Autumn – Harvest & Wine in Italy!

by Darya Boronilo

 As autumn approaches, the air in Italy begins to carry the festive feeling of the grape harvest. This is when the country’s famous wine regions come to life, as grapes are picked and pressed into new batches of delicious wine. For many people, visiting Italy during the grape harvest is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The harvest provides a glimpse into the country’s rich culture, tradition, and deep love of gourmet pleasures. Moreover, it allows visitors to taste some of the most famous local wines. Ready to turn into an experienced Italian wine connoisseur? Let’s look closely at the Italian wine harvest season and what is not to be missed!

Wine Barrels

Winemaking as an Inspired Passion 

The grape harvest is a time-honored tradition in Italy. People from this land have been celebrating it for centuries. The country has been making wines for over 2,800 years, and 20 of its wine regions are dedicated to wine production. In the past, the grape harvest was a significant moment of Autumn celebrations. Everyone in the village would come around and help in the vineyard, singing, dancing, and sharing meals. 
In addition, as Italy has always been the cradle of culture, harvest days inspired Italian painters, poets, writers, and composers, of the caliber of Vivaldi, especially in his famous Four Seasons concerto. The great Baroque composer used music to create the idyllic country scene as a timeless work of art. His Autumn Season begins with the country festival, expressed by crisp and carefree music, followed by the virtuosic violin. The violin represents the dancing and jollity of the grape harvest and the hearty celebrations.  
These days, the wine harvest is still a time of excitement and buzz all over Italy. People get inspired by the autumn colors, the fresh grapes, and the prospect of making wine that culturally unites them through working together in the vineyards, sharing precious moments, big meals, and long-lasting traditions. They look forward to spending time with family and friends and enjoying all this wonderful experience.
Man collecting grapes on a truck

3 Interesting Harvest Traditions:

Grape stomping

From ancient Greeks who used to cherish Bacchus, the god of wine, to a new round of vinification development during the Roman Empire – Italy has deep roots in winemaking. It means using unique local grape varieties and methods that are becoming ever closer to perfection in recent years.
The tradition of grape stomping is one of the most exciting experiences of the harvest process. Despite the modernization of today’s winemaking, it’s still a traditional practice for wineries in Italy to have fall festivals that bring back grape stomping. Some turn it into a competition, while others are more about the visitors living the unique experience. The obvious question that might come to your mind is: Why? If machines can do all the work for good results, what’s the reason for jumping in a barrel of grapes? Well, it’s about making the process as natural as possible.
Moreover, the winemakers say the feet are the perfect natural machine for crushing grapes. The human force’s pressure is gentle, giving an exceptionally balanced taste to the development of the future wine. This means you will have fun and produce some fantastic vino! Are you ready to help?
Person crushing grapes barefoot

Vino Nuovo

In Italy, vino Nuovo, or new wine, is cause for celebration. Friends and family gather to toast the new vintage, often accompanied by bruschetta with freshly made olive oil. A sense of connection comes from sharing food and drink, and vino Nuovo is a tradition that brings people together. The new wine is typically lighter and fruitier than the previous year’s wines. It is perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon. When you visit Italy in Autumn, vino Nuovo is a great reason to gather your loved ones and celebrate the simple joys of life.
People laughing around wine and food

Italian Thanksgiving

Although Italians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving the same way as Americans, they have several sagre (local festivals) that celebrate local food traditions and take place during this time of year. These food festivals are a distinctive feature of Italian culture and usually revolve around one particular ingredient of the region. For example, red onions take the central place in Lombardy, fish in Liguria, and pork in Umbria.
Surprisingly, although cherished by locals, such festivals are still relatively unknown to tourists. At the beginning of November, another occasion for celebrating the harvest is The Festa di San Martino (St. Martin’s Feast Day), a Catholic holiday celebrated in Italy since the 8th century. It is a day when Italians give thanks to their friends, family, and their harvest!
Family laughing and talking around a table with wine and food

Why are Italian Wines Special?

