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Wine tourism for backpackers

Published:  23 July, 2008

New Zealand may have a new adventure tourism experience to rival bungee jumping and white-water rafting if one enterprising winemaker has his way.

Mike Brown, of Waimea Estates in Nelson, told a Regional Pinot Noir seminar at the country's annual trade tastings in London, that using English backpackers to punch down' tanks of Pinot Noir grapes might become a lucrative industry.

Called pigeage in France, punching down is a process where a winemaker has to submerge the cap' of grape skins and other solids that float to the top of a tank during a red wine fermentation. With delicate Pinot Noir grapes, the process is usually manual, using wooden or mechanical paddles.

Brown said: It'd be great. We could market it like a spa. The fermenting juice is a lovely warm 33-35C, the tank is an anaerobic environment so they'd be expending energy and keeping fit, and of course there's the alcohol fumes.

Add to that young men and women in their underwear, jumping around in Pinot Noir, and it's a mildly erotic experience - I think it could be a more valuable drawcard than bungee jumping.'