The winery and lagares
The winery at Vesúvio, built in 1827 and unchanged since then, is a testimony to a largely lost art of winemaking. Every year in the autumn men and women gather here in the cool of the evening to tread the grapes that they picked that day.
It takes approximately 50 people to tread one lagar, a process that is conducted in two phases: first there is the “corte”, in which the treading team march rhythmically forward and backward in several lines, arms interlocked for at least two hours; this is followed by the “liberdade”, or liberty, when the treaders enjoy themselves, dancing and singing to the sounds of the local village band; they’re still treading, but randomly and leisurely.
The original eight granite lagares still remain, although today we say there are nine, since one has been divided in half. Each of these original eight lagares is capable of holding 24 pipes of Port (1 pipe = 550 litres). They lie side by side in a long row beneath the sturdy oak beams of the 1827 winery. Every massive granite slab of the lagares was brought from further up the Douro River by ox cart all the way from the border with Spain.
Above the earth floor, on the level beneath the lagares, are the large vats made of old chestnut wood. After the grapes have been trodden the must (fermenting grape juice) is run-off the lagar and transferred by gravity into the respective vat beneath beneath where it marries with the pure grape spirit thus becoming Port. This is one of the last places in the world where wine is still made this way, a method and an art referred to by the writers of the Old Testament.
Today, an ingenious but simple cooling system has been installed to help control the temperature to ensure that the fermenting musts progress at the right speed. Other than this, everything remains the same as it has been for millennia.