Italy is one of, if not the, most popular destinations for gourmet travelers and wine lovers. The country’s rolling vineyards, picturesque villages, and Mediterranean climate create the perfect conditions for producing some of the world’s finest wines. But what makes Italian wine so unique?
Firstly, Italian wines are made using particular grape types exclusive to various regions in the country. For example, Glera, a white grape used to produce Prosecco in Friuli Venezia and Veneto regions. Another common variety is Nebbiolo in Piedmont, famous for quality Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Nero D’avola is the most important grape in Southern Sicily, perfect for barrel aging. Lambrusco is both a grape variety and style from the Emilia-Romagna region.
Italy’s most planted grape, Sangiovese, is predominantly appreciated in Abruzzo and Tuscany. This allows producers to infuse different notes and tastes of certain ingredients into their bottled products without them tasting the same as other brands on the market. 
Secondly, Italy is home to some of the world’s oldest vines, giving the country’s full-bodied red wine unique depth and complexity. And finally, each bottle of Italian vino must adhere to strict quality control standards set by the government, presented as Italy’s appellation system and wine label classifications. These measures help the consumers understand the level of wine quality and where it comes from, ensuring that only the finest products reach buyers.
Person drinking wine

Sangiovese – the Real King of Italian Grapes

Sangiovese is one of the most famous Italian grapes. This grape originated in Tuscany and spread to many other regions of Italy. The name “Sangiovese” comes from the Latin word “sanguis Jovis,” which means “blood of Jupiter,” referring to the deep dark color of the grape. Famous Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are all made from Sangiovese grapes. They are all different blends but share one similar characteristic – Sangiovese is the prominent grape!
 While Sangiovese wines can vary significantly in taste, they are typically fruity, with cherry, raspberry, and plum notes. Sangiovese pairs well with many foods, including pasta dishes, grilled meats, and hard cheeses. You can enjoy wines made from Sangiovese when they are young or keep them for several years for a special occasion.
Sangiovese Italian Grape

 Italian wine terms a wine lover should know:

Vendemmia – is an Italian word that means harvest. Specifically, it means harvesting grapes.
Enoteca – Translated as “wine library,” most modern enoteca is like a wine shop or bar. Traditionally, enotecas do not serve food and are simply a place to stop for a quick glass of wine, or an aperitivo, before heading off to dinner. More recently, many serve light appetizers to pair with wines to enhance the experience of enjoying a glass with friends.
Rosso/Bianco/Rosado – Italian for red/white/rosé used to indicate the color of the wine you will be consuming.
Saluti – means “cheers’ in Italian. A splendid expression to remember as you raise your glass!
Friends holding glasses of wine

How to try the best wines and experience the harvest:

Suppose you’re looking for a unique winemaking experience. In that case, there’s no better way to discover the process than during the harvest season. You could join in on the grape stomping mentioned above. Guests to the harvest usually pick the grapes and crush them barefoot with songs, music, and even dancing in the barrel. Tourism professionals often offer many grape stomping and wine tours, which will take you to some of the best vineyards in the country.
Besides, Italy is home to some of the best wine festivals in the world. From the traditional to the modern, these festivals offer visitors a chance to try local wines, enjoy traditional music and dance, and experience Italian culture at its finest.  Some of the most interesting festivals are Grape Festival in Chiusi, Festival Delle Sangre Astegiani in Asti, Festa dell’Uva in Umbria, and the Merano Grape Festival in South Tyrol.
Kid helping in grape harvest

A Unique Travel Experience for Wine Lovers

Exploring rural Italy in Autumn is an adventure not to miss, and harvest time is one of the best opportunities! Whether holding a glass of Chianti or Prosecco, there is no better way to experience the beauty of the different regions than by tipping a glass of still or sparkling wine. Immerse yourself in the bright culture, and indulge in gourmet pleasures. However, such a journey needs proper planning to pick the best route and see each region’s most precious options. 
The SeeItalyTravel team is here to assist you in planning your trip and joining the harvest celebrations at this magical time of the year! Being our guest is an excellent opportunity to see the most picturesque sights of rural Italy, feel like an actual winemaker and participate in this age-old tradition. We invite you not just to observe but to live a truly authentic experience that will offer memories for life with joyful sentiments and new sensations!
Woman picking grapes

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