Things you learn on a Sunday morning

Living in a B&B is possibly not the most ideal housing solution, but it can have its benefits.

Agriturismo Oasi, in Massignano, has been my home for the last five weeks whilst I seek more permanent living arrangements for me and the dogs. Situated just below the hill-top village, it offers simple but comfortable accommodation, and very friendly landlords - Antonio (Tony) and Adriana. Beyond the front door of my studio is the vineyard, that stretches across the slope.
Vines, Massignano
2/3 of the vineyard at Agriturismo Oasi

This morning was beautiful - clear, blue sky and, by the time I had ventured out at 9am, melting frost. As the dogs followed the scents of the night's visitors, running through the rows of vines, I ambled along with a mind clear of any thoughts other than how warm the sun was, and thank goodness for wellies.

Before trimming

Half-way down the slope, at the furthest line of vines, I met Tony. With an energy pack strapped to his back and powered secateurs in gloved hands he was trimming the vines. "A lovely day, so I thought I'd start," he said. If he has assistance, the whole of the vineyard will be trimmed by the start of the new year; and this is not the largest vineyard by any stretch of the imagination. This year's grape crop had been sent to the co-operative for making into wine. "I won't get much money from the wine, not as much as if I sold it directly; but the cost of bottles, the machines etc is too much. This", he waved the secatuers, "cost €1,800, but to do it by hand is very painful."

After trimming

There is more to trimming a vine than just lopping off the latest growth, "You have to look at the vine, and think about it." All but two of the sprawling limbs of the vine need to be cut back, and these need to be healthy and able to be wound around the lowest wire, in opposite directions at a later date. From these, new limbs will sprout, climb and bear the fruit.

The main part of the vine (trunk as I shall call it, no doubt incorrectly) needs to sit lower than the lowest of the wires which support the vine and its fruit. Tony also selected two growths which were cut back, not quite to the very base  and which would likely be the main stems for two years hence.

As Tony says, there is always something to do if you live and work in the countryside. I do not envy him the task of trimming back all the vines, even on beautiful winter days, but it is people like Tony and Adriana who keep people like me in wine, and stop the more commercial vineyards from holding complete sway in the market-place. The local bars (definitely the one in Massignano) stock the terreno wine and ensure a meagre income for the small-holdings that continue to grow and harvest their vines.

This is what I learned on a Sunday morning.

Melting frost


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