This year there were plenty of grapes ready for the annual harvest. My neighbors in central Portugal are always happy to have volunteers help them for the “vindima”. Typically, a couple of dozen people from the community show up and spend the morning snipping bunches of grapes. The reward is a wonderful meal provided by Manuel and Erminda, the couple who host the harvest.
I found out from a friend in my village that the event would be held on September 18. So, my neighbors and I showed up at the couple’s country store at 8 a.m. We joined the other volunteers and followed a truck along a winding country road to the first vineyard. There, our host handed us each of us a pair of clippers and a bucket and we headed off to our work among the grape vines.
Snip, snip, snip, the bunches fell into the bucket. When the bucket was full, one of us took and emptied it into a large plastic container. I learned that the Portuguese word for this container is “caneca”. The caneca is about 2.5 feet high and around the same in diameter. Every now and then, a big burly guy would hoist the grape-filled caneca onto his shoulder and march off to empty it into the back of one of the waiting trucks.
As we worked, the sun gradually became hotter and our hands became sticky with the sweet-tasting grape juice. Everyone was talking and laughing and I learned many new expressions in Portuguese.
By around 1 p.m. we had finished the first two vineyards. Then we headed back to the home of our hosts. Every year, they set out tables in their basement to feed the volunteers. They gave us a wonderful meal of hearty soup, bread and olives, followed by fried fish and salad. The good food and plenty of their own strong red wine had us all in a jolly mood.
Afterward, we had the pleasure of watching Manuel squeeze the grapes to make the wine for next year. What more wonderful way to spend a Saturday and become part of your new Portuguese community!