Grape stomp turns back the clock for wine students

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When it comes to learning about an ancient winemaking practice, NC’s wine students jump in with both feet.

Wine professor Ron Giesbrecht led the College’s fifth annual grape stomp at the NC Teaching Winery. The activity took place as part of a classroom lesson on September 13 for students in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program, and on September 15 for students in the Wine Business Management program.

Giesbrecht said the grape stomp is a valuable lesson for his students even today.

“It’s always important to give students a baseline, so we’re starting off with learning about ancient winemaking 8,000 years ago,” said Giesbrecht.  “Participating in the grape stomp helps students understand how winemaking began, how it has evolved over time, and how we can make it better.”

The activity began with harvesting in the teaching vineyards. Grapes collected were divided into three batches and students into three teams. Racing against the clock, team members took turns kicking off their shoes, hopping into the barrel– maximum two people at a time – and stomping on the grapes. In the end, the team yielding the most juice won.

“It’s a lot more work than I thought, sweating buckets and stomping on grapes, but I had a blast,” said Wine Business Management student Mike Johnson, whose team won the competition. “It’s something I’ve never done before – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

WBM student Catharine Cahill, who works at Pondview Winery, said it was not only fun, but a valuable learning experience.

“People come into the winery and ask all the time how winemaking has changed over the years so this will be helpful,” she said. “It was work but fun too.”

Giesbrecht noted that students do get the opportunity to taste the fruits of the days’ labour.

“Of course, some of them get squeamish,” he said. “But they find that we actually get a good yield from the stomp – only 20-25% less than a commercial press.”

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