The work of the modern vineyard worker is influenced by a complete convergence between man and land, man and nature: vineyards’ shape and layout do not obey the agronomic science described in the books, but they follow our elders’ knowledge and experience. Even without chemistry they could value every piece of land, and could give the most appropriate name to their vineyards.
Then, the cultivation of the vineyard is not an ordinary work; vineyards must be raised like children, one by one. Grain, like all kind of grass, grows somehow. A tree can be shaped, as long as it is young; then, when it is tall, it grows as it wants.
The grapevine instead maintains always the right size, and the viticulturist can “look at the vine’s face”, can study it carefully, then he can decide to cut here and there. He will remember what he did at the time of the harvest, almost always receiving confirmation that the decisions taken by him months before were right; sometimes he will plan to make changes, to try other methods.
On the other hand, for the viticulturist, trying again and again is an everyday work. The variety of soils and vines and the variability of the seasons obliges him to follow closely their course, in order to anticipate problems and to adjust or reduce the treatments, always bearing in mind that good wine is born in the vineyard. And, furthermore, the Antolini brothers raise thewillow-tree from which strings to fasten the grapevines are made.
Wine requires special care (“ad personam”) of the grapevine, starting from the grape: each bunch, (the most of them), is handled individually, one by one, and valued during the short time needed to place it in the box, or plateau. And its grade of maturation and its potentiality in the wine making process is determined just by touching it. Once the grapes are resting, their drying process is checked every day, adjusting ventilation if the weather is not favourable. But it is already known if a certain vineyard is more suitable to produce Valpolicella classic, Recioto or Amarone; therefore special attention can be easily planned to obtain the best results.
This attention, that comes from tradition, the same required by the most updated enological science, is justified by the special place taken by wine in the people’s culture, and perhaps in our civilisation. Wine was always surrounded by a sacral halo, the signs of which are not limited to the Christian cult, but are related to the popular customs and tradition up to few decades ago: grape harvest began after the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Recioto was decanted on Good Friday, the wine for the Holy Mass was made from grapes offered by the entire community.
Each family kept some grape bunches, hanging from the wooden beams the kitchen (el rosso, the red ones) to be eaten on Christmas, and some bottle of good wine were kept for the children’s baptisms.
The same good wine was used to confirm an agreement, a new friendship, a marriage contract: when a father was going together with his son to ask officially for the hand of the girl he loved (morosa), the assent of the girl’s father was endorsed by the invitation to sit at the table and drink a bottle di quello buono (“of the good one”).