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The grapes of wrath

Stomping comp threat

treading grapes

We're all familiar with the traditional method of maceration used in wine making, grape-treading or grape-stomping, where grapes are repeatedly trampled in vats by barefoot participants to release their juices and begin fermentation.

Over in Binissalem where grapes and wine are such an important part of the area's economy and life, local folk (many of whom are employed in the wine 'industry') celebrate the annual grape harvest every autumn with a big festival in September.

I'd say the most popular activity in the festival is the gigantic grape fight where everybody ends up rolling around in squishy squashy grape juice and mush. However, less pleasing to the senses but quite important is the annual grape treading competition where teams of two, dressed in the traditional white garb of treaders, the cassot, stomp around in a barrel for a fixed time in a bid to squeeze out the most juice.

Each year around 1500 kilos of the local manto negro grape are sacrificed to the stompers who produce about 700 litres of must – the freshly crushed juice. Now this is where it gets tricky, as the must is delivered to a group of volunteers who make this into wine and bottle it – some for themselves and 220 bottles for the competitors and organisers of the contest.

This years comp, due to be held on 22nd September, is under threat because the wine making group who've done the job for the last 20 years have other (work) commitments and can't do it. As it's grown and grown in popularity over the years with more and more people taking part, lots of spectators and an accompaniment of music and dancing it seems a shame that it could suffer if alternative wine makers and bottlers can't be found.

Any takers out there?

Photos: Binissalem Council