Some thoughts on treading wine by Lawrence Durrell

I seem to be a ‘wine’ frame of mind today – no reason except that it is a beautiful day and I have been reading some wonderful material. Here is another except from Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell which really caught my imagination…. Read it and close your eyes for a moment and picture the scene – it is beautiful!! No picture is necessary or warranted for this piece.

“By four o’clock the vat is heaped full and from the sheer weight of the black fruit the must has begun to force the crude spigot. The Count is extremely excited, for it is the moment to begin the treading. Niko has been standing in the trough by the well, washing himself in the icy water. Now he advances to the vat, clad only in a white shirt which is knotted at the thighs. HIi pale face looks remote and far-away as he hoists himself up. His white feet dangle for a second in the sunlight and vanish. The Count is hoarse with emotion. “You remember everything now,” he says nervously. “The old way – as you have done it always”. Niko does not answer. He smiles, as if at some remembered joke, and nods. Gently moving his feet he begins by treading a small hole to stand in and begins to work into it the grapes piled above the rim.

The spigot is now uncorked and the must begins to come out in an opaque crimson spurt. This beautiful colour stains the trough, lacquers the tin measure, and stabs the shadows of the magazine with splashes of red. Keeping the same tireless pace, Niko labors deeper and ever deeper into the great vat until by the latest dusk his white face has quite vanished into the depths and only his two crimson grape-splashed hands can be seen holding the edges of the vat. He perches himself up every now and then and rests, hanging his head like a bird. He has become almost intoxicated himself by the fumes of the must, and by the long six-hour routine of his treading – which ends at ten o’clock. His face looks pale and sleepy in the red light of the lanterns….Now the huge wooden lid, weighted with stones, is floated upon the top, and by tomorrow morning all the leavings will have risen up under it into a scarlet froth of crust from under which the liquid will be crackling with fermentation.”

 

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