Grape picking and wine making- A very Portuguese day.

It’s common knowledge that here in Portugal there is a huge industry of wine making. Not only wine making for resale but for their own consumption.

Most Portuguese people make their own wine at home, once a year when it’s grape harvesting season they will spend a day picking, squeezing and then it’s left to ferment for a few days before it’s put into vats and left to mature for a few more weeks.

Along with this they also make a very traditional liquor called Jeropiga wich is made with the juice from the grapes mixed with Aguardente. Which is another local drink, it’s brutal and nobody really knows what alcohol percentage is so it can be pretty lethal drinking the home made stuff. Depending who and where the Jeropiga is made the taste can differ slightly, from a more smooth very light liquor to a heavy syrupy kind of consistency.

We were lucky enough to be invited to our friends André and Sophia’s farm for the day where we helped pick the grapes and were involved in whole process. We had Portuguese food for lunch cooked by our friends mother who kept us fed and watered through the day.

We arrived at their farm at around 10am on Sunday morning and and joined the rest of team to pick the grapes. There were rows and rows of vines to get through but even though it was hot and lots to to pick it was a very chilled day. Our friend André scooted about with his quad bike and trailer collecting the buckets of grapes that we’d picked and giving us new empty buckets to fill. We made our way down each row of vines picking all the good quality grapes for the wine making. This was a great learning experience for us also and we were show which grapes to use and which ones were too far gone. As the season has been so incredibly dry this year there were a lot of dry grapes which gives the wine a slightly off taste so they were thrown on the floor of the birds to get later. Underneath most of the foliage of the vines were big juicy grapes that had been protected by the sun which were going to be used for the wine.

André rode around with bottles of water and tasty baked goods to keep us hydrated and energized.

At 1.30pm we all stopped for lunch, we washed up and headed inside where Sophia’s mother had been inside cooking all morning and preparing our lunch. We all sat down together in around the huge kitchen table where we chatted and learnt more about the wine making process, the work that goes into it and the plans to create a business from it. We sampled wine from the previous year and also Jeropiga as we ate Feijoada a traditional Portuguese dish of stewed pork cuts, chorizo and beans served with rice and of course the standard for Portugal, bread and olives.

André gave us a tour of the farm and gave us a little of knowledge on how to grow healthy fruit trees, how to prune them and plans for his trees and produce for the future. After this we went back to vines to finish picking the rest of the grapes and then headed inside to the room where they do the rest of the wine making process.

We had a large amount of buckets filled with grapes which then had to be put into a machine which removed the stems and squeezed the grapes into a 1000 litre bucket. The grape and juice mixture almost reached the top of the bucket and once we had emptied all of the grapes we had a sample of the pure grape juice decanted from the tap in the bottom of the bucket.

Sophia did the honours and poured us all a glass of grape juice from the jug and we all toasted to a good day and good health as we had out first sip. The grape juice is incredibly sweet and as you can imagine very pure. It was delicious.

This is when we found out how their traditional drink Jeropiga was made, which is grape juice and Aguardente. The beauty of this drink is that you can add much Aguardente (the alcohol) as you like to make it strong or more mild. André took jugs of grape juice from the large bucket of squeezed grapes and measured the amount to be put into the vat where it was then mixed with the Aguardente, It’s then left to ferment for 3 weeks. Once the mixture was in he left it for half an hour and then we sampled the fresh mix, it was actually really tasty and mostly tasted like grape juice with a little kick, but very different from what the end result of the Jeropiga would be.

By this time it was dark, we were all tired but we felt so lucky to be a part of the whole day. It’s not often you really get involved with Portuguese traditions as we are still getting to know people, but this was definitely something we’d like to do more of.

André, Sophia and their family and friends are so kind and wonderful, very welcoming and through them we have been to other events and feel very blessed to be welcomed into this Portuguese world.

We absolutely love days like this and hope to get involved in lots more in the future.

Thank you so much Andre and Sophia for such a great experience.

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