Grape Picking Days. . .

Or Rather, Wine MAKING Season!

In preparation to make the big move to Serbia, I came up with a list of "Things I wanted to do while living overseas." One thing on the list: "Learn all about the wine making process." 

When I found out that it was grape-picking season at Dibonis Vineyard, I offered my hands for picking! I knew that it might be a struggle to speak with Lazslo (the wine maker), but there is nothing that a few hand-motions and smiles cannot communicate. Chris was on a business trip, so I was free all day to pick, and eat grapes, and make a fool of myself trying to be understood. 

I arrived at the winery in the morning, and Lazslo immediately handed me a fresh burek for breakfast. I tried to tell him that I had already eaten, but he insisted that I eat so that I have enough energy for the grapes (at least that is what I think he said). As I munched on the doughy, fried, cheese-filled, Eastern European pastry, we drove to his vineyard. 

 Lazslo owns a small "rest" home in the middle of the vineyard, but the best part of the property is this covered patio area that overlooks the vines. He explained that every weekend, he has friends out to drink wine and rest amidst the vines. When it snows, they light the fire, enjoy the setting. . . and drink wine, of course. 


This is the view that you get from the covered patio. Lazslo asked if I wanted a shot of palinka (homemade Hungarian brandy), before I started working. Seeing as it was 9 a.m., brandy really did not sound appealing, but I knew it was rude to reject an offer of palinka. I started the morning off with a shot of palinka, and then made my way into the vines. 

This is a view of Dibonis Vineyard. It was a lovely day for picking, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. 

I had a short tutorial on how to properly snip the grape clusters, and then I was on my own. It was a funny mixture of people out picking grapes that day. From what I could tell, about 5 people were employed by the winery, and then there were 20 or so students from a nearby wine making school. Part of their practicum was to come out and pick grapes for Dibonis. Pretty sweet deal for the vineyard, if you ask me. 

Since everyone working at the vineyard lived in Subotica, Serbia, I expected that they would speak Serbian, but most of the students were Hungarian and did not speak very much Serbian at all. I was actually quite shocked. I didn't expect them to know English (and only one of the students spoke English), but I did expect that they would know Serbian. I had to resort to hand gestures and facial expressions to communicate with almost everyone there. I probably looked like a fool, but I didn't care. 

We were picking Shiraz grapes, and we must have picked 5 times the amount shown in this picture. It is not hard work, but it is tiring because you are constantly bending down and then standing up and then bending down and standing up again. There were two babas (grandmas) in their 70's who were working, and I was shocked at how agile and active they both were. They didn't let the youngsters out pick them. 

This sweet baba totally looked out for me during the day. She spoke a little Russian and Serbian, so we communicated in whatever language both could understand. Sometimes I would say a word in English, then repeat it in Serbian, and if I had said the wrong thing, I would try to remember the word in Russian. I asked her to repeat about everything that she said, but in the end, I usually got the gist of what she was trying to say. At the lunch break, she shared her lunch with me too. So sweet. 

After we had picked the last Shiraz cluster, I was invited to watch the next step in the wine making process. The girl in the red explained some of the chemicals that were added to the wine; it totally went over my head, but I knew that Chris would have understood every single detail. I watched the grapes go into the sorter on one end, and out the other end all of the naked vines were discarded. 

The grapes ended up in these huge barrels. I think they have to ferment here for a while. . . 

I ended the day with a late lunch at Shiraz, and of course there was dessert. It seems that every restaurant in Serbia serves crepes for dessert. This one was filled with fresh apples, but apparently there are a lot of fillings to choose from. If you like cherries, I hear that is a good crepe to try.

I went on my way with a bottle of Cabernet and an invite to return the following week to pick Merlot. I will most definitely return. Thank you for inviting me to learn something new! I loved every single moment of it!