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Antique Grape-Pressing System in Gozo

If you’ve read our blog about the Mgarr ix-Xini walk, you’ll have realised that this place on the island of Gozo has several points of interest. If you haven’t seen our blog post yet, we recommend you give it a look as the post highlights a possible walk, with incredibly beautiful views, that you can do while on holiday in Gozo.

The blog post also mentions findings at Mgarr ix-Xini valley that suggest that this area was used for grape pressing during Classical times, and thus indicating that Gozo might have had an ancient viticulture industry. In this blog post we’ll be delving deeper into the strange rock-cut features, hewn on the surface of the bedrock, that you will see when visiting Mgarr ix-Xini valley.

Mgarr ix-Xini Valley has several architectural features that are of interest including a Victorian pumping station and an aqueduct. Amongst these features there’s a pan complex set on sloping ground which, according to excavation works carried out, date back as far as 600BC. These depressions are roughly cut in the stone similar to the salt pans that feature on the northern coast of Gozo (we have a blog about a walk here too!). These pans usually consist of a rectangular reservoir leading to a narrow opening with a smaller, usually round, collecting basin lower down the slope.

When first discovered, this group of scattered rock-cut basins flanking both sides of the Mgarr ix-Xini valley was interpreted to might have been used for several purposes including:

· Grape crushing,

· olive pressing,

· drying out and retting of flax,

· and dyeing,

Nowadays it is believed that the rock-cut troughs at Mgarr ix-Xini were part of a grape pressing system that had an important role in the Maltese economy since the classical period. The area underwent excavation works in 2010 that shed further light upon the use of viticulture during the Punic and Roman eras. The excavations uncovered 15 sets of these troughs that were used for the pressing of grapes. Pieces of pottery were also found in the area, such pottery included drinking glasses. It is believed that grapes were harvested from vineyards in nearby fields and then taken immediately to the set of troughs to be pressed into wine. The wine is believed to have been shipped to Sicily using galleys that sailed into the small Mgarr ix-Xini harbour.

In fact, Anthony Zarb Dimech writes that as autumn approached, Roman galleys disembarked at Mgarr ix-Xini harbour with a load of amphorae filled with wine that had been pressed in the nearby valley. The grapes used for this wine would be pressed in the shallow basins and juice would flow through holes and channels into a deeper collecting holder. The flow was aided by the fact that the presses were built on an incline. We highly recommend reading this article about the consumption of wine in Gozo.

It is interesting to note that these rock-cut basins are not limited to the island of Gozo. Such presses have also been found in other parts of the world including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Syria, Israel, South Africa, Palestine, and Greece.

Read more about this by following the links below:

Article on Times of Malta

Article by Anthony Bonanno BA (Hons) (Malta), D.Lett(Palermo), PhD(Lond.), FSA(Lond.)

Article by Anthony Zarb Dimech

Ask us for help

At First Gozo, we’re always out and about enjoying the wealth of beauty that tiny Gozo offers its visitors. Despite having lived here for most of our lives, we always manage to discover new nooks and crannies that leave us surprised.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask us. We pride ourselves in having hosted hundreds of guests from across the globe, and from this experience we can give you great advise on how to best experience the island.

Have a look at the holiday properties we have for rent in Gozo below. Click here to book your stay in Gozo.


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