Grape stomping fun: Kick off your shoes and get ready for an unforgettable experience
The idyllic perception of a winery visit is a tour of a vineyard followed by a tasting of their respective wines. Everyone knows this; so, at Gourmand Breaks as we are always on the lookout for a bit of extra special, we added some hands on action and some good food and “voila” a Harvest, Stomping Winery Day was born – enjoy this innovative experience in early Fall on one of our Private Wine Tours
What is it?
Grape-stomping, also known as pigeage, a French winemaking term for the traditional stomping of the grapes, is part of a method of maceration used in traditional winemaking. Rather than using a wine press or other mechanized method, grapes are crushed by foot in open vats to release their juices and begin fermentation. However, to make certain types of wine, grapes are put through a crusher and then poured into open fermentation tanks.
Once fermentation begins, the grape skins are pushed to the surface by carbon dioxide gases released in the fermentation process. The grapes and stems are mashed together, releasing not only the juice from the grapes, but also the phenols and tannins that provide color and acidity. This layer of skins and other solids is known as the cap. As the skins are the source of the tannins, the cap needs to be mixed through the liquid each day, or “punched,” which traditionally is done by stomping through the vat. Pigeage, literally means “punching down the cap,” and describes the pushing down of the grape skins that float to the surface of the fermentation vats, forming the “cap.”
A little bit of history:
Grape stomping probably goes back to the very beginnings of winemaking. Historical evidence shows that grapes were stomped at least as far back as Rome in 200 BC. One of the earliest existing visual representations of the practice appears on a Roman sarcophagus which depicts a group of demigods harvesting and stomping grapes at a rural Roman festival.
For centuries grapes were picked by hand and grape stomping was the universal method used to extract the juice to make wine. In America, most grape stomping by human feet was legislated out of existence by the end of the twentieth century, the concern for public health outweighing tradition. Most other countries eventually banned grape stomping too, but there are still places where you can stomp grapes.
What you can expect: A day in pictures
For more information on this or any of our private wine tours please do not hesitate to contact us !
This innovative experience can be included in our longer private tours such as the Wine Connoisseur Tour of Spain or The Best of Spain & France Grand Private Wine Tour
Please note that grape harvesting, and subsequently stomping, is only available during the appropriate grape harvesting season of each vineyard. In Spain the focus will be in the months of September/October.