Words by Michelle Fabio

Drive through the countryside in any Italian region during the autumn months and chances are good that you'll come across groups of people harvesting grapes to make wine--a process called "la vendemmia" or "la raccolta."

Grape-picking is just the first step and is one of the most celebrated occasions in Italy; the exact dates vary every year and throughout the country depending on when the grapes are ready. For vendemmia, extended families and friends get together, often in the campagna, or countryside, in the early morning hours, snipping grapes off the vines and depositing them into large tubs or other containers.

After hours of hard work among the grapevines, the harvesters share a feast prepared just for the occasion, not entirely unsimilar to American and Canadian Thanksgivings with its show of appreciation for the year's crops. The lunchtime spread often includes local meats, cheeses, and fresh bread.

Later, the grapes are crushed and made into wine (sorry, no secret recipes here!); you can see some of the various methods of doing this in the videos below.

And if any of you have mental images of Lucille Ball dancing around in grapes, you should know that even many amateur vintners use machines to crush grapes, but the traditional practice of stomping them is still carried on in some places, including the Sagra della Vendemmia in Pedalino, Sicily in September each year, which you can see in the last video:

Salute!