Having designed a product related 99% to wine and the ritual of drinking has raised many eyebrows over the past 3 years. Next to the eyebrows, I got to hear many jokes as well and still my favourite one is: “of course she designed a wine glass, she is her father’s daughter and her grandfather’s granddaughter.” It might sound as if I am rooted in a family of alcoholics, but there’s actually another explanation. My family has been proudly making wine for many decades; nothing special, no labels, just for the pure joy of making it, as many other families in Romania, located in areas with good soils and a lot of sun.
My grandparents from my mother’s side had a big vineyard somewhere in the countryside, about 80 km away form my hometown. The other grandma also had a vineyard, smaller, but in the middle of the city. I spent my childhood amongst grapes, running like crazy in the vineyards, hiding under the leaves and breaking the rows while trying to go through them instead of walking around them. I took part every year in the all-year-long ritual, sometimes in the countryside, sometimes in town, probably very happy because I could help a bit and in the summer because I could eat grapes until my belly hurt for days.
I spent all my holidays with my grandparents, in a clever attempt of my parents to separate my sister and I while they were travelling. One of us got to stay with the grandparents, the other one only with grandma and every other holiday we would switch. While life in the city was the same every time and the vineyard unfortunately had a dead end (the fence), the countryside La-La-Land seemed endless and that hill was so steep that after 2 or maximum 3 times up and down I was already dead tired.
As my grandparents only went to the countryside for the vineyard and for other agricultural hobbies (homage to their own roots and parents), they decided to build a second home there, our “summer house” as we still call it. By that time, grandpa also started investing in different types of vines. We were already half way through the 90s and Romania was recovering slowly from more than 50 years of communism, therefore we finally had access to all kinds of products. Before my grandpa starting buying all these vines, we only had the typical one. Curiosity and love for good wine made him invest in it and because now we had vines from all over Europe, I remember that every year there was some big news: I don’t know what type finally had grapes for the first time!!!
In spring I’d always follow him in the vineyard, we needed to connect some vines back to the metal strings, so they could grow higher and the grapes could beautifully bathe in the sun when the time came. Every year we had a different colour for the ribbons and he’d show me how to do it, or I'd help him make a better knot and we’d laugh at how the colours of the ones from the year before had faded.
The joy of having so many different grapes was of course that they would get ripe at different times, awesome for me and hard work for grandpa. At that time we were also the only ones in the village with noble vines, and as the vineyard was so close to the school of the village, temptation was quite big for the hungry kids heading home after a day of classes. It was for this reason that grandpa built a watch tower, a small wooden construction in the middle of the vineyards, with a bed on top. They handed me the task of “watching” and in case something happened, I had to whistle. Now that I think of it, I was probably constantly annoying them all day long so they made me believe I had a job (it was summer, no one was stealing, the school was on holiday and I had nothing better to do).
Grandma would build my cocoon every morning, with some blankets and pillows plus a sunshade, I had to read (of course) the summer books from school, drink water and eat and of course, watch the vineyard. I remember how hot it was and quite boring at times (probably every hour I would go down the ladder and go running down hill to see what they’re doing). But I remember that view on top of everything and the rare wind blows as if it was yesterday. Sometimes at sunset grandpa would come to convince me to come home and as the stars were already flickering, he would climb up as well and show me The Big Dipper and then The Small Dipper, clearly followed by The Northern Star, The Northern Cross and Cassiopeia.
