Wine-Press; Wine-Fat

Concise Bible Dictionary:

Ancient winepress located at “The Garden Tomb” near the Damascus Gate.
These are said to be “trodden,” which signifies that the grapes were placed in a receptacle, and were trodden on by the feet, a pipe conveying the juice into a vessel at the side. Places have been found which apparently were used for this purpose: they are hewn out of a rock with a shallow channel by which the juice could escape (Judg. 6:1111And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11); Neh. 13:1515In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. (Nehemiah 13:15); Job 24:1111Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst. (Job 24:11); Isa. 5:22And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:2); Isa. 63:22Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? (Isaiah 63:2); Mark 12:11And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. (Mark 12:1); &c). In Egypt the grapes were also pressed in a bag by its being twisted tighter and tighter.

From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

1. There appear to have been several ways of planting vineyards in Palestine. Sometimes the vines were planted in rows and trained on stakes. Dr. Robinson describes the celebrated vineyards near Hebron as arranged in this manner: The vines “are planted in rows eight or ten feet apart in each direction. The stock is suffered to grow up large to the height of six or eight feet, and is there fastened in a sloping position to a strong stake, and the shoots suffered to grow and extend from one plant to another, forming a line of festoons. Sometimes two rows are made to slant toward each other, and thus form by their shoots a sort of arch. These shoots are pruned away in autumn” (Biblical Researches, vol. 2, pp. 80-81).
The vines are sometimes planted on the side of a terraced hill, the old branches being permitted to trail along the ground, while the fruit-bearing shoots are propped with forked sticks.
An ancient mode of planting vineyards was by training the vines over heaps of stones. Palmer discovered large numbers of these stone-heaps while traveling through the Negeb, or south country of Palestine. Near the ruins of El-’Aujeh he found some. “The black, flint-covered hill-slopes which surrounded the fort are covered with long, regular rows of stones, which have been carefully swept together and piled into numberless little black heaps. These at first considerably puzzled us, as they were evidently artificially made, and intended for some agricultural purpose; but we could not conceive what plants had been grown on such dry and barren ground. Here again Arab tradition came to our aid, and the name teleilat-el-anab, ‘grape-mounds,’ solved the difficulty. These sunny slopes, if well tended, with such supplies of water and agricultural appliances as the inhabitants of El-’Aujeh must have possessed, would have been admirably adapted to the growth of grapes, and the black flinty surface would radiate the solar heat, while these little mounds would allow the vines to trail along them, and would still keep the clusters off the ground” (Desert of the Exodus, p. 367). In another place (p. 352) he represents these “grape-mounds” as forming one of the most striking characteristics of the Negeb, the hill-sides and the valleys being covered with them for miles.
The vineyards were sometimes fenced with walls of stone (see Num. 22:2424But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. (Numbers 22:24); Prov. 24:3131And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. (Proverbs 24:31)) and sometimes with a hedge of thorny plants (see Psa. 80:1212Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? (Psalm 80:12)) and again with stone—walls and hedge combined. The last method is probably referred to in Isaiah 5:55And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: (Isaiah 5:5), where hedge and wall are both spoken of. Maundrell mentions another sort of wall which he saw surrounding the gardens near Damascus. “The garden-walls are of a very singular structure. They are built of great pieces of earth made in the fashion of brick, and hardened in the sun. In their dimensions they are two yards long each and somewhat more than one broad, and a yard thick. Two rows of these, placed edgeways, one upon another, make a cheap, expeditious, and, in this dry country, a durable wall” (Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, under date of April 27).
The wine-press consisted of two parts—the receptacle for the grapes, and the vat for the liquor. Either part, by itself, is sometimes called the press. Some very primitive wine-presses are spoken of by travelers, consisting of a single excavation in the rock, lower at one end than at the other, so that the wine when pressed out might find a place to settle. In some instances a trench is dug in the ground in a similar way, and lined with stone or cement. Usually, however, the receptacle for the grapes and the vat for the wine are distinct. The place where the grapes are put may be of stone, or of wood. Near the bottom on one side, or else in the bottom, is a closely-grated hole, through which the wine flows into the vat beneath.
Dr. Robinson found a very ancient wine-press at Nableh, not far from Kefr Saba, the Antipatris of Paul’s time. “Advantage had been taken of a ledge of rock; on the upper side, towards the south, a shallow vat had been dug out, eight feet square and fifteen inches deep, its bottom declining slightly towards the north. The thickness of rock left on the north was one foot; and two feet lower down on that side another smaller vat was excavated, four feet square by three feet deep. The grapes were trodden in the shallow upper vat, and the juice drawn off by a hole at the bottom (still remaining) into the lower vat.... Such is its state of preservation that, were there still grapes in the vicinity, it might at once be brought into use without repair” (Biblical Researches, vol. 3, p. 137).
To tread “the wine-press alone” was an expression indicative of desolation (Isa. 63:33I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. (Isaiah 63:3)). The treaders usually supported themselves by ropes which hung from a cross-beam over their heads. Some think a reference to this custom is made in Isaiah 63:55And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. (Isaiah 63:5), where it is said, “my fury, it upheld me”; the idea being that there were no ropes on which this lonely treader could hang, but that he was sustained solely by the strength of his passion.
The pressure of the grapes by the feet naturally spattered the red juice over the upper garments. Thus we read of Judah in the prophecy of the dying Jacob: “He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Gen. 49:1111Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: (Genesis 49:11)). Thus also the question is asked in Isaiah: “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat?” (Isa. 63:22Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? (Isaiah 63:2)). The grape-treaders accompanied their labors with songs and shouts. See note on Isaiah 16:1010And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease. (Isaiah 16:10) (#495).
4. The tower was designed as a place of temporary dwelling for the guard, who watched over the vineyard while the fruit was ripening, to keep off thieves and wild beasts. It was also sometimes used as a temporary abode by the owner during the season of vintage. Though many of the towers were frail edifices, scarcely lasting longer than one season, others were more durable, being built of stone. They were either circular or square in shape, and varied in height from fifteen feet to fifty. In a garden near Beirut Maundrell saw an unfinished tower, which had been built to the height of about sixty feet, and was twelve feet thick. These lofty towers could be used not only as guard-houses for the vineyards, but also as watchtowers, to detect the coming of an enemy in the distance. Similar towers were built in the open country for the protection of the shepherds. See note on 2 Chronicles 26:1010Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. (2 Chronicles 26:10) (#369).