Vincenzo Avellina: tending to the vineyards
Vines, like every other living being, need their natural environment to be respected in order to express their vitality in full. That’s why knowing the specific characteristics of a territory, of its microclimate and of the local plants is critical to grow healthy and abundant bunches. The care of our vineyard is entrusted to the experience of Vincenzo Avellina, who we have known for more than twenty years. He was born and still lives in the near Maletto, very close to our plants, and is local just as much as our Grecanico Dorato. Vincenzo has always been close to Contrada Nave and Grecanico Dorato, he knows its biologic cycles and its reaction to the various weather phenomenon and pruning.
He is the son of Salvatore Avellina, called il Mazzola, who was famous in Maletto for his dancing skills. Vincenzo took part in the first harvests when he was just a little kid, since his father owned a small patch of land in the highest area of the Contrada. Up there about 700 plants were growing, mostly of Grecanico Dorato, which in certain area of Mount Etna is still called “Coda di Volpe”, fox tail, for its elongated shape and its pinkish colour. At that time, on the day of a harvest, the people from Maletto left their village riding on mules or horses, bringing all the necessary equipment and their family with them. The harvest was handmade, just as today, and the bunches were put into wicker baskets called “panari” and then relocated in bigger wicker chests called “cufini”. Vincenzo still brings his cufini to our harvest. We measured them and discovered that a cufino can hold the content of approximately six of today’s crates, more than a hundred kilograms of grapes.
Around 50 years ago, the Mazzola left Maletto on his mule, burdened with panari, which during the outward journey were filled with the day supplies, and with two cufini, one on each side, which held two children each. Mazzola’s wife, like all the other ladies that, at that time, used to help their husbands during the harvests, took turns with him on the mule, in order not to weigh it down too much. When she followed him on foot, she alleviated the hardship of the road letting the mule pull her onwards while tying her hand to its tail (and maybe that’s the origin of the Italian word “accodarsi”, which means “to queue up”). When he was a little boy, Vincenzo shared the journey in a cufino with his brother. At their return, they brought the bunches to a small millstone nearby and started pressing it with a hammer press, which could be used only by four people together.
That was a day full of hard work, but also a true feast! It’s wonderful to see how, in the farmers’ community, the harvests are still remembered clearly even after decades, almost as if they were still bringing back the same joy of the past. The same is true for our harvests: they are full of hard work and struggles, but also of the great joy that can be experienced only by getting in touch with our vineyards and their fruits.
Many decades have passed since the first harvests in Contrada Nave and, during these years, Vincenzo has worked at some of the best wineries of the entire Sicily, but his deep love for the Contrada is always the same. Even if our technical knowledge is now deeper, Vincenzo, with the help of his wife, Maria, and his sons, Salvatore and Antonino, cultivate the vineyard of SantaMariaLaNave following the same rules and traditions that, more than half a century ago, the Mazzola used to get the best of its plants of “Coda di volpe”. As Vincenzo says: “What I do in a vineyard is what my father and my grandfather did. That’s why the grapes taste the same as they did in the past”. It’s also thanks to Vincenzo that the harvest, for us, is still such a festive day!