End of August was the time when I finally stopped being sick from the crazy sour grapes I was eating, as the first two rows were getting ripe. Trying out every day a bit from here, a bit from there, grandpa would decide (although never supported by grandma) that the time had come to gather the family and start picking the grapes. Most of the times, we’d do it end of September, beginning of October and I am sure it was raining almost every year when we did it. That or it was full of bees (of course, if the bees were all in, it meant that the grapes were as sweet as they could be). We’d leave the house with big wicker baskets, some food, water and the knives and head to the vineyard. I remember my parents were sometimes going to France in the summer to pick grapes there (back in the 90s one month of such labour in France was equal to a one-year pay-check in Romania) and they had brought to Romania some very cool tools that were making the process easier. For the rest of us, scissors or knives and sometimes gloves were enough. Of course as a child I did almost nothing, but time after time I actually joined forces and helped. Once the baskets were full, we had to carry them downhill and throw them in the winepress. There was always someone there spinning the handle, crushing the grapes down a huge wooden pot, in a wonderful splash of smells, tastes and flying bees everywhere. I loved doing it and they would put me on top of a table so I could reach the handle and I would be spinning it for as long as I could or before some bee stung me. At the end of the day everybody was completely dead and we’d reward ourselves with some very nice grape juice. Mmmmmhhh, that taste!!! Always so delicious, so fresh and so dangerous if consumed in large quantities!
The fun part was over after several days and then the fermentation process began. As a child I was less interested in that part and only after a few years, I got to appreciate that the real art of wine making only began there. First transferring the juice to the barrels, my grandpa would add several secret ingredients, wait for a few weeks, then transfer it to other glass containers, always these weird installations with hoses, small water bottles and air bubbles. And the smell in the cellar was absolutely insane!!! Impatient as a child, grandpa would try every week to see if the wine was ready and back then he taught me how to use the hose so I could get the first drops out. By Christmas we always had our homemade wine ready for dinner and they always made me taste it. I mean the men in the family, to the horror of the women shouting at them that their were “ruining the kid”.
I have the most beautiful memories from those years and imagine, I got to take part in the ritual twice! One time in the countryside and one time in our hometown. As time went by, I helped more and more, understood the chemistry behind it and later on, due to going to university in another city, I stopped going that often, or at least I was not there anymore for the grape picking. The grapevine in town was removed after grandma couldn’t handle it anymore and now we have a big empty green space in front of our house, while the one in the countryside flourished year after year. As an 18+, I was launched in the world of wines with a strong background of homemade tastes and I am very happy that I got to taste so far so many wines from all around the world. Still not enough and still not a real connoisseur, but getting there!
After I left Romania my parents, as many Romanian parents, started sending boxes with all kinds of goodies that I missed from home. One of the things that is never missing still is of course, homemade wine, either from my grandpa or from my dad’s own production (in the meantime dad started buying grapes and making wine with some friends… crazy!). Most of you know that Pointer was born in a beautiful park in Amsterdam, where I was drinking wine with friends from beautiful proper wine glasses. Yes, the wine we were drinking that night was from grandpa and had travelled so long to get to me, which is why I couldn’t stand the disappointment of spilling it in the grass. That night, after the wonderful 'aha' moment and a lot of laughter, I came up with this project.
Coming home that summer, I showed the glass to my family. I will never forget the face of my grandpa, he was so shocked! He couldn’t believe his eyes that his granddaughter had designed a wine glass and with typical Romanian skepticism but still with blood-line pride, he loved every bit of it and wished me good luck. One year later I was running once more in the vineyards, but this time holding in my hand the final version of Pointer Wine Glass, happily connecting the dots of my entire process so far with them by my side.
That Christmas we drank homemade wine once again, just as every other year but from Pointer this time, sticking the picnic glasses in some jars on the table. The Christmas after, we drank an amazing Prosecco from what is now Pointer Wine Glass Crystal for Champagne. I have no clue what comes next, but I am quite happy to have made my family nod with amazement at one of my stupid ideas.
On the 15th of March my grandpa turned 80. He is unfortunately a bit sick at the moment and I keep asking myself if we are going to make wine together this year. Or at least drink a glass together. I ignored my Thursday chore of writing a blogpost because I was in between flights, coming to see him. Wine would have never tasted the same without everything he taught me. So this is to you, grandpa! A super happy birthday and a huge thank you for all you did for me! Looking forward to some walks together in the vineyards. I promise I won’t eat anything behind your back and that I will promote home-made Romanian wine wherever these two feet take me.