THE TIPPLING POINT | Tip-Tap-Toe, Is Your Grape Wine Killing You Slow? Watch Out Before You Head Out to a Stomping Show
Many wineries in Bangalore conduct grape stomping festivals during the harvest season. But be warned, there is also a flip side. You might probably be standing in a rising column of a very dangerous gas, which may result in death.
A man stomps grapes during the grape harvest (Representational image: Reuters)
Welcome to the grape stomping ceremony.
Pigeage alias grape-stomping is a traditional method of macerating grapes with your bare feet. Feet, yes! Look around, you are not alone! Dozens of people scream, cheer and step to the groovy music while they stomp hard on a floor filled to its quarter with grapes.
The queer practice of extracting grape juice for fermentation by stomping on grapes goes a long way back. Pictorial evidences tell us how the Romans preferred their wines made by grape-stomping even as early as in the third century AD. And that explains those many wineries you see today in Portugal and Spain. They still cherish the traditional practice and make annual calls for people to participate in the event.
The logic is simple.
You stomp hard on the fruit, the force you exert and the weight of your body will crush the delicate skin of the grape easing out the juice. Yeah, wine press and modern technology could make the procedure precise and hassle-free, replacing such foot-power, but could those contraptions nourish the harmony and the ethos communal works can create?
I know what is in your mind.
Anything that brings your feet near the food you eat could be anathema to most of you. That is the reason why countries like the US have banned grape stomping. If a machine can do the hard work, why get messy and push on with a seemingly-barbaric practice that brings your feet in your drink! They ask.
Wineries elsewhere swear that feet are nature’s wine press. The pressure that our feet exerts on the grapes while stomping are gentle enough to bring out just the juice, leaving behind the astringent tannin in the fruit. Moreover stomping is fun, festival-like, bohemian. Nothing matches it. Customers demand it. What is unhygienic in it, they ask. Pathogens from the feet are never a match for the sugar and acid in the grapes. Wines do not smell like feet.
Grape stomping could have become a relic of the past had it not been for a few movies like ‘Lucille Ball’ that came out in the 1950s. There is a beautiful grape stomping scene in it. In no time, grape stomping festivals began to crop up in wineries all across the world. Want to take part in one and get your sleeves grape-stained? You need not have to go to the other end of the world for that. Many wineries in Bangalore conduct the festival during the harvest season.
A word of warning:
Yes, there is fun in it. But be warned, there is also a flip side. You needn’t have to study organic chemistry to understand that fermentation releases carbon dioxide. So, be careful while you are inside a vat of crushed grapes. You stand in a rising column of a very dangerous gas which may result in suffocation and even death. So don’t do it all alone.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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