Century-old vineyards covering fields and hills or plunging vertiginously into riverbeds; “pazos” and other manorial buildings converted into wineries and the image of our wines; structures excavated in the ground to preserve the properties of these wines. There are many elements that testify to the importance that the wine industry has had in Galicia for centuries. Some of them are engraved in stone as proof of the antiquity of this activity and of the ingenuity and skill of the pioneers in the art of transforming grapes into wine. This is the case of the cave wine presses, a vestige of an era that is now far away in time and that reaches its maximum expression in the municipality of Oímbra in Ourense.
The cave presses are structures sculpted in stone to deposit the grapes and proceed to step or crush them. This is where the must was obtained, from which the wine was eventually fermented. The stonemasons carved these presses on the very sites where there were granite outcrops, which is why it is possible to find many of these structures in wild places. Examples have been found in territories corresponding to practically all the Galician designations of origin, although their presence is more evident in the case of the Monterrei D.O. and, especially, in Oímbra. More than a dozen of these structures have been counted in that municipality, which is proof of the good conditions for wine culture that existed centuries ago. Today this production tradition is maintained, although in modern facilities, so that those first presses have become an ethnographic, heritage and tourist element. So much so that the local authorities have made it one of the main promotional claims of the municipality.
Although various researchers have determined that some of the presses preserved in Galicia could already date back to Roman times, those that can be seen in Oímbra presumably correspond to the Middle Ages, a time when small producers processed the grapes in the places set aside in the vineyards by the stonemasons. In addition to the space for the wine floor (pileta or calcatorium), the majority of the wine presses had a deposit (pío )to collect the must located on a lower level than the first one, although in some cases wooden deposits (barcales) were used for this last function. Then, some wineskins with a capacity of more than 100 litres were dipped there and once they were full they were transported in carts or mules to the vats located in the cellars.
Da Cotiña, Do Lagar, Da Regata da Vela, Da Quinta, Do Patulo, Da Fecha, Das Viñas, Dos Mouros or Da Tapadiña are some of the evocative names of the presses you will find in Oímbra. In all of them it is possible to appreciate the work that the stonemasons did on the stone and to imagine what the work of the ancient wine growers was like. In addition, the Xan Petro press (included together with the one in A Ribeira de Fornos in the county route of presses, in Monterrei) has been reconstructed providing it with a wooden press to be able to appreciate its original aspect completely.
Not far from there is also the As Barrocas winepress, a structure of 30 square metres of surface area that makes it possibly the largest in the whole county and which is also integrated into a traditional construction that included housing and a wine cellar.
If you would like more information about the specific location of the Oímbra presses and plan a visit to the village, all you have to do is visit the website http://www.oimbra.es/images/pdf/GuiaAB.pdf.