Sitting back with a good glass of wine, you might picture beautiful vineyards and terraces of succulent grapes ready to be picked, but did you know these grapes might have been juiced by grape treading?
What is grape treading?
The ancient technique of grape treading has origins in ancient Rome. One of the earliest depictions of this technique is on a third-century Roman sarcophagus. It shows an idyllic rural scene with a group of gods harvesting and stomping grapes at a festival.
Grape treading was once a key part of the wine-making process. After a busy day of picking, harvesters worked together to crush the grapes underfoot in large vats or troughs, often while music played to help them keep rhythm. This rhythmic crushing would release the juices from the grapes and begin the fermentation process.
There are ways to imitate the grape treading process mechanically in modern times, and in many wine regions it's a thing of the past outside of festivals, where grape treading is used to attract visitors.
But in some regions, the very finest wines are still made by grape treading. Some experts argue that the soft yet intense crushing action creates an unrivalled smoothness to the wine.
The process also allows greater control over the crushing and releasing of tannins and colour, making it hard to perfectly replicate with machinery.
Where can you try grape treading?
If you're a wine lover you might want to have a go at stomping grapes yourself. It's a great way to meet other fans of the drink and will give you a newfound appreciation of the traditions and history behind the wines on your table.
The stunning Douro Valley, which produces some of the world's best wines, is one place where grape treading is still used.
If you visit the Douro Valley in September or October, you’ll find a festive atmosphere as grape treading gets underway, with live music filling the air around quintas, the historical wine estates, which dot these golden hills.
One of the quintas where you can see this method in action, and even take part yourself, is Quinta de Avessada. Located on the lofty vineyard plateau of Favaios, it offers stunning views of the sun-kissed hills that run alongside the river.
The Douro Valley isn't the only place in the world where you can see grape treading in action. Sonoma County, California, another famous wine region, hosts a festival every year to celebrate the harvest and one of the main draws is a grape treading contest.
You can also give it a go in Provence, France. Although the process is no longer used in wine production here, there are still events where you can try this traditional activity.
If you want to have a go at grape treading in a location where it’s still very much in use, the Douro Valley is a great place to start.
You can get stuck in on Good Housekeeping’s fantastic eight-day cruise along the Douro, where you’ll spend a day at Quinta da Avessada and participate in the grape treading.
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