Grape stomping, or pisado de la uva is a tradition of wine making that´s been around for centuries. When I told my older Spanish students that I really wanted to take part some day, they scoffed comments like, “Why? We´re in the 21st century” or “Yes, well you aren´t from here I know.”
Cool, thanks, amigos. Their reactions didn´t sway me, and I finally had my chance to grape stomp this past weekend in Bodegas Lecea´s pisado de la uva located in the village of San Asensio, about 30 minutes from Logroño. Throughout the weekend, many local people travel to San Asensio to either take part in the grape stomping or taste the wines and tour the bodega.
San Asensio actually has five wineries within the tiny village, shocking for its size but pretty typical in La Rioja. The event takes place soley for Bodegas Lecea, although the “tour” goes through cellars that connect several of the wineries.
First, the stomping. Before you even enter the barn you can smell it. The air is filled with fruit flies and a thick, musty smell, fruit that has been out for too long. The grapes feel warm and mushy under your feet, but are quickly packed together into a dense mountain.
There´s actually a precise, careful technique for grape stomping. Winery workers shovel the grapes into a piled wall to one side so that the juice will drain better. You can only stomp the grapes on top of this pile and you must step slowly, to really press out the juice. When a lot of juice accumulates, you should move on to another part, as opposed to standing and splashing in the puddle.
Now I know!
After the stomping, we did some tasting. For five euros, we purchased a copa and three glasses of wine. The had a great selection, from tinto joven to crianza blanco. I´ve turned into a red-only girl, and I especially loved trying their annual Corazon del Lago: wine made specifically from the last year´s grape stomping.
Around the bodega are stands with traditional foods for sale like chestnuts for roasting and pate. We paid for a degustion of wine-broiled chorizo and were happy to find that we could refill our wine glass as much as we wanted.
A pointless but funny part of the morning was piling into a donkey-drawn wagon for a ride through the city. If I´m ever in San Asensio again I´ll try to spend more time around the central plaza, but I´ll be honest and say it´s a pretty run-down village.
What San Asensio does offer is a traditional, low-key atmosphere to taste delicious Rioja wine and explore as you please. I´m especially fond of walking in vineyards taking photos of the grape plants, especially during autumn. Here there´s no one telling you not to.
Special, secret tip: Apparently after the wine harvest is over, the left over grapes are free for anyone to gather because otherwise they will go to waste! Let me know if you try it, I don´t feel confident yet!