The traditional art of grape stomping in Italy's wineries, including its history and cultural significance.
Grape stomping, also known as “pigiatura” in Italian, is a traditional winemaking method that has been practiced in Italy for centuries. It involves crushing grapes with one’s feet in order to extract juice for fermentation.
The history of grape stomping in Italy dates back to ancient Roman times, when grapes were harvested and crushed by foot in large vats. This method was used because it was a simple and efficient way to extract juice from the grapes, and it also allowed for gentle handling of the fruit to preserve its delicate flavors and aromas.
Over time, grape stomping became an important cultural tradition in Italy, with wineries hosting “grape stomping parties” or “lagars” during the harvest season. These parties were a way for families and friends to come together to participate in the winemaking process, and they were often accompanied by music, food, and dancing.
Today, while many wineries have modernized their production methods and use mechanical presses to extract juice, some traditional wineries still carry on the practice of grape stomping by foot. This is often done as a way to preserve the traditional methods and to produce a wine with a unique character.
Beyond its winemaking significance, grape stomping is also an important cultural activity for many families and communities in Italy, representing the hard work and dedication that goes into winemaking and the importance of preserving tradition and cultural heritage.
The grape stomping Italy process.
The grape stomping process begins with the selection of high-quality, ripe grapes. The most commonly used grapes for stomping are red varietals such as Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Primitivo, and Montepulciano. White varietals such as Moscato and Gewürztraminer are also used, but less frequently.
Once the grapes have been selected, they are placed in large wooden or concrete vats, or “lagars,” where the stomping will take place. The vats are typically shallow and have a capacity of several hundred gallons. Before the grapes are stomped, they are sometimes chilled to lower the temperature, this is to facilitate the fermentation process.
The stomping itself is done by individuals who stand in the vat and crush the grapes with their feet. This is typically done in teams, with each person taking turns stomping the grapes. The stomping process can take several hours, and the stompers often wear special shoes or boots to protect their feet.
As the grapes are stomped, the juice is extracted and begins to flow out of the vat. The juice is then transferred to fermentation tanks, where it will undergo a process of fermentation to become wine.
The equipment used in stomping grapes is quite simple, it just requires a large wooden or concrete vat, the grapes, people and protective gears for the stompers.
There are different techniques that can be used when stomping grapes, depending on the winery and the type of wine being produced. Some wineries may use only human feet to stomp the grapes, while others may use a combination of human feet and mechanical crushers to extract juice. Some wineries may use a combination of cold maceration (soaking the grape in cold water before stomping) or cold fermentation to achieve different flavor profiles and styles in their wine.
The role of grape stomping in modern winemaking.
One of the reasons why grape stomping is sometimes used to create unique and high-quality wines is that it allows for greater control over the fermentation process. Because the grapes are crushed by hand, the winemaker has more control over the amount of pressure that is applied to the grapes, which can affect the flavor and color of the wine.
Additionally, some argue that the human contact allows to add a variable that can affect taste, aroma and color of the wine, giving the wine a more personal and handmade touch.
Also, grape stomping can produce a wine that is more rustic and traditional in character than wines made with modern methods. This is because the stomping process can introduce small amounts of grape skins, seeds, and stems into the juice, which can affect the flavor and color of the wine. These components are removed from the juice in most commercial wineries, but are left in in wines produced with grape stomping.
It’s also important to note that, in some countries grape stomping is still a part of the culture and tradition of wine making, such as in certain regions of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Many people, visitors and tourists, travel to those places looking for a unique experience of stomping grapes and, in some cases, tasting the wine of that very same batch.
In conclusion, grape stomping is not a common practice in modern wineries and it’s not a necessary part of the winemaking process. But it can be a way for some wineries to create unique and high-quality wines, with a personal and traditional touch, and also it can be used to create a unique experience for visitors and tourists.
Book your Grape Stomping Italy Experience
Discover the true essence of Italian wine culture by joining a grape stomping tour in Italy, where you’ll immerse yourself in the tradition of winemaking by stomping on grapes, understanding the fermentation process and savoring the flavors of the final product all while being surrounded by picturesque views of vineyards.