Yesterday, I was working in the vineyard late-pruning the young vines in a piece recently remade. Most vineyard work is monotonous and boring but if it is to be done well it requires understanding and concentration. Vines, naturally climbers, must be trained to stay still and the pruning of one year determines the amount and quality and grapes for the next. Vineyard work is not unlike that of a solicitor. At the end it is satisfying and the occasional flashes of insight during the applied labour stimulate, but much time is passed repetitively.
One's mind is apt to wander and while mine was ranging far and wide it came to me that for the first time since we took La Faula over from Luca's parents we have no current or future projects (apart from living well and having a viable business, that is!). For the first time in 15 years we don't have something on the horizon that we must or want to do. We really have passed into a period of consolidation (I hope that decline doesn't come next - you were thinking that, weren't you?).
For the record, the two last jobs we have just completed were the connection and putting into operation of a refrigeration unit for cooling wine most during the harvest/wine-making process and the placing of a LAN connecting the Hutchinson 3G Router with key points in the house.
The refrigeration unit was something that Luca had wanted from the very beginning of our wine-making here at La Faula. Refrigeration units are very helpful as they allow the wine-maker to keep the fermentation calm and orderly and at a controlled cooler temperature. Otherwise there is a risk of the fermentation flashing-over (in a manner of speaking) at high temperatures which is bad for the yeast, the wine and the mental state of the wine-maker. I was never enthusiastic about the idea of a big cooling unit in the winery. It seemed like just another thing to go wrong, to have to learn to master by error and a big drinker of electricity (imagine cooling down thousands of litres of wine most in the space of a few hours). I cool the wine using the very cooling plates normally connected to the fridge until. Intead, I run tap water through the plates and while not as effective as using a fridge it does enable me to keep the wine from doing anything bad to itself.
Anyway, two years ago a second-hand but renovated fridge unit came our way at a price which, while shocking, was about the best we could ever expect to find. We bought it blind (you can't just plug it into the nearest wall socket to check it out) and for two years we didn't know if we had bought a pup or not. La Faula at that point didn't receive sufficient electrical capacity from the grid to allow us to put the fridge into operation.. We asked ENEL (they do great advertisements in The Economist but are a real, true-to-life Italian monopolist with service and prices to match) to increase our supply to 20KWH. ENEL has very serious supply problems in Italy due to years of under-investment and for two years they fought a guerilla war with us doing everything to stall the increase in capacity. By law, we had the right to have this much power available but Enel 'lost' the documentation, the quotation period expired twice and for two years they held us off. Eventually by identifying on whose desk the paperwork was sitting we were able to apply enough pressure to have the job done. Here I should mention that the work took only 20 minutes and involved no more than changing-over the meter. The cabling from the substation, however, was not increased so when the fridge starts it sucks every last electron out of the house electricity system. It's like being in a depth-charged submarine with the lights going on and off and flickering crazily!! .... to be continued