Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trouble afoot

Think the wine business is glamorous? Ask the poor souls who spend several hours a day each autumn up to their knees in grape mush. Once upon a time, many parts of the world used foot power to squish their grapes, but now, treading is virtually unique to a few port houses of the Douro in Portugal. Advocates say it’s the most efficient way of extracting all the nice bits from grapes, but the advent of robotic ‘tramplers’ – machines that can work around the clock, and don’t need the jolly tones of an unsmiling hunchback playing ‘Una Paloma Blanca’ to keep them in time – seems to be tolling a death knell for the practice. The Symington family (Warre, Dow, Graham, Smith Woodhouse and others) is the latest company to abandon the tradition (story here - or at least it was for a while. Seems BBR has pulled it until it confirms some of the facts). Shame. As anyone who’s been a guest at a port lodge at vintage will testify, one of the highlights of a visit is to spend half an hour dancing in the lagar after a port-infused blowout meal. As you reel out of the cellar into the still-warm air, you can feel the dagger-like stares from the purple-legged workers who still have another couple of hours to do before the end of the shift.

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