Why do Winemakers Foot Tread Grapes?

Let's Do This Grape Harvest

It’s one of our favorite things to talk about at the winery, but the purpose is often misunderstood and the ancient practice near extinction. This article will answer all of your questions about this superior method of winemaking.

Winemaker Angela foot treads (also called pigéage) every lot of grapes that arrive at the cellar. As her feet break apart the berries and the juice comes into contact with the grape skin, (that is naturally covered in yeast) fermentation begins. She then foot treads the bins of grapes twice daily for around two weeks until fermentation finishes, a physical task that can take hours to complete.

Foot Treading Grapes

Once in their fermenting bins, the grape skins separate from the juice and float to the surface forming a stiff cap. Imagine this cap is like a tea bag. If it sits on the surface, its colors and flavors are not incorporated. Yes, we could use a machine to carry out this task (as do 99.9% of wineries) and it would be easier on all levels – physically, financially and timely. So why foot tread?

Because wine is SO delicate. Every time it is jostled and jarred by machinery, you risk losing its’ delicate traits. Foot treading is the most gentle and natural approach. Not to mention it is extremely fun and rounds out the intimate connection between winemaker and wine.

grape stomp during harvest

Are we concerned about dirty feet during a grape stomp? Angela washes her feet in an iodized water solution before and in between each bin. Remember too that grapes go straight from the dusty farm into tanks, as well as the air is filled with dust and particles that can easily settle into tanks – but everything solid in wine forms into sediment and falls to the bottom of the tank before it is filtered out and bottled. So who wants to come try it this harvest?

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