Last month I wrote about rebuilding parts of our 4 km/2.5 miles of dry stone walls that were originally built in the 1800s, with photos of our vineyard workers in action. Thanks to this team our terraced vineyards stand solid. These exemplary multi-taskers are the quinta’s backbone and an integral part of our success. As we are minimally mechanized, because of the sheer steepness of our terraced vineyards, we depend on this workforce – to work the vineyard in the winter months with our horse Tedo and to ensure throughout the year the best viticultural conditions possible to have an excellent grape quality at harvest and, among other duties, to build and rebuild dry stone walls. In order to work so hard it is essential that they are provided decent working conditions.
Arriving in the summer at 6 :30 as the sky lightens and the temperature is cool, they work until 9 :30, come in for a light meal to refuel, head back to the vineyards and return at 1 PM for a hot lunch. A break follows and then back to the vineyard, finishing around 4 PM. Long, hot hours under the sun with sweat and fine schist dust; we are indebted to them.
Proud to be a « traditional quinta » we serve hot meals to our workers, thanks to our cook Adelaide’s delicious food. The morning « snack » includes a delicious soup (Adelaide is a pro at this) and a protein and carbohydrate – grilled sardines, big slabs of bacon or codfish cakes aka « bolinhos de bacalhau » with potatoes and watered-down wine. At 1 PM a more substantial meal is prepared, with soup again, meat or fish, potatoes, rice or beans, and homegrown vegetables, all prepared in a myriad of ways. Adelaide cooks not only for the vineyard workers but also for our winemaking and tasting room/agroturismo teams, and V and me. One day I will put up a plack outside her kitchen « Adelaide’s Place » – but there are only 24 hours in a day, as I remind myself.
Harvest starts next month and our vineyard workers swell in number from 6 to around 25, women with more hand dexterity for cutting our delicious and ripe grapes and men to carry the grape-filled baskets down the steep terraces for loading in our trucks. The sooner the grapes come in to press the better and our quinta becomes a beehive of activity, to be reported on next month.