The wine and the grapes were a full job for the entire family. Vrancea, the region where I was born, is considered to be the first wine producer in Romania. The funny thing is that the famous wine is produced in the hill area and not in the plain where my village is. Therefore I have not enjoyed the taste of those famous grapes and wines in my earlier years. Because of the natural conditions and climate, we grew a sort of ordinary grape vines in my village. They were grapes for wine and the wine was of simple taste and flavour. Despite that, people used to say that their wine was healthier and better than the famous wine produced in the vineyards some 50 km away. To be honest I did not like our wine, but I grew up with the belief that what people said is true.
My father managed to accommodate a sort of grape vines coming from the hills. They were not meant specifically for wine, but for eating. They were our “delicious food” from late autumn to Christmas.
Producing the wine was a sophisticated and complicated job. There were black, red and white grapes. We needed to place them in the grape crusher separately to avoid damaging the wine colours and flavours. My father and grandfather made themselves the tools needed to process the grapes, the recipients to store the wine and pass it through all the needed stages to finally get it matured. My brother and myself were in charge of preparing the wine recipients.
My family used wood barrels to store the wine. As soon as a barrel got empty, in spring, we removed the metallic circles, which kept the wood barrel staves together. We scrubbed each stave with a special powder, run a lot of water on the staves and place them in the sun to let them dry. When dried, my grandfather put the staves back together recomposing the barrel. I remember he placed slices of cattail between staves to ensure they stay together well and no wine could leak out. I also recall that when the barrel was back, my father used to place a little piece of solid sulphur and with a matchstick made it burn to make sure that the recipient is proper, does not preserve any old smell and is ready to accommodate the new wine in the autumn.
In the middle of fall, the last days of October, we celebrated the Harvest Day, a day where all families in the village proudly introduced their crops and the wine to their visitors.
In autumn we also prepared the winter provisions. Our house had a big storage room and a cellar underneath. All the provisions were well organised and labelled accordingly. When we handled the provisions’ recipients we were told to put them back in the same place to avoid messing around. Discipline was the golden rule of the house.
Both the cellar and the storage room had a special place for the pork meat, which was always available shortly before Christmas.
I always helped with the pickles, drying fruits and vegetables. The flour was my brother’s responsibility, who periodically went to the flourmill with wheat and corn to get corn and wheat flour in return. I used to help him because I liked watching the huge strong stones doing the job of turning the grains into the flour powder. Our sisters were in charge of the fruit jam and plum marmalade as well as of all types of processed tomato handmade products.
What I liked the most in autumn was the joy our parents shared around. It was the joy of getting their reward for their work from early spring to late autumn. Seeing everything in the right place, under one roof, they made sure that the family could make it over the winter. We also perceived a kind of “safety” feeling as, very often, our grandparents used to compare the current situation of those times with the post-war famine. They always thanked God for taking care of us.
More articles in English
30.10.2013 My path to learning French
08.09.2013 How and where to start: The beginning
31.10.2013 Mon chemin vers le français
27.10.2013 Glasgow: La porțile nordului