In keeping with the spirit of my last two posts, “Grape Stomping in the Regency” was my first choice of a title this week. One tiny little problem? I have not been able to uncover evidence of grape stomping in Regency England.
In fact, grape production in England was even more limited during the Regency period than in the current modern era. The English Wine Site speculates that the problems were in part both political and climate-related:
At the time of the compilation of the Domesday Survey in the late eleventh century, vineyards were recorded in 46 places in southern England, from East Anglia through to modern-day Somerset. By the time King Henry VIIIth ascended the throne there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales – 11 of them owned by the Crown, 67 by noble families and 52 by the church.
It is not exactly clear why the number of vineyards declined subsequently. Some have put it down to an adverse change in the weather which made an uncertain enterprise even more problematic. Others have linked it with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Both these factors may have had some part to play but in all probability the decline was gradual (over several centuries) and for more complex reasons.
If wine from grapes had to be imported, Regency folks still had other locally-sourced alcoholic beverages, ale of course, and fruit wines. Jane Austen’s World has a fabulous post about wine made from elderberries, including the following recipe from Mrs. Rundell’s cookbook:
To every quart of berries put two quarts of water, boil half an hour, run the liquor, and break the fruit through a hair sieve; then to every quart of juice put three quarters of a pound of Lisbon sugar, coarse but not the very coarsest. Boil the whole a quarter of an hour with some Jamaica peppers, gingers, and a few cloves. Pour it into a tub, and when of a proper warmth, into the barrel, with toast and yeast to work, which there is more difficulty to make it do than most other liquors. When it ceases to hiss, put a quart of brandy to eight gallons, and stop up. Bottle in the spring or at Christmas. The liquor must be in a warm place to make it work.
Note: no stomping of feet required.
Wikimedia is filled with images of grape presses like the one above, so I’m betting that much of the stomping took place as part of harvest festival activities. It is illegal in the United States to make wine from foot-stomped wine, but that doesn’t stop wineries from hosting stomps during harvest season. The World Championship Grape Stomp will take place October 3-5, 2014 at the Somona County Harvest Fair.
I had the chance to participate in a stomp last weekend, and I can only say that the cool pulp squishing between my toes was not unpleasant. Of course, I’d already had one glass of vino!
But aside from the excuse to party, why the interest in plunging toes into squishy sweet goop? I blame the one historical figure who has done the most to promote grape stomping–Lucille Ball. Who remembers her famous grape-stomping scene?
“Look at those feet–they’re like large pizzas!”
Here’s a YouTube link.
And by the way, grape stomping is officially known as pigeage á pied. NOT “pig-age” my American friends, but “peej-ahj”.
What about you? Have you ever stomped grapes? Would you ever stomp grapes?
Image credits: The author and Wikimedia