Study Abroad

How many enologists does it take to screw in an airlock? – Quentin in Italy

Each semester, one student from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Quentin Ikuta will be HECUA’s student blogger for our Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Justice in Italy program this fall semester. Quentin is a University of Minnesota – Twin Cities student majoring in Applied Economics and minoring in Sustainability Studies. Read on for Quentin’s reflection on his internship placement site in Tuscany.

From week seven until now, week ten, a lot has happened (as usual)! The team has visited a medieval city, a very important “Super Tuscan” vineyard, begun our seven-week long internships among various farms and organizations, and been on fall break – all in addition to completing schoolwork, studying, and taking midterms. I’ll get right into the picture gallery of our adventures, there are quite a few with this post!

First and foremost, the field trip we took during week seven was incredible. We visited a medieval town called Montepulciano. Montepulciano is quite hilly and filled with shops and restaurants. However, the medieval charm remains.

This is Montepulciano’s Plazzo Comunale within the Piazza Grande (main square). The building is from the 14th Century and the views of the surrounding countryside from the top are apparently incredible (we didn’t go to the top).

I peeked inside the public library in Montepulciano and found some nice, old-looking pictures.

Door knockers are a common sight in Italy, but this one is especially intricate.

This is the front of the Duomo in Montepulciano. Yet another beautiful Italian Duomo!

After visiting Montepulciano, we visited one of the most important producers of Brunello di Montalcino wine, Col D’Orcia. In addition to producing wine, Col D’Orcia is also has an organic farm (their wine is organic as well). Col D’Orcia is one of the most beautiful vineyards we have visited yet, with some of the most delicious wine, olive oil, and honey! Everyone was in total bliss during the ride back to Sonnino, after a full day of medieval relics, delicious wine, and sunshine. That is Tuscany for ya’!

Upon arrival, we all needed to use the bathroom. To our surprise, there was a bathroom kitty!

We first visited the cellar, which is enormous. These barrels could hold a small city! Luckily, they hold wine.

In the cellar is a nicely thought-out display of the wines that Col D’Orcia is proud of. The wine pictured is worth a few hundred euros, easily.

The barrels all come from France and are custom made and stamped for Col D’Orcia.

This is the wine-tasting building. Yes, it is old, and yes, it is beautiful!

We were lucky enough to have a wine tasting, experiencing four of the different, incredible wines that Col D’Orcia has to offer.

These wines are for sale in the store at Col D’Orcia, they are quite old and cost quite a few euro. Some of Italy’s finest wine.

In addition, all of the students began internships at local farms, cantinas, and local food organizations. The internship component is important to this program because it is a chance for us to utilize the Italian language we have been learning, as well as expedite the learning process. My internship is at Castello Sonnino, where we are living and learning, so I have an easy commute (walking about two minutes). Others are as far as Florence, and they take the bus. Some have internships in Montespertoli or nearby (closer than Florence), so they get a ride from a worker at Sonnino. So far, the internships are a huge success, as everyone gets back to the Castello afterward and are both tired but overwhelmingly satisfied and inspired. I very much enjoying learning about wine production at Sonnino. I love finishing my work in the Cantina and then having a glass of Sonnino wine; wine that I have seen the process for and understand how much hard work went into making it the best possible.

The view on my way to my internship! The large metal things near the center of the photo are for wine.

This is a view from the top of the cellar. I spent a lot of time up on top of the concrete wine tanks inside the cellar.

This is what the top looks like. Those ports lead to wine… A worker told me of a story where a person was working up there and passed out due to the fumes of the fermenting wine, and he FELL IN! Don’t worry, he was okay.

This is what the inside of a concrete wine tank looks like. This day in particular, we were draining the wine and transferring it through a filter to another tank. The entire tank is coated in glaze and requires a lot of maintenance. The concrete is old-school. The metal tanks are more modern.

How many enologists does it take to screw in an airlock?

These bottles are about to get labeled with a fancy machine!This is the fancy machine. It fills bottles and labels them, but we are simply labeling them here.

Like soliders marching into battle.

In a nutshell, or should I say a wine bottle, this is what we have been up to here in Italy!

For more on the HECUA program in Italy, click here!

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