This year the weather gods were in a good mood for the annual grape harvest, or “vindima” near my village in central Portugal. Typically, a couple of dozen volunteers show up and spend the morning snipping bunches of grapes then enjoy a wonderful meal provided by Manuel and Erminda, the couple who host the harvest.
Word went round that the event would be held on September 18. So, my neighbor and I showed up at the couple’s country store at 8 a.m. and followed a truck along a winding country road to the first vineyard. There, our host handed us each a pair of secateurs, or clippers, and a bucket and we headed off to join the others among the grape vines.
Snip, snip, snip and the bunches fall into the bucket. When the bucket is full one of us takes and empties it into a large plastic container, or “caneca”, which is about 2.5 feet high and around the same in diameter. Every now and then, a big burly guy would hoist the caneca onto his shoulder and march off to empty it into the back of one of the waiting trucks.
As we worked, the sun gradually became hotter, our hands became sticky with the sweet-tasting grape juice and my ears became attuned to all sorts of new expressions in Portuguese.
By around 1 p.m. we had finished the first two vineyards and we headed back to the home of Manuel and Erminda where they had set out tables in their basement, the “adega” where they make the wine. A wonderful meal of hearty soup, bread, olives, their own strong red wine, and a main course of fried fish and salad, had us all in a jolly mood. After the meal, the 15-year-old son of one of the helpers serenaded us with Portuguese folk tunes on his accordion. What more wonderful way to spend a Saturday!