It's Wine Making Season!
Starting in the mid 1950s Italian Centre Shop founder Frank Spinelli made a name and subsequent business for himself by meeting the importing requests of fellow Italian immigrants to Canada. Starting with importing magazines and newspapers led to fine Italian espresso, soda pop and chocolates. Soon enough the original Italian Centre Shop opened its doors in 1959 where many ‘home-grown’ favourites could be found.
While those Italian favourites were enjoyed and filled many tables across the city a desire to recreate a long-standing love (and passion) for home wine making began to surface in the early 1960s. Hearing the call Mr. Spinelli began to investigate the options for importing fresh wine grapes for he and his fellow new Canadians. Surprisingly, prohibition-era laws dating back to the 1920’s surrounding home brewing were still in place. Rarely backing down from a challenge Frank rolled up his sleeves and got to work on having those laws changed for the Province of Alberta. Frank found success in 1964 having lobbied to overturn the home-brewing restriction laws. Since then, the Italian Centre Shop has become the largest importer of wine grapes (40,000 cases in some years) and wine-making equipment in Western Canada.
"Mangia oggi, paga domani. "
- Frank Spinelli
(roughly translated - eat now, pay when you can)
Fast forward from those early days of fresh wine grape importing you can annually find the back alley of the Little Italy flagship shop a literal buzz with stacks of grape crates and bees a plenty. Juicy red varieties including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir along with sweeter white options from Chardonnay and Moscatel begin arriving in late August. Picked at their peek ripeness off the vineyard vines in California and delivered fresh in Edmonton within days of harvest.
Hundreds of customers collect (or have delivered) stacks of grape crates and begin the long-standing tradition of stomping, crushing, seeding, squeezing and bottling juice - ritual performed with friends and family, and celebrated at the end of a hard day’s work with a feast in the garden.
If the stomping, crushing sounds like a lot of work the lesser known (and lesser work) option becoming the new generation of home brewers’ go-to is using 100% fresh natural grape juice pails. Closer to the end of the grape harvest the vineyards do the crushing and seeding on site, store the fresh juice in pails and ship them to Edmonton. The benefit of these fresh juice pails is the naturally occurring “wild” yeast. Home brewers simply need to store the pails in a warm, dark spot – without opening. After 2 to 3 weeks the fermenting process is complete and the wine is ready to be bottle – it really is that easy!
Wine grapes and juice pails can still be ordered – but the harvest is nearing it’s end so don’t delay. The grapes are arriving daily and juice pails will follow soon. For more information or to order call 780-424-4869 and ask for the Grape Desk.
Fresh Wine Grapes Available
Fresh Wine Juice Available