Wine making is full of old school traditions. Some are now on their way out as practicality, time, and – let’s be fair – hygiene have all had their say. But one tradition that remains in the production of some Port wines is grape treading. I’ve always wanted to have a go, and a couple of weeks back up at Quinta Do Noval I got the chance. It was fantastic.
Why Tread Grapes
Once you pick the grapes you’ve got to somehow get the juice out. These days they have huge crushing machines doing this thing on a mass scale, all pressure controlled and fuel efficient. But back in the day they didn’t have any of that, so they stuck the grape bunches in these huge concrete troughs (called Lagares), jumped in after them and stomped around on them for a few hours.
What Do You Do?
You get some old clothes on, dip your feet in some cleanser, and then in you jump. And that’s kind of it, you just march around to music for a few hours and have a natter with everyone doing the same thing. I know that makes it sound a bit shit, but maybe if I mention that all this is fueled by bottles of Port and singing and dancing? Sounding a bit better now?
The great thing about using your feet is that it’s a lot lower pressure than most machines. You don’t crush the grape pips, and so don’t release any bitter oils from them. You also get to extract a huge amount of colour from the grapes. That’s great for the wine, not so much for the state of your legs and feet afterwards. I washed hard before and afterwards and I still woke up the next morning stuck to the bed sheets (not like that!!). Sorry to the amazing house staff at Quinta Do Noval if I ruined any bed linen 🙁
There were some pretty impressive highlights on that weekend trip, but I think the 30 or 40 minutes I spent stomping round in the Lagares just about topped the tree.