“Picai” (hanging grape clusters): a maze of memories of the Cavazza family

by Elisa Cavazza

A description of the “Picai” tradition, a ritual that has been handed down from one generation to the next.

The peasant tradition of our territory  ̶  lying between Montebello and Gambellara  ̶  every year in this period, allows us to experience a fascinating ancient ritual: Picai” (hanging grape clusters). Memories of this are still very much alive: grandparents used to choose and pick the best, flawless, loose-packed bunches of Garganega grapes. The women would then braid the clusters onto ropes. Great precision and meticulous care were needed to create the individual picaio (rope on which the grape bunches were braided to), without damaging the grapes. The ropes were then hung from the ceiling and the clusters were left to dry out for months. We still remember the unmistakable sweet-scented aroma that could be smelt everywhere and this has spurred us to continue using this grape-drying method to make our Capitel, Recioto di Gambellara Classico DOCG Cavazza wine.

We are very fond of this wine, just as we cherish our childhood memories. For our Capitel wine, we use the best, highest quality, loosely packed bunches of Garganega grapes that are dried using the Picai method. The clusters are hung to dry in a well-ventilated, not very humid room, where for 5 months the grapes are dehydrated naturally, allowing us to achieve a darker color, more concentrated aromas and flavors, but above all a higher concentration of sugars in our wine. In keeping with local traditions, the withered grapes are pressed using an ancient hand-operated wine press that has belonged to our family since the end of the 1800s. The must is finally left to ferment and age for a year in small 225-liter oak barrels.

When poured into a glass, the wine is old gold colored, richly extracted and zesty, showing nuances of dried apricots, sweet almonds, candied citrus fruit, honey and maquis.

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