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Our small Vineyard

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  About us

Firstly I have to admit that we are by no means experts on the subject of viniculture our knowledge has been amassed only since being here and working and talking to the locals. So how did we get here? I will leave it to Gillian to explain.

When I was young my dad had a vegetable patch.  I was not interested, the cat spent more time in it that I did! As I grew older my only contact with fruit and vegetables was at the supermarket, usually washed and chopped and ready for eating.  It was, therefore, a surprise to our family and friends when we announced, that on a brief visit to Sardinia, we had decided to buy a vineyard with a variety of fruit trees.  Not that the vineyard was our main objective at that time.  The small house set in the middle of it was in a wonderfully peaceful valley, with a view of the sea to one side and hills and peaks to the other and we thought it would make an ideal retreat for holidays and possibly we would rent it out when we were not visiting. This income from the rentals was to pay someone to look after the vines for us in our absence.

My husband and I were partners in a company in England, working long and hard and although we were together nearly all day, every day, there seemed to be only one topic of conversation. WORK. So a holiday home appeared to be a very good idea and we had been in love with Sardinia for a long time.  However, over the Christmas period 2002 we made the rather frightening decision to sell our house in England and move here permanently.  As I remember it the conversation went something like: Me  'Why don't we move over permanently?'  David 'Yes OK Let's do it' From then on it was full steam ahead.

So I threw myself into organising the move, selling the house and most of our possessions (we travelled here very light) and I left David to sort out the business side of things.  Less than 7 months later we were all packed into the old camper  van we had bought especially for the move because, did I fail to mention, we were taking 2 dogs and 4 cats along with us!

The house had been fixed up for us before we arrived but when we got here there seemed to have been a mix up and, probably due to our poor Italian, the vines had not been tended between February and July, just when they need the most tender loving care.  We had told the former owner to stop working but the local Cantina, who said would take our grapes as payment for carrying out the work, could not have understood our instruction to take over.  The vines had gone wild, all the goodness had gone into producing shoots and there were hardly any grapes, certainly none worth picking.

We asked the former owner what we should do and he told us to cut the vines back and showed us what to do.  This was August and we were having to rise at 6am to work before it got too hot to continue at about 10am and start again in the evening from 6pm until 9pm.  With 4000 vines to do between the two of us and not being exactly confident we were doing it correctly, it took some time and we began to wonder what we had done. We knew we would have to employ someone who knew what they were doing for the next year and try at learn from him as we went along.  Pasqualino started with us in January and had a lot of work to do to bring the vineyard back into line.  The first thing he told us was that we had cut the vines back too much and they were weak but all was not lost as with fertiliser and care they would come good again.  He worked hard early in the year, trying to teach us at the same time but, touch wood, so far things are looking good this year, our first grape harvest may, if we are very, very lucky, just cover his costs.   

However, with vines nothing is a certainty until the grapes are harvested and just one bad spell of weather, wind, rain or mist (which is quite common being so close to the sea) could wipe the whole lot out and all the hard work would have been for nothing.  A smallish vineyard is certainly not something you take on to make money out of.  After being here a year we certainly do not regret the move.  The weather is great, the people are so friendly, helpful and curious as to why two foreigners want to buy a vineyard and work themselves into the ground with no guarantee of anything at the end of it.  The older generation have done it all before and know it is really hard work and the younger generation don't want to do it, they want a nice clean job with lots of money at the end of the month.  The traditional way of life is slowly disappearing and we see abandoned vineyards all over.  Once this older generation has gone there will be few people willing or able to carry it on.

It is very hard work with very little respite from early February until late July, then the picking during September and early October, but the feeling of satisfaction we get as we watch the grapes swell under the hot sun goes a long way to making all the hard work easier.  We also allow ourselves to be a little proud of the fact that we are preserving the landscape of terraces which otherwise would collapse and be overrun with scrub and brambles. And as for my gardening skills, we are eating home grown onions, tomatoes and peppers and there is nothing to beat the taste of orange juice squeezed from fruit picked from your own trees just minutes before.  Next year I envisage a large vegetable patch with potatoes, artichokes, broad beans, zucchini, aubergines................Now where do I buy horse manure from?

Gillian Howlett