By Mike Keenan
As summer winds down, it means that across Niagara the kids are back in school and the grape harvest will be in full swing.
In the old days, I mean the really old days, rather than using new-fangled technology such as a wine press or some other mechanized method, the grapes were crushed by barefoot participants repeatedly stomping on them in vats to release the juices and begin the fermentation process.
One of the earliest visual images of this foot-stomping practice appears on a Roman Empire sarcophagus from the 3rd century AD, which depicts an idealized pastoral scene with a busy group both harvesting and stomping grapes at Vindemia, a rural Roman vintage festival.
In 1974 Mel Tillis introduced his tune, “Stomp Them Grapes,” to help fashion some rhythm in the process, and those of us of an older vintage will fondly recall the I Love Lucy episode “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” which featured Lucy and an Italian counterpart engage in a full-scale grape battle inside a foot-stomping vat with grape juice ultimately covering them both from head to toe.
If Lucy can do it and regional and municipal politicians can do it, the forward thinkers at Brock University have also introduced the practise in a “Grape Stomp at Brock University” to help kick off Homecoming Weekend (Sept. 15 to 17).
Hundreds took part in what Brock calls “Canada’s messiest university tradition.” Yes, using Brock’s own terrible pun, just like the mighty Romans, “they came, they saw, they Concord.” I hope they got a Riesling out of the experience.
Apparently, 750 Brock students threw caution and grapes to the wind on Friday, Sept. 15 as they got into the foot-stomping tradition. My guess is that if Canadian country and folk singer-songwriter Charles Thomas “Stompin’ Tom” Connors, was still alive, Brock might see fit to award him an honourary degree.
The annual Grape Stomp was held in Brock’s Jubilee Court, where teams of students, joined by President Gervan Fearon, squished, tossed and slid on a metric tonne of Concord grapes. The popular Brock event has been ranked No. 2 out of the top Canadian university traditions by University Affairs Magazine. My goodness, how things have changed since I was in University.
Now one can even studying Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) at Brock University! For all those parents out there who might like to have a wine maker in the family, professors, senior lab demonstrators, academic and admission advisers are available to answer your questions and help your kids plan their University learning experience.
The curriculum actually sounds attractive. Small class sizes maximize the interactions with the instructors and among the students. Most courses have lab components where students acquire hands-on experience, which is also applied and developed during the three co-op terms.
At Brock, students launched the “Society of Good Cheer” to expand their personnel development in wine tasting, and alumni and OEVI students gather monthly for structured tastings. I was definitely born too soon! OEVI Academic Advisor Steve Trussler at firstname.lastname@example.org is available for more information about the programs.
The 2017 Niagara Grape & Wine Festival is running September 8-24 and offers over 100 events including tastings, concerts, fresh local food, street parades and more. The hub of the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival is found locally in historic Montebello Park, September 15-17 and, 22-24, 2017 in downtown St. Catharines.
A celebration of Niagara and the bounty of harvest, the Montebello Park food and wine experience showcases all that the region has to offer including top local chefs along with VQA wines and Canadian talent on the Centre stage.
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