Italian Language Blog

La Vendemmia – un po’ di vocabolario Posted by on Oct 7, 2009 in Italian Language

One of the great pleasures of living in our little village in Lunigiana, is being surrounded by nature and her changes of season. The lives of the contadini (peasant farmers) are still closely tied to the ancient rituals that have always accompanied natures rhythms. Late September, for example, is the period of la vendemmia, a word that originates from the Latin Vinum (vino) + Demere (levare), meaning ‘the grape harvest’. We also have the verb vendemmiare (to harvest the grapes), e.g. Ormai l’uva è matura, ed i contadini sono tutti nei vigneti a vendemmiare (The grapes are now ripe, and the peasants are all in the vineyards harvesting them).

It has taken l’uva (the grapes) all summer to reach maturity, and during that period they require quite a lot of care. In primavera le viti  vengono potate (In the spring the vines are pruned), poi vengono legate con rametti di salice (then they are tied with willow shoots). Salice (willow trees) are grown near the vineyards specifically for this purpose. They are pollarded, and each year the resulting shoots are cut when they are about a meter long, soaked in water to soften them, and used as a kind of string for tying the vine shoots in place. Even though there are now synthetic strings available for the purpose, salice is still the preferred material da noi (where we live), as it has been for centuries. Durante l’estate le viti vanno trattate sia con il verderame che con lo zolfo (During the summer the vines must be treated with both Bordeaux mix and sulphur). If you have ever travelled through vineyards in Italy and have noticed that the vine leaves are a strange bluish-green color then what you are actually seeing is the verderame, which is a copper sulphate solution, that has been sprayed on the vines. Questi prodotti servono per evitare le malattie a cui sono soggette (these products are used in order to avoid the diseases which they are subject to).    

Notice that in Italian we say l’uva in the singular form to mean grapes collectively. So if you want to offer a friend a few grapes to eat you would say ‘vuoi un po’ di uva?’ (would you like a few/some grapes?). A bunch of grapes is called un grappolo, and each individual grape is un acino.

The grapes, which are either bianca (white) or nera (literally black, we don’t say ‘uva rossa’ – red grapes), are grown in rows, each of which is called un filare di viti (a row of vines). We use two similar words to describe a vineyard: la vigna or il vigneto, but dalle nostre parti (in our area) il vigneto is probably the most commonly used term. During la vendemmia, i grappoli are cut from le viti and placed in baskets to be transported back to la cantina (the cellar). These days people mostly use il trattore (the tractor) or la motocariola (a motorized wheelbarrow with caterpillar tracks) for transporting the grapes, but in the past it would have been the job of the ubiquitous asino (donkey).

Alla prossima.

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  1. Bill Rohwer:

    Cara Serena,

    como sempre, un blog ben fatto. In my admittedly limited experience, my impresssion is that the verb ‘raccogliere’ è più commune del ‘vendemmiare.’ (‘Vendemmia,’ of course is very, very much used as the noun for ‘harvest.’
    Ad esempio, l’espressione, “raccolta uva,” sembra essere molto commune. Is this impression due to regional differences?

    Bill Rohwer

  2. anneke:

    Dear Serena

    I started learning Italian this year and enjoy your blogs very much – the grammar is usually still too difficult, but the vocabulary is most helpful. A few photographs of the countryside and of the trips you take, will be a bonus to all readers!


  3. Serena:

    Caro Bill,
    come sempre e’ un piacere ricevere un tuo commento, e grazie per averlo scritto in italiano, molto bravo!
    Per quanto riguarda la “vendemmia”, qui da noi e’ la parola piu’ comune, ma senz’altro ci sono differenze regionali.

    A presto!

  4. Serena:

    Salve Anneke, I’m glad you enjoy my blogs. Don’t worry, the grammar blogs that I’ve done recently have been for advanced learners, the next ones will be aimed more at beginners / level 1 learners. I will also be doing some vocabulary blogs that I believe will be useful to both beginners and more advanced learners because they will be based very much on colloquial Italian. As for photos, my main problem is that I only have dial-up internet, so it’s pretty slow for uploading pictures, however, I’ll see what I can do.

    A presto, Serena

  5. anneke:

    Thank you very much, Serena!

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