Grape stomping is rarer these days, but you can still find opportunities during the Vendemmia (harvest) in Italy to partake in these symbolic festivities. In current times, grape stomping is not used as part of the usual production process. Be prepared for your Harvest adventure, it is a very long day, and sometimes starts at sunrise and ends at sunset. A place to join in the festivities must be reserved many months in advance.
Grape stomping is part of a method of maceration used in traditional winemaking, grapes and stems are mashed together, releasing the juice, phenols, and tannins that provide color and acidity. Rather than using a wine press or other mechanized method, grapes were crushed by foot in open vats to release their juices and begin fermentation. This activity goes back to the early days of winemaking, evidence shows grapes were stomped at least as far back as Rome in 200 BC. One of the visual representations of the practice appears on a Roman sarcophagus which depicts a group of demigods harvesting and stomping grapes at a harvest festival.
There is a lot more involved in making wine than stomping grapes. A vintner starts by deciding which types of grapes they want to grow. They need to consider soil, geology, topography, climate, and microclimate. Praying for good weather–the right blend of warm sun and invigorating rain, the vintner selects the optimal time for harvest, when the sugar level in the grapes is exactly where they want it to be. The grape crop is then harvested, usually by machine, but sometimes by hand in carefully selected bunches. Then the grapes are rushed from the vineyard to the winery.