Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do have a glass!

It's October. And that means round these parts, wine making. For the 3rd year on the trot we've eagerly helped a couple of our neighbours do their vindimas, 500 litres in the first one, then 600 litres in the next. Over the last fortnight, our closest neighbours have once again between them made over 1000 litres of wine. In years gone by they have made much much more. But now they don't have the time to look after that number of vines. 30 years ago, the families living on the 2 farms on the land here at Moses used to make 8000 litres of wine every year. Not a typo. Eight thousand.

You should have seen for yourself these vast vats (which unfortunately collapsed when we moved them outside and now exist as various cupboard doors, walls and panelling) that were here in the basement. Steeped they were, steeped. In history, in stories told and songs sung and moments of friendship shared in front of them. And, of course, in the colour and smell of a century's worth of wine. Which, if I hadn't already mentioned, was rather a significant quantity.

For over a hundred years these farms have been flowing with wine. It's an intrinsic part of the Portuguese culture. To make your own wine and offer it generously to anyone at every possible opportunity. (Last 2 pics we took in Sep 2007)

Finally last weekend, 4 years after we arrived, we did our very own vindima at Moses with the wild grapes picked from the vines still left over from yesteryear. We took up the grapes in buckets to our neighbours João and Eugenia and crushed them with their grape crushing machine to produce 100 litres of the sweetest grape juice. 40 litres of that we used to make 50 litres of Jeropiga, by adding 10 litres of Aguardent (strong local moonshine). We'll open that 50 litre barrel in a month or so to taste and hopefully it won't have fermented (which is why it has the moonshine and is in an air tight barrel. The remaining 60 litres is fermenting right now in its journey of becoming wine. Videos below.

This week, as a result, has been quite an emotional one for me. Wine is, as I said, important here. We've helped others make and drink plenty of theirs. But we have never had any of our own to offer visitors. For 3 years we've admired grapes. Watched them grow up and into the trees along the streams. Written a couple of blog posts about them. Taken photos. Videos. Trained one over a pergola at the guest house, watched it get covered in bunches within the year. Eaten kilos. Never made wine. Until this week. It's not 8000 litres. It's only 100. But it's a start. The first 100 litres.

I bloody hope it doesn't turn to vinegar.

October has also been the month of putting our kitchen garden to bed for the winter, bringing in the last of the summer harvests. The tomatoes, peppers and chillies have all been sauced and bottled in various concoctions. Onions pulled and hanging drying. Peas and beans dried and stored.

Alongside 3 lovely wwoofers we have at the moment from Kansas, Kristen, Naseeb and Jenna, Eloise and Vonetta have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen with the rest of the summer veggies and also baking every other day.

We have had to buy the eggs for all those cakes though as a fox ate the chickens.

Last but not least, October means firewood. Our wood shed (which if you remember I had to rebuild in July, cos it collapsed murdering 6 innocent pumpkins on the terrace below) is now choka bloka stacked with ready to use firewood, and kindling galore, plus the old stone chick shed in front of Joshua´s bedroom door on the right of the kid´s house is also rammed with a dozen sacks of big pine cones, the perfect Portuguese fire starters.

It's 35 degrees outside, hasn't rained for 3 weeks and isn't looking likely to until November, but we know the winter is coming and that stacked wood shed means we ain't gonna be cold. It's only a couple of months worth but I'll cut down some dried dead pines (eaten by beatles we think) and chainsaw them into logs next weekend to store under a tarpaulin somewhere. We'll chop them when we need to sometime in January.

On my list of things still do to round here is build a way bigger wood shed. Probably a barn on the car park terrace above the houses. Next year. Maybe. For now though, our cute wood shed next to the house is full. Once again, it's a start.
We're trying. We're practising. We're playing really. We're working it out. Patiently. How to live a life a little more self sustainably. We're learning. First hand through our own mistakes but also from our lovely neighbours always ready to share their rural wisdom earned over years and years of working these hand carved out terraced slopes and gardens in the middle of a forest.

A big thanks to all of you have being plugging our new retreat website We've had enquiries and bookings. Hoping the advert on Green Traveller also works. Any other publicity suggestions gratefully received. And if you get the chance yourself to visit us, I do very much hope to be able to offer you a glass or two of the finest of home made wines ever. Though I suspect that might be more likely to happen if you drop by in 2042 rather than 2012.

A good vintnor, like a good fisherman, stonemason, father or husband is not made overnight. Takes a lifetime. Undoubtedly one well spent I would wager.