C’era una volta il Torchio
in Valcamonica

By Gaudenzio Ragazzi


This book is the result of an exciting search started in 2003 following the chance discovery in Esine (Valcamonica) of a strange stone which – as it turned out – was used as a counterweight in an ancient press. After that of Esine, many other stones have emerged from the decade-long oblivion to which technological innovation had relegated them. Together with the counterweights, all the stone and wooden artifacts, abandoned in the corners of the courtyards and cellars, which had been part of the grandiose presses that were used in all the Alpine valleys for pressing the pomace, have returned to visibility.

On the one hand, the research gives us an organic picture of the most archaic technique used by the Alpine people for the production of wine; on the other, in the almost total silence of the archival sources, the hands-on voice of the elderly winemakers of Valle Camonica provides precious evidence regarding the pressing procedures used until the end of the fifties of the last century.

The study of archaic techniques for the production of wine cannot be separated from the memory that many elderly farmers have managed to transmit thanks to this book.

Research documents how in Valcamonica, as in many Alpine valleys, many lever presses were still in operation until the second half of the 1900s. One of these, discovered in Berzo Demo (Valcamonica), by virtue of its structure, completely similar to that of the press found in the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii, appears to be the most archaic in the entire Alpine arc.

With this book, as well as reconstructing a piece of agricultural history of the Alpine region, an attempt is made to outline in its anthropological, economic and social implications, a technology that the farmer of the Alps has put in place to produce one of the essential foods for his survival .

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