Monday Musings: Labor Day & Grape Harvest

Today is Labor day. According to Wikipedia, “Labor Day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” I got a survey in the mail today asking me if I am celebrating the holiday working to organize labor, spending time with friends and family or if I am at work. Lucky for me, I spent the day with friends and family and am now sipping a lovely $15 Gruner Veltliner from Von Donabaum. Like many people, I consider Labor day the official end to the summer.

This wine is a beautiful expression of Gruner with great minerality, acidity and structure. It has white stone fruit notes, lemon, and melon aromas with a hint of white pepper. It will pair beautifully with the left-over Asian noodles I am having thanks to my Dim Sum lunch.

That aside, I read in Wine News last week that wineries in Italy, thanks to the Movimento del Turismo del Vino, are now opening their doors not just for tourists on Cantine Aperte, a holiday they host in May, but are also having a harvest version where you can come and work on the harvest during the weekends in September and October. Each region has different wineries that are participating and their offers are really incredible. Some suggest you come and harvest grapes which will then be used in a spa treatment, others will let you go through many parts of the harvesting and wine making process and you will eventually end up with your own bottle.

I think it’s a great idea and I hope to be able to participate in one region or another. Wine blogging is often only about luxury and pleasure but I am also interested in social justice. Today on Labor day, I am thinking about workers and their rights. A lot of the people who end up harvesting grapes in Italy and other countries are not tourists but are migrant workers or immigrants. Often they are also poorly paid and now, with the immigration issues in Europe and the refugee crisis around the world, I wonder what the future holds for these people. Producers will always tell you that they use the same teams of people to harvest their grapes year in and year out but mathematically that is not really possible, even this year when the quantity of grapes is expected to be inferior than in previous years because of extreme heat.

I don’t have any numbers about immigrants and migrant workers picking grapes in Italy and found scant reliable data but I remember the stories of the Africans picking tomatoes in Calabria a few years ago and the horrendous conditions in which they lived. I also remember this story about Paola Clemente, a woman who died at 49 sorting table grapes. Make no mistake, Italy is no worse than many other countries but today, on Labor day, it seems appropriate to remember those who toil in the vineyards there and elsewhere.

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