CONTRIBUTED BY L.Y. TAN
In late September, I had the opportunity to join a few veteran winegrowers in our Swabian village for “Weinlese” which means harvesting of wine grapes.
We live in a small charming village called “Ingersheim” surrounded by beautiful vineyards. Currently, Ingersheim has approximately 39 hectares of grapevines bearing mostly grapes of red wine varieties, namely Trollinger, Lemberger, Spätburgunder and Schwarzriesling. White wine varieties like Kerner, Riesling, Chardonnay, etc. are also grown here although they are the minority.
Weinlese is very much a family activity. Due to the manual labour required, the non-commercial winegrowers need all the help they can get to harvest the grapes. That is why family members, young and old, together with relatives and friends will be invited for Weinlese. Everyone will be helping out and having fun, reaping the rewards of their labour, enjoying the weather and taking lunch breaks together in the vineyards.
The grapes that we picked were of the red variety Trollinger and its wine is often referred to as the Swabian national drink. Trollinger grapes are plump and round. They are ready for harvest once they turn dark blue, usually between September and October. Each worker trims the main stem of each bunch of grapes, scrutinizes every fruit and discards the ones that are damaged. The “good” grapes will then be consolidated and transported by a tractor.
If the grapevines are situated on flat slopes, harvesting the grapes could still be done with the help of a tractor. However if they are cultivated on steep hills with stone steps, the grapes have to be placed in a “Bütte” which looks like a long plastic bucket that can hold up to 70 kg of grapes. The workers will have to carry his heavy grape container on their shoulders and climb up or down the steep, narrow and uneven steps in order to place them in a large container on the tractor. They will have to do this countless times until all the grapes are harvested. Imagine the sheer hard work! Once the large container is full, the grapes will be delivered for wine pressing. Interestingly, these grapes are not only used to make wine. Some of them are used to make grape juice, jam and even chocolates!
Wine cultivation is an important part of the lives of many in the village. It is a preservation of heritage and tradition. Many of the winegrowers inherited the vines from their forefathers. Although many were sold due to the lack of interest to continue the cultivation as well as the hard work and time required, some from the present generation chose to keep up and continue the good work.
Thankfully, the harvest this year is more plentiful than last year as the grapes enjoyed more sunlight due to the prime weather condition. So let’s toast with a glass of Trollinger as a tribute to the winegrowers and as thanksgiving for the Great Grape Harvest!
Want to experience more of the wonderful German wine culture? Then I sincerely invite you to visit this amazing wine region. Apart from tasting the premier quality red wines, you will also be greeted by the wonderful nature, gorgeously stunning view and friendly winegrowers. You may find a list of wine tours here.
To find out more about the Swabian Wine Culture, read here.
Special thanks to the Eckert Family and the Schaaf Family for sharing their time, knowledge, experience and those lovely wine grapes.