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The art of wine-making in the old days

The vineyards sitting on the south-facing slopes of the northern part of Lake Como are today the main area of wine production of the region, although vineyards have been cultivated around the shores of the lake for centuries and local lively and light wines were widely produced.

In Tremezzina, especially on the slopes of Rogaro, vines were grown on family farms and local wines were consumed by the small producers themselves or sold to the local inns.

In his travel guide The Lake of Como. Its History, Art, and Archeology (1911) Thomas William May Lund describes the unexpected sight he saw from the deck of a steamer, in front of the Isola Comacina: a small group of young boys stomping grapes in a large barrel.

“One of the novel sights to be seen from the deck of the steamer in the autumn is a large vat full of grapes on the beach, in which are half-a-dozen little boys treading out the juice. They are naked, and as like to Correggio’s Putti as possible. They shout and laugh and sing, as they dance in the great tub, washing one another’s faces with the rich purple liquor, and playing off all kinds of mischievous tricks.
If we wish to see someone ” treading the wine-press alone,” we must go into the outhouse of a wine-shop ashore, where we shall find a strong, patient, bare-legged man, pounding away at the great clusters in a barrel, which he just seems to fit. As he takes the grapes from the crate in which they are packed, and drops them into his tub, his feet catch them, like hands, and crush out the foaming juice in a quite artistic way. People often profess to feel great disgust at this use of feet, but it needs only a little reflection to convince us how much more cleanly they are for the purpose than hands. Until quite recently machinery has been inadmissible, since the crushing of the grape seed must spoil the wine. Now, however, a mechanical process has been devised for pressing the grape, which promises to revolutionize the science of wine-making by the economy it effects.”

T.W.M. Lund, The Lake of Como. Its History, Art, and Archeology, London, 1910, pp. 41-2

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