Today Luca’s father, who is pictured below, entered hospital for a heart operation. The operation is routine & so there is no reason to fear for the worst but it is sad none-the-less. We are here in La Faula due to Franco. As a boy he came to live in Ravosa to escape the bombing of Udine by the US Air Force (one of the main train lines to Austria & Germany passed through Udine & although the city, as such, was not targeted the inaccuracy of the bombing posed risks for civilians, many of whom lived in the vicinity of the station located as it was, & is, near the centre of the town). It was a bit of a case of out of the fry-pan & into the fire. Resistance activity was very strong in Ravosa & the villages in the hills behind it (Attimis, Subit, Faedis). As the result of reprisals the men had fled into the mountains & the villages were abandoned to the women & children (Attimis, Subit & Faedis were burnt to the ground by troops using flame throwers - the beautiful Villa of the Attims family in Attimis was destroyed as well. Ravosa was quarantined with the intention of forcing the population into submission).
La Faula was extremely important to Ravosa in this time. It was being farmed by share-croppers of the Maini Counts of Venice & was much more productive than the desperately poor subsistence farming practised by the Friulano peasant families. Consequently the villagers came to La Faula every Sunday for food & some festivities such as could be had given the circumstances of the time. Luca’s father was a part of this. He remembers sitting under the pergola with the women when the SS drove up looking for the men & remembers a very tall (or so he must have seemed) Austrian officer in a black greatcoat standing over them.
As a young man Franco determined to own La Faula if it should be possible. And in 1959 he purchased La Faula, abandoned & in decline due to the abolition of share-cropping & the industrialisation of Turin & Milan that had taken away the men to work in the factories.
It is time to get back to writing something of a diary. But it’s difficult. As the tourist season flows seamlessly into the grape harvest & then wine-making, once there is some free time the last thing that I wanted to do was to tie myself to the computer - in these last few weeks I have just wanted to do nothing at all!
The harvest went well - perhaps a little too well. We rushed through the grape-picking worrying that the rather poor weather that we had experienced in lat August would presage a wet & cool September/October. We got most of the grapes in before a week of rain arrived. But - in retrospect - it would have been better had we waited for the cabernet because it wasn’t quite ripe when picked. And, after the week of rain accompanied by cool temperatures (so the grapes didn’t get mouldy) we have had the most wonderful Autumn - the days are warm & sunny , one after the other, & the nights cool but not cold. If the grapes had remained on the plants they would be wonderful at this point.
The wine-making itself has gone pretty smoothly. The cantina/wine cellar (where we make the wine - cantina in Italian) is pretty well equiped so it is not so difficult. We have had more problems this year than last - the last two weeks of August were cool & damp instead of being hot & dry so the grapes came covered (invisably) with a host of wild yeasts, not all of them friendly, who caused some problems during the fermentation. We seem to have overcome them, however, & for now the wines so far made are undergoing the maleolatic fermentation in the cantina which we keep at 20°celcius. This is the secondary fermentation that happens after the alcoholic fermentation of the yeast & it renders the wines more smooth with softer tannins.
We have a large number of grapes in the top of the barn drying - the barn has a large room with slats between the boards that allows a steady passage of air. This weather is ideal & the grapes lose some of their moisture content concentrating the sugars & flavours naturally present.
Some of these grapes that are drying are very ready to be pressed but we are dicing a little with fate because we are awaiting the delivery of a small press that will be ideal for the quantities of dried grapes that we have. Finding this press was nothing less than an amazing stroke of luck - it is an old press used for pressing apples in a small operation in the mountains. For our needs it is perfect & it is hard to believe that we would have found one anywhere else. We prefer the old wine/fruit presses because they result in less oxidation of the most than the more modern pneumatic presses plus in our case they are more appropriate for our type of wine-making that seeks to go back to older methods.