Highlights of fall are All Saints Day, music festivals, and food festivals including truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, grapes (and wine), chocolate, and even torrone. Opera and theater season starts many places in fall, too. National holidays during fall are All Saints Day on November 1 and Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. On these days, many services will be closed. Around December 8, Italy starts decorating for Christmas and there will be small Christmas markets and many towns set up a nativity scene in a piazza or church.
The vendemmia is the fall grape harvest, an exciting time to be in the wine regions of Italy. While it's hard to predict the exact dates the grape harvest will start since it depends on the grapes reaching their peak of ripeness and that can vary by vineyard, is usually late September and early October. Vino Novello translated means "New Wine" and, according to Italian law, producers can release the wine no earlier than November 6th on the year of harvest. In reality the wine is actually bottled a few weeks after harvest. In the past, farmers used to take wine from the barrels at the end of October simply to check the maturation of the wine. However, in 1999 this young wine was authorized by law to enter the market and wine festivals taking place during November are the perfect place to welcome its arrival. This young wine can be compared to the French "Beaujolais Nouveau", which is also released soon after harvest.
It is not simply the fact that the wine is released early that makes it unique; the actual processing technique differs considerably from that of most wines. The processing procedures require manual harvesting. The grapes are then placed, whole, inside stainless steel tanks where they undergo carbonic maceration (oxygen is eliminated from the tanks and replaced by carbon dioxide and the grapes remain sealed in the tank at a controlled temperature for a period varying from about 8 to 10 days), and the juices undergo fermentation without the assistance of adding yeast. The grape is alive and, because of the actions of natural yeasts and a lack of air, begins to transform all the elements of which it is composed, sugars, acids and mineral salts.
The grapes are then pressed; creating a partially sweet juice that will finish fermenting in another tank. This intercellular fermentation occurring within the berry-results in the formation of a significant quantity of primary odors that constitutes the principal characteristic of vino novello. It is a procedure that is well calibrated to obtain the finest and most intense aromas of the grape. This process goes toward creating a wine that is described as "light, lively and fruity", with it being relatively low in tannins. Consequently, it is not a wine to be aged, as it should be appreciated for the youthful qualities that it possesses.
Roasted chestnuts in the oven
Preheat your oven to 425 F (210 C). Take your chestnuts and make a cut across the round side of each to keep them from exploding, and arrange them either on a rack or on a cookie sheet. I also like to rinse mine in water and live them wet.
Roast them until the skins have pulled back from the cuts and the nutmeats have softened (exactly how long will depend upon the chestnuts, but at least 15-20 minutes). Remove the nuts from the oven, make a mound of them in an old towel, wrap them up, squeeze them hard -- they should crackle -- and let them sit for a few minutes.
Open a bottle of vino Novello (or Beaujolais Nouveau), open the towel, pour yourself a glass, peel the skin off the first chestnut, and enjoy.