Grape Stomping is a Photogenic Process with Practical Benefits
Crush time is an important part of the winemaking process. It sets the tone for what happens months, even years down the line.
The name says it all: a grape is squeezed to break the skin and to release juice from the pulp. Depending on the wine’s intended style, the juice may spend time in contact with the skin as a part of maceration. This intermingling is essential, as it adds to a wine’s structure, complexity and texture.
Reds and rosés also get their color during maceration, though skin-contact white wines, also known as orange wines, are becoming popular as well.
Foot vs. machine
The favored method of crushing grapes is generally the two-in-one destemming and crush machine. However, in certain pockets of the world, like Spain, Portugal and increasingly in US regions like California, a more cinematic means is still employed: grape stomping.
Crushing grapes with feet is hardly a new trend. There is ample evidence that humans have stepped on grapes in vats, tubs and lagars to make wine for at least 8,000 years. In 2017, scientists discovered earthenware jars with wine residue and decorated with images of grapes and a man dancing in Tbilisi, Georgia. But why are winemakers still stepping on grapes?
Advocates say the foot provides more control over the wine’s flavor profile.