The makina (currants sorting machine)
The makina – from the Italian macchina or machine – is an invaluable tool for currant producers. Before its invention, in the 1960s, the process of sorting the grapes was done by hand, as the older generation remembers all too well. They used to sift them by filling a large sieve and relying on the wind to ‘thresh’ them. When the wind was good, there was a production line, with some people filling the sieve, others who carried it to the men who would rock it. This rocking needed strong arms to shake the sieve lightly so that the fruit falling from the sieve would be cleaned by the wind.
In the beginning the makina worked with a hand-driven crank. Later it was connected to external petrol engines and finally it acquired its own electrically powered engine.
In the early years, not every producer had their own; they would borrow or rent them. Today most currant producers have their own ‘makina’.
This is the way it worked. They would throw the uncleaned grapes into a container, which dropped into the first sieve. The machine would make a waterwheel move, which would create a current of air and at the same time the sieves would start to shake. With the air, the stalks and the smaller fruit – the grapes that were hollow, shriveled, lacking juice – would be shaken out and fall on the ground. The good fruit with dirt and the small stalks would pass through the big holes in the first sieve into the second finer one, and from there into a third from which they would be collected.
When you travel through Aigialeia in late summer, from dawn to dusk, you will hear a ‘chorus’ of sweet wooden sounds, going ‘taka-taka-taka-taka’. It comes from the currant producers and their machines at the end of the production cycle of the Peloponnese’s black gold of yesteryear.