See video:


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!

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under Professor Hong-Ming Liang

16 responses to “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

  1. McKenna Holman

    I’ve never knew the actual basics of wine making, so this was a really interesting read. It is really neat that the small family farm uses solar panels to produce their electricity for production. Since he said nobody else could replicate the taste of his wine, does that meant that each vineyard produces a different tasting wine and no wine can every be alike? Also, how does copper help grapes grow versus actual chemicals? How long does it take to make one bottle of wine? Do a lot of these farms have many employees?

  2. Michaela Campbell

    This article was an interesting read due to the amount of information that was given on the wine-making process. I had a basic understanding of how wine was made, but I did not realize how much time and patience some of the methods require to make it. The video on the stacking of the mats was a nice addition to the article, because it is always great to get a visual on what an author is writing about! It appears from the amount of vineyards that were visited in this article, that winemaking seems like a popular livelihood in this part of Italy. I am curious as to how much of the country’s population also owns their own vineyards? And if most of the vineyards are family-run like we read in the article?

  3. Thank you for sharing! How cool! What a wonderful opportunity for you! I liked the pictures and video you included along with this piece. The video especially made it easy to understand the process of drying the grapes out. It is wonderful that many of these vineyards are eco-friendly. It seems to me that this would allow for a continuation of old traditions and result in a higher quality product overall. I suppose that is what Italy is known for wine! I did not know there was a specific way to taste wine either? I would be interested to hear about that, if you would be willing to give more information on that?

  4. Thomas Landgren

    Sara thank you for the interesting article. Wow the whole process behind wine making is truly an art. No wonder the wine markers are so proud of their work because who wouldn’t be. From reading your article it seems that there are procedures that are specific to each vineyard which is just like a chef having a secret ingredient or an artist’s work being his own and most people cannot match her/his work. The pictures were awesome but what was going on in the video? Were they just drying out the grapes? From reading your article it seems like agriculture is a prominent career. How many people actually work, participate, and own vineyards in Italy? Are there other produce that people tend to grow in Florence? Great article!

  5. Andrew Bailey

    Sara, it is fascinating how passionate and dedicated the wine producers you have met are about their craft. It sounds like a very intricate process that relies on both the individual and the quality of the grapes that are produced. I also think it is really cool that one of the vineyards you visited uses sustainable energy to power their home and vineyard. I would not expect this in a traditional setting where wine has been produced most likely for many years, but it is great that they are aware of how they can be eco-friendly. It is also crazy that the Mona Lisa was painted just a mile or two from that Vineyard!

  6. Christopher Killian

    Very interesting experience, not everyone can say that they have helped make wine in Italy. I was surprised that your first vineyard had solar panels that produced enough electricity to power everything. I thought it wonderful that they still practice traditional ways and grow the grapes without harmful chemicals. Also I never knew the use of copper can help the plants grow. I wonder what the different pricing for a bottle of wine is for each vineyard you visited and how far around the world they sell them?

  7. Wine making is such a rich and ancient process. As one of the major specialty crops used for trading, its origins can be traced back hundreds of years. Italy would be the perfect place to learn the process of creating wine. Living in Minnesota we cannot have authentic vineyards due to our harsh winters. Although they can survive in the summer, I’m sure with our climate, heat and temperatures, the finished product is no where near the caliber of true Italian vino. Thank you for sharing your story, and the short video of the production was a wonderful glimpse into the process.

  8. Dominick Gilbert

    Thank you for sharing Sara! I find it interesting that while we focus on the importance of organic farming in the US (and it is important), there isn’t as big of a focus on the importance of manufacture by individual human hands
    and effort. While it is recognized by a “hand-made in X country”, your appreciation for and recognition of the human effort made me wonder whether there should be a more official recognition of human effort, especially in our age of increased mechanization. Other than that, it is beautiful to see that individual human effort combined with good farming produces such delicious and unique wines. we pay so much for Italian wine here; it must be so available and cheap over there!

  9. Cassie Mahlberg

    I have been working in a cultural theory class about the attachment to originally crafted products such as the wine created by the Italian artisans. There is a lot of significance in the process of wine making, the relationships the people have with each other, with their vineyards, their grapes, and their production method. These are things that cannot be recreated in mass-production; factory made wine cannot taste the same as artisan wine, but it also cannot hold the same meaning, context, and feeling as that which has been created by hand. It was interesting to read what you say about the larger production of wine in Italy, because that still has a genuine, artisan feeling as opposed to say, box wines produced who-knows-where and sold for very low prices in questionable American liquor stores. I also never realized that grapes had to be dried and carefully selected for wine-making, but it is incredible the amount of effort they put in to ensure the highest quality of wine there in Italy. It would be interesting to see if there is a more factory-based technique to make the cheaper wines common in the U.S. Again, it was a pleasure to see your Italian adventure– Safe travels moving forward!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Sara. I found it especially interesting to learn about the process of making organic wine, which has been increasing in popularity in the last few years. Does the certification process for organic wine take three years and then all the wine is certified? Or does producing organic wine take three years? Are the certifications the same as wine produced in other countries such as the United States? Does the value change if they are certified as organic?

  11. Hannah Schaaf

    I loved reading this article! It was interesting to hear about how the farmers use copper in order to make the plants grow. I also enjoyed reading about the three different farms you mentioned. My dad and I used to make wine together at home, and it was nice to read about how the Italians actually make wine. While we put a lot of time and effort into the process, it was nothing like you talked about in your post! All of the farms that you’ve visited sounded amazing, but the first farm really captured my attention. It sounded so cute. One thing that I really liked was that they had a focus on sustainability too. Great post!

  12. Meghan Lozinski

    I think that experience you’re describing is so amazing to see first hand. I also thought it was really interesting about how they are dedicated to being completely sustainable, even using sustainable energy to run everything. That is something that I definitely think more people need to be aware of and need to be educated about how to do it and how manageable and possible it really is.

  13. Nicholas Gangi

    This is amazing to hear about the variety of vineyards. How they take care of the grapes and the love and care they take to make sure that they get a good product is insane. It really shows the passion that they have for their craft. It is also weird to think of the scale this is going on. It might be comparable to the effort we put into corn and wheat.

  14. Ellery Bruns

    I have always been curious about how wine was made. After reading your article, I just want to know more. I find the process fascinating. I am also glad that you mentioned winemaking is a skill. It must take a lot of experience and knowledge to be able to decern which grapes will produce the best wine and which will produce different types of wine. It’s really amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.