Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Foot Stomping and Wine

Dear Dr. Walt,

Are there special shoes or foot coverings used for grape stomping? Or what is used to sanitize bare feet?

—Imbiber in Indiana

Dear Imbiber,

Well, I didn’t know the question you sent in last week. And, now you’re two for two. But, not to worry. I again checked with Dr. Vinny at The Wine Spectator, and he had an answer for us both:

These days, foot trodding has been mostly replaced by other methods, but it’s still common in Port production, and at some smaller wineries.

There are also grape stomping festivals and competitions held around harvest, though those typically aren’t related to production.

For sanitizer, feet can either be sprayed with or dunked into various sanitizing solutions, and then typically rinsed off before entering the grapes.

The good news is that because of the alcohol content, human pathogens can’t survive in wine.

As far as footwear, it’s pretty typical for wineries to have rubber boots on hand—if not for foot-trodding, then for punch-downs. That’s when all the winemaking solids—skins, seeds, pulp, stems and such—are reintegrated back into the wine.

Cellar staff can climb into the vat, stand on this pretty solid cap and use a tool like a huge potato masher to push it down.

Dr. Vinny was also asked, “Is it legal to sell wine made from grapes stomped by foot? And if not, what are the penalties?” He wrote:

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about stomping grapes, also known as “foot trodding.”

Folks want to know what it’s calledwhen it stopped, and how people prepare their feet before going into a vat of grapes.

Since the Middle Ages, foot trodding has been largely replaced by less labor-intensive methods of crushing grapes, but it hasn’t been completely abandoned.

If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s sanitary, keep in mind that human pathogens can’t survive in wine because of the alcohol content.

I’m not aware of any laws that prohibit stomping grapes by foot in the United States.The Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, doesn’t address the issue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said there is no specific prohibition against the practice of foot trodding, but said they do not recommend this practice, citing the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations, which require “hygienic practices while in direct contact with food, food-contact surfaces and food packaging materials.”

I also checked with both the Federal and California Divisions of Occupational Safety and Health to see if there was a workplace-safety angle (grapes can be slippery!), but they only have a very general suggestion that in the workplace, “Inappropriate footwear or shoes with thin or badly worn soles shall not be worn.”

So, there you go!

© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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