Two important things occurred yesterday. One being Election Day. The other being it was the day we designated to pick the grapes for wine.
I was startled awake earlier than normal this morning. My host mother had to get an early start on the polling places. I had since learned that she is in charge of elections for this area. I think ‘this area’ means the town, but I’m not sure. She was out the door around 6 a.m. She had to go from poll to poll checking in and making sure things were running well. At first lunch, she came home to eat with us an give an update. She said, (I think jokingly) that there were 200 people at one polling place and only half of them were registered to vote in that place. Hopefully she was joking.
She was in and out of the house and just as busy if not more than yesterday. She doesn’t drive, although Lado says she wants to. It would have been very helpful to her today. I saw no less than 4 people taxing her around.
After the majority of grapes were picked, the host dad took my up to the polling place (my school) to observe the election process.
Things were very subdued given the reports from around the country, some things tragic. Yesterday a home was burned down with a child being killed, reports say, due to political infighting. Several party supporters were reported run over last night as well.
The school and the few voters that trickled in both seemed sleepy as they did their civic duty. I wanted to take pictures, but that was quickly nixed. I did get to peek my head in though. There was a video camera taping the entire voting process. Things were orderly and noting exciting to report. People simply came in and did their business. I think I was the most important and interesting thing during the whole time as I got the customary amount of stares. So we left.
The news reported that there were crazy errors around the country. But also the media implied that the elections staff were truly doing all they could to preserve a legitimate election process. In one city, they were short 5000 ballots. In a particular district, one party was left off the ballot. There was a fight in yet another district between an election worker and a media person who wanted to do ‘media things’. I don’t think I could make any of this up if I tried.
From how the ballots are cast, it seems like it would take quite a while. But the polls are closed as I write this, and percentages are coming in.
I eventually woke up around 9:30, I think. Lado heard me rustling around in my room, and called for me to pick the grapes.
Downstairs, they already had three ladders up and leaning against the grapevines. They have a particular basket especially used for grape picking. It seems to be the inspiration for the wine drinking vessel meaning it has a pointed end that prevents one from sitting it right-side up on the ground.
First I had to be educated on how to pick grapes. You don’t just pull the bundle off the vine as I had previously thought. There is a ‘knuckle’ right below the point where the stem branches off to the bundle to be picked. You are to wiggle it there, until it snaps. On the full grown bunches, it happens without much effort, but on the younger ones, it can be a hassle.
So up a ladder I went. Happy to contribute to the effort. They need invest in their ladders. They have the kind with the simply bar for the step. After some time standing on this thing, the bottom of your foot starts to bruise. Its buggy up there in the branches and starts to get itchy. Then the sun starts to beat down. Its not as fun or romantic as one would think.
The town members were energized by seeing up pick the grapes, though. Especially the older folks. Some even stopped to give advice. It truly is a bonding and thread that runs through every person in the community. Because young or old, town or village, everybody appreciates the cultural importance of the process of preparing the wine.
Picking on the inside of the yard was pretty easy and straightforward. But on the outside… and when grandpa got involved… things changed. They have this system in which the grapevines grow up and around a system of poles and wiring. This apparatus extends up to heights of 15-20 feet. Grandpa wanted me to not only get the far reaches of grape bundles (which I didn’t mind) he wanted me to do so under less than safe conditions. To start with, the ladders were rickety. He wanted me to climb this thing OVER a spiked fence, leaning on a suspect rusted wire line. Hmm…
I have an intense desire to please, but this was crazy. I felt he was either secretly hazing me, or intended to do me harm. While he wasn’t looking, I moved my ladder to a more secure placement. I did work! So much so that he complimented me!
The picking went on and on….
When they were all picked it was time for the crushing.
They have this contraption that funnels the grapes into a grinder. I guess that’s exactly what it is- a grinder. I thought they would sift the juice through somehow, but nope. they crushed the grapes then let the pulp and stems and leaves and whatever else fall right in. The juice did (obviously) sift to the bottom of the vessel.
So from what I understand, they will sift drain the juice out from the grape matter and let it sit for 6 days, then siphon the juice from that for 21 days, then siphon again one last time. Then viola! Georgian wine!