A recent question to Wine Spectator about foot stomping reminds me that sometimes visitors to our tasting room ask us after seeing one of our photos showing a woman stomping on our grapes. Left Bend has been foot stomping on part of our grapes since 2011. Since we make small lots, it is much easier for us to do this century old practice. But we always spray our feet with ethanol (usually vodka) before jumping into the grape bin. We typically stomp on only 20 to 30% of our grapes which we ferment with whole cluster. Typically only our Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Syrah undergo this process.
The following was written by MaryAnn Worobiec and Douglas DeJesus from Wine Spectator. “We’re 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.”
We 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.”
As far as sanitation is concerned, not many pathogens can live in wine since it contains ethyl alcohol. According to the CDC, the ethyl alcohol found in alcohol (along with the isopropyl alcohol you may commonly use as a disinfectant) rapidly kills growing forms of bacteria (such as E. coli, salmonella, staph and strep) rather than simply stopping them from reproducing. “They are also tuberculocidal, fungicidal, and virucidal but do not destroy bacterial spores. However, their cidal activity drops sharply when diluted below 50 percent concentration, and the optimum bactericidal concentration is 60 percent to 90 percent solutions in water.”
Even though a typical wine contains only around 12 to 14 percent alcohol, “The other compounds in wine [organic and amino acids, phenols] work synergistically with the alcohol to kill bacteria,” said Dr. Jasmin Roman, a family-medicine practitioner in New York. “All of the components of wine together can work effectively to kill multiple types of pathogens better than the individual components.” Therefore, pathogens introduced through foot-trodding shouldn’t survive the rest of the winemaking process. Your only real concern when it comes to bacterial or viral contraction should be when tasting from the same glass as someone with a cold. —MaryAnn Worobiec and Douglas De Jesus