Go Behind the Scenes of Italy’s Olive & Wine Harvests

La raccolta delle olive and la vendemmia, the olive and wine harvests, are two of the nation’s most celebrated occasions. Find out how to reap the fruits of Italy’s famed harvest season here in Canada.

Wine and Olive Harvests

Italy’s olive groves and vineyards flourish between the months of September and December. This is the country’s annual autumn harvest season, an occasion celebrated throughout the nation.

La raccolta delle olive – the olive harvest

The olive harvest typically begins at the end of October and lasts for about six weeks, depending on the climate and region. Every olive farm has its own time-honoured process for harvest, but almost all olive producers fall into one of two categories: raccattatura or brucatura – mechanical tools or by hand. Another method is caduta spontanea or “spontaneous fall” – allowing olives to naturally fall from tree branches into nets spread on the ground.

Olio nuovo (new oil) is available in October and November. It’s a prized product of la raccolta delle olive – when the first pressings are bottled, unfiltered, and sold immediately. Bright green in colour, olio nuovo boasts an intense, slightly spicy and aromatic flavour. One of the simplest and best ways to enjoy olio nuovo is with fett’unta – ­thick slices of grilled bread, sprinkled with olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt.

La vendemmia – the wine harvest

Italy boasts the most grape varieties in the world, with an astounding 370 kinds. The nation’s viticulture, referring to everything that occurs in the vineyard, differs according to grape variety, region, climate and landscape. In general, white wine grapes are harvested earlier in the season (September to October) while red wine varieties are traditionally picked later on (November).

Wines with DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status are produced according to strict guidelines and with permitted grape varieties, and the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation is reserved for the highest quality wines. These designations represent the most prestigious wine the nation has to offer, so grapes are planted with DOC and DOCG status in mind. In 2014 – according to Coldiretti, the largest organization of farmers in Italy – 40 percent of the yield was allocated to DOC and DOCG categories.

Many towns host grape harvest festivals that include music, competitions and local delicacies, and local farmers often enlist the help of tourists to gather, transport, de-stem, crush and press the harvest. Most farmers prefer volunteers and will provide room, board and an unforgettable experience working on the rolling hills of the Italian countryside.

Buon appetito!

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