In Santorini, home of the great vineyard of the Aegean, grow some of the finest grape varieties of Greece that give us the famous Vinsanto and the other exquisite wines of the island. Vedema – the Venetian word for harvest – is the grape harvest, the first step in the artful procedure of turning the fruit into wine. Vedema for Santorini is a celebration; it is a connection to the centuries-old traditions, a cause for rewarding hard labor, and the completion of a year’s hard work of cultivation.
The Vedema begins in August. For starters, the canavas are washed – these are the cave like underground cellars where the wine barrels are left to mature. Then, the actual harvest, the picking of the grapes from the vines; the fruit is gathered in wicker baskets, and donkeys carry these baskets to the terraces where the grapes will be lain on straw mats to dry in the sun.
The sun exposure enhances the sugar content of the grapes, and results in the rich, voluptuous taste of the Santorinian wines.
From there, the grapes are carried by the same donkeys to the wineries, where the traditional foot-stomping gives us the rich must, which in turn will be stored in barrels in the canavas until the wine is ready to be served to the oenophiles who yearn to decant the first bottle!
The entire harvesting procedure may seem like a chore but it is considered a joyous event, a celebration; even the donkeys participate in the festivities, as they are adorned with colourful beads and ornaments, and they get special treats for their labour.
Special songs dedicated to the Vedema have been passed down from one generation to another, and people still sing them during the harvest.
The air is fragrant with the rich, intoxicating scent of the drying grapes; vedema is truly a feast for all the senses, and those lucky visitors who happen to be on Santorini during it, are in for a true treat!