Fortunately the pre-Xmas snow has now cleared which means that the growers are thankfully able to get on with some winter pruning. Despite continuing overnight frosts, daytime temperatures are moving gently towards 5-10c and one would think that gloves and a heavy coat would still be needed. However this is very labour intensive work, always done by hand, and the hardy Piemontese folk make light of the weather.
After pruning, a game of tug-o-war is played to remove all the dead vines which are then laid between the rows to be broken up by tractors and used as mulch. Meanwhile, back at the cantina, winter is time to “rack” the wine. This means transferring the wine from the barrels into large stainless steel tanks in preparation for bottling after which the barrels are taken outside and steam-cleaned. The barrel stacks are then rebuilt and filled with new wine. Reasonable work on a sunny day here at the Fontanabianca winery with a great view of Neive in the background but miserable when it’s cold and wet. Some shop-keepers and restauranteurs on the other hand just close for a few weeks and go south to warm up. It can make shopping and eating out a bit of a lottery.