Spampanamento, finger-nail biting and an etymological digression

by Laura Gray on September 26, 2009

From Wednesday to Friday last week we did our last vineyard operation before the harvest; “spampanamento.” All the “pampani” – the vineleaves – were stripped by hand from the vines to leave the bunches of grapes hanging free, completely unprotected from the weather, for what we hope will be three more days of blue skies and chilly nights. All the vine’s strength now goes to the grapes rather than being appropriated by the leaves.

Any rain would be terrible at this stage.

 “Pampano” (the accent is on the first pa) is a fourteenth century word from the Latin “pampinus.” In the rest of Italy the word is “pampino.” Naturally for a wine-producing country there are all sorts of proverbs that feature vineleaves:  “assai pampini e poca uva” – all talk and no trousers –  or “dare pampini per uva,” swindling someone by giving them leaves instead of grapes.

Vowel changing and letter adding in words is terribly common here, even between small villages. For example, no one who has been to Montalcino can avoid eating the ubiquitous “pinci”– egg-free hand-rolled irregular shaped fat spaghetti. This same pasta (which can only be found in Siena and Grosseto provinces) outside of Montalcino are called “pici.”

As I said, any rain would be terrible at this stage and any subject is better than looking at the sky.

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