We are at it again, the annual process of foot treading and, once again, why? For even and complete crushing of grape skin, flesh and juice, enabling maximum extraction of color and aromatic components, without breaking the grape pips that would release a green bitterness into the port in the making. We swear by it. When we show our visitors the epoxy-lined open cement tanks called lagars in our winery and talk about foot treading, the initial reaction is usually a smile AND a raised brow, the prior for what seems to be a beautiful folkloric tradition, and the later for the slight disdain of potentially dirty feet in contact with the must (they are clean, I promise). The best port is still made this way! 4 hours a day for approximately 4 days is the foot treading time until the fermentation is arrested with brandy and then the freshly made lagar of port is sent to individual tanks in the cellar by gravity flow. For several months the port rests and sediment gathers at the bottom of the tank. Then the young port is ready to taste to evaluate the potential of each tank: Vintage, LBV, Ruby or Tawny or ?
Here are harvest palette colors - pink, red, purple and all shades in between:
Winemaker Jorge Alves tells us that 2010 is the best year since 2007, yet remains too early to know if of Vintage quality. 2010 was marked by 47% more rainfall and a 1-week July heat wave 42C/108F, that unfortunately damaged some of the young vines. Harvest started on 3 September and the last grapes came in on 26 September, many a long day of work! Fingers crossed...
Foot treading is a high point of the harvest, the culmination of a year's work in the vineyards. A synchronized effort, the head foot treader calls out "esquerdo, direito, esquerdo, direito" (left, right...) to keep all in line. Pauses take place, foot treaders move about freely in the lagar, perhaps a sip of port, then back to work. Laughs, games and good music accompany, and all are hopeful for an excellent quality of port. If you have never tried foot treading, come to Quinta do Tedo, and join us. Last but not least, the port harvest means purple feet and stained legs!
- Vincent has been in the lagar
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