The modern lagares replicate the traditional stone lagares and have several key advantages:
The treading process in the modern lagares exactly simulates the gentle action of the human foot. The ‘treaders’ apply no more pressure than the weight of an average person via silicon pads made of the same material as used for bungs for barrels. The grape pips remain unbroken so that they do not release undesirable tannins. The ‘treaders’ are programmed to move across the lagar at the same steady rate as their human counterparts in traditional lagares.
Temperature control is essential in modern winemaking. In the modern lagares, three side walls, the floor and the treaders are all double-walled, allowing for cool or warm water to circulate. Thus the desired fermentation temperature can gradually be achieved if the grapes are too warm or too cold when they are carried in from the vineyard, a task that is nearly impossible in traditional granite stone tanks.
Extraordinary flexibility can be achieved with the modern lagares. The winemaker can decide for how long and with what frequency treading should take place without the constraints of organizing treading teams, who need to rest, eat, sleep and fulfil other important harvest-time tasks. In traditional lagares treading is in practice restricted to two or three hours at the end of each day.
When the desired level of fermentation has been reached the young wine is run off into barrels or vats, leaving a large amount of skins and the pips in the lagar. The modern lagar is tipped hydraulically to empty these skins and pips which are then put into the press. In the traditional lagar this process is long and laborious. Thus the modern lagar considerably shortens the emptying time, and allows for a longer maceration at a crucially important time for colour and flavour.
The modern lagares are made from stainless steel and are thus much easier to clean than their granite lagar equivalents.
Modern lagares equip the wineries at Quinta da Cavadinha, Quinta dos Malvedos, Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and the new lagar winery at Quinta do Bomfim.
For the first time since the early 1960s all Symington Vintage Ports are now once again produced by treading in lagares.
At Quinta do Vesúvio traditional treading continues, and every night during the harvest up to 40 people work to the sound of an accordion player, maintaining a tradition that dates back to the 19th century and before. The entire Port production at Vesúvio is made in this way, and this is probably the only major wine estate in the Douro still to do so.