Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A great vintage - unborn

So.  It looks like we won't be having a wine harvest this year.  Today, we walked around the vines and said, "This season was not meant to be, Cherie..."

Due to a 'series of unfortunate events' (well drying up, us gone for the month of May and part of June, municipal water connection efforts) we were not here for either the planting of our vegetable garden  (sadly) nor also some important milestones for our grapes and so it looks like they have been infected with a fungus, AND they didn't get enough water at the right time.


tiny grapes and some yellow leaves
Though T sprayed for the fungus when we returned, we'd missed the real window of opportunity to nip the dratted thing in the bud.  (At least he was in time to kill the spiders!  Most of them, anyway.  They burrow in and stay the winter!)

Raising grapes HAS it's pitfalls.  I am a bit depressed as I was looking forward to another wine harvest get-together.


The good news is, it looks like we'll have a pretty nice olive harvest this year.  As that takes place in November, we'll be busy enough for this fall, to not pine too much after the grape harvest.

What with Middle and "Sainted" Son coming to visit in less than a month, and a planned trip to Belgium for a family wedding in the mix,  it might have been a pretty tight squeeze to fit in a grape harvest at all!  (of course we could have looked at our "house guest" as an extra pair of hands...)

If our luck holds with the weather this year, we should have another brilliant crop of olives and some fantastic oil.   As we only harvest our olives every other year, it's really important for us that we get it at its peak of perfection, and then rush it to the olive press!

We MUST have a good batch of oil to  
a) have enough to last for 2 years,  and of course

b) have the right quality of acidity to not go rancid after the first 6 months!  This means that T will probably pick all our olives over a period of three or four days and then get them pressed almost right away.

We have been lucky in the last two harvests as T (and me too! he so nice! he lets me help but only if I don't get in the way...) strip the olives from the branches while they are still partly green, as that makes the best extra virgin oil.

Usually the olive press is busy, but because we lean a bit more towards the side of "green" on our olives, we're early enough in the season, to miss the 'full out' busy of ALL the olive growers arriving at the same time.

The first year we harvested all on our own, our olives waited in the pressing queue for four days, and as we'd picked them "ripe"(and black), by then some had started to go bad.  The olive oil was "OK", and it lasted for almost a year before we had to use it to light fires in the fireplace.

Extra-virgin olive oil means that the amount of free fatty acids (oleic acid) is below 1 %.  The taste, aroma and "feel" on the tongue must rate high as well.  The olives are squeezed by one of several processes known as "first-press" or "cold-press".  The end product should be really green and cloudy, and the most prized are the oils the most peppery, and throat-catching- in other words, the oil should have a "cough".

Our last batch had the "cough" for the first time ever!  It was SO exciting... even though we only use it ourselves and give it to a few friends at Christmas, still it was really a special moment.  It has been a fantastic oil, and I will miss it when we run out.  I hope this year's batch will be as good!)

So ends another day...   

Did you notice I placed FOUR pictures on the blog???  

I got a very helpful answer [on a reply to the original answer (to which I'd replied quite brusquely regarding my lack of computer speak) the first time] from a lady named Marcela at Flickr.  

The first answer was the same as the second answer, although I will give her credit for writing me back, not calling me names, and explaining to me how to find what I needed in the HTML code to post each individual picture. So hopefully I'm back in blog business!  Now if only I could think of something interesting to write about! 


  1. i'm so sorry about the grape fungus -- crap!! my brother in law's tomato crop was wiped out this year by a fungus as well.....could there be something going on?!

    the olive harvest sounds just glorious. i am going to share this post with my sister, as her dream is to harvest olives in greece.

    that's cool about the 'cough' -- and congrats on loading the fotos! xo

  2. I'm crossing my fingers for your successful olive harvest.

    We're selling up..or if we can't sell, given the current market, just closing the house and moving to Costa Rica, so there are so many things we're doing for the last time...or not doing as there is no point if we will not be here to see the outcome.

    We need somewhere smaller, somewhere warmer, and as we already have the little house there it will be good enough as a base for a while until we find our feet in a different culture.

    No olives where we are going...and if there is such a thing as virgin palm oil I have never heard of it!

  3. Dear Amanda,

    T always blames the "cats".

    I'm more practical and lean towards the idea of a HUGE conspiracy, hiding the ongoing war between humans,insects, as well as fungi, and viruses (and of course, extra terrestrials - who are not nearly as nice as we'd like to imagine)! Apparently we all want the planet for ourselves and there can only be ONE winner...

    Seriously, it's always been a battle to grow things probably since pre-history. Personally, I just thank the gods that we're not dependent on what we grow- or we'd have starved LONG ago!

    Dear Fly,

    I totally understand the thing about warmer (AND smaller), but Costa Rica is so far away! (she says after spending the last 19 years living in Europe and Turkey and flying back and forth to the US for all sorts of things...mostly familial!)

    I understand that it's a bit of a Paradise there (in Costa Rica), but what about the storms? I must say that moving to an island in the Ionian plunged me into a whole different respect for wintertime "gale force" winds! (and I grew up in the mid-west US with tornadoes!) You will be adopting hurricanes.

    For sure I'm hoping you will be documenting your cultural footwork and continuing to blog- tho French Leave will become France Left! Start thinking up names for your new venture...

    For sure, no olives - but I think you'll find a whole different place in your life for the humble coconut...


  4. Nice blog and story telling. Amanda sent me your way - my sister.

    Ever since a trip tasting wine in Tuscany many years ago and discovering olive oil tasting more - tasty - I've been hooked on olive oils. In pursuit of filming the process of olive oil making the dreaded fungus is ever present in the orchards in the Peloponnese.

    No one can say how or when the harvest will be this year - any signs yet on Corfu of olive fungus?

    Maybe the sisters will need to come visit on our way from Italy to Ithaki mid November.

  5. dear Deborah!


    Yes, olives are fascinating and you are correct: No one can predict how the harvest will be, though looking at the amount of olives on the branches and the lack of parasites (to this point!) leads us to believe that we'll maybe (fingers crossed) get a good harvest.

    All that could be like so much smoke in the air if the weather turns nasty.

    Last harvest, because we had SO MUCH rain - right during the main part of the ripening season, many people lost at least 1/3 of their harvest. Some just gave up the whole harvest because of slogging in the mud and the rain!

    We were incredibly lucky because we ended up picking our olives just a bit less ripe than normally- meaning less oil!- but we managed to catch the last perfect week of weather. We were among the first to get our olives pressed and so we were very lucky.

    There is a really good book called "Olives: The life and lore of a noble fruit" by Mort Rosenblum, that is a delight to read and is filled with absolutely fascinating bits of information.


    You are both more than welcome to visit during olive harvest! Really! (how are you about standing on really tall ladders???)


  6. Shame about the grapes, but you really have to be there every day don't you?

    I get my olive oil from my neighbour who also picks and presses early, and it's so delicious...good luck with the olive harvest.

  7. Sorry to hear about your not-to-be grape harvest, but - hey! - at least you've got plenty of ammo for some killer stuffed vine leaves, eh?



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