Foot-treading Port brings a 2% better result than modern technology, according to Adrian Bridge, CEO at The Fladgate Partnership.
Foot-treading Port for Taylor’s. Source: kobrandwineandspirits.com
Talking about the requirements for making aged tawny during the launch of Taylor’s 1863 at the London Wine Fair last month, Bridge said that it was necessary to start with “extremely fine wines” which are “big, with good structure” for making Port to endure the “tough” and “oxidative” conditions from extended ageing in cask.
Achieving such structure requires the Port producer, which owns Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca, to tread the grapes in wide, open granite fermenters called lagares.
And Bridge stated: “The human foot brings 2% better results than modern technology”.
Speaking to the drinks business after the 1863 launch, Bridge explained that new technology was “important”, but foot-treading was still used by The Fladgate Partnership for its vintage Ports and 20 to 40 year-old tawnies, both of which need a high level of tannin extraction for extended ageing.
“Foot treading works the skin harder against the base of the lagare,” he said, comparing the work of humans to machines, which punch down the grapes as well as crush them using plastic pads.
He also suggested that the warming effect of the human body, which is at 37 degree Celsius, compared to 27 degree Celsius for the wine, may have an effect in aiding the extraction of tannins and pigments from the grapes.
Furthermore, he said that as the foot-treaders raise their feet, they also bring more wine to the surface, enhancing the contact between the liquid and oxygen, which he also said was beneficial to the extraction process.
“It is not a precise science, but we believe there is a difference.”
When asked about the 2% figure, Bridge explained. “If we had two identical sources of grapes and one was foot-trodden, and the other not, then the foot-trodden might be a 98 score, and the other a 96; that is the 2%.”
Continuing he pointed out, “It’s not going to make a good wine great, but it will make the difference between a great and exceptional wine.”
Summing up, he commented, “It’s about the details: anyone in the luxury end of the wine business is only focused on one thing, and that’s the details, and anyone who thinks there is one magic bullet is deluding themselves.”