Presses today

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Wine presses have evolved over the last thousand years or more into the relatively complicated machines used today. The basket presses used during the Middle Ages by religious orders were large devices built of wood in which grapes were squeezed by a horizontal wooden disc which just fitted into a cylindrical basket made of wooden staves bound into the cylinder shape by encircling wooden hoops. The juice from the crushed berries escapes through the spaces between the basket staves and flows into a tray below. Some of these traditional presses, usually depending on a giant lever for pressure, still exist and are occasionally used in Burgundy and parts of Italy. Similar, usually smaller versions of the basket press reliant on hand or hydraulic power can be found in many of the Old World’s less mechanized wineries today and most producers of champagne and sauternes still rely on variations on this vertical pressing theme, demanding though they are in terms of time and manpower. Modern basket presses, the wooden slats often replaced by stainless steel, are gaining in popularity among producers who wish to work with smaller batches and are willing to tolerate longer set-up and cleaning times in order to treat their fruit as gently as possible. If whole bunches are included, the stems improve drainage.