The Grape Harvest Festival in most countries occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given the differences in climate and crops around the world, harvest festivals can be found at various times throughout the world.
In Mendoza, the capital city of this province of Argentina, they have an annual national wine harvest festival in early March called The Grape Harvest Festival; “Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia.” There’s plenty of food, wine, music and tango at the Festival!
At the foot of the Andes, Mendoza is the principal wine-producing region with more than 70% of the country’s vineyards. This region of Argentina has hot summers and plenty of sunlight. Mendoza’s vineyards represents about 68% of total surface cultivated with grapevines in Argentina. The altitude of the cultivated valleys in Mendoza is between 700 and 1200 meters above sea level. Here’s the Wine Spectator Map of the wine regions in Argentina: http://assets.winespectator.com/wso/Maps/Argentinamap.pdf
This is Malbec territory in the foothills of the Andes; the region is famous for viticulture producing 70% of the 1.5 billion liters of Argentine wine. In 1998, vintner Nicolas Catena released Bodegas Esmeralda Malbec Mendoz Catena Alta Lunlunta 1996. and earned 92 points on the Wine Spectator scale, making it Argentina’s highest scoring wine. Within a few years, Malbec’s popularity world-wide skyrocketed in a booming export market.
Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color, intense fruity flavors and velvety texture. The Mendoza region is the leading producer of Malbec in Argentina with plantings found throughout the country in places such as La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires. Argentina’s most highly rated Malbec wines originate from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. These Districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains.
This festival celebrates the viticultural heritage of Mendoza; tasting, harvesting, winemaking and history is integrated into this festival. The tradition started in 1936, and attendance has been growing exponentially since the onset of the festival. It starts with a blessing of the grapes that leads to parades and performances. It is one of the most important festivals in the country and attracts a large number of tourists to the region.
Mendoza is a province in the Cuyo region of Argentina. The Grape harvest Festival is a world renowned celebration of wine and winemaking. Each of the 18 departments/districts in the Mendoza Province prepare for the festival in the early months of the year.
The Grape Harvest Festival is an extravaganza held in Mendoza city. It integrates customs, rites of passage and rituals into a multi-day festival. The main events occurs in the first week of March featuring hundreds of dancers and performers. The festivities culminate in the selection of a beauty queen; “Reina Nacional de la Vendimia” (National Vendimia Queen) and a large firework display.
The first vendimia celebrations in the Mendoza Province occurred in the 17th century in the wineries. The first official Vendimia festival took place in 1936 when it and was supported by various areas in the government and prestigious institutions in the province. Today this celebration is a National Festival.
The origins of the Grape Harvest Festival date back to 1936 when Frank Romero Day was serving as the Minister of Industry and Public Works. The celebrations began at the gates of General San Martín Park and involved Dr. Miguel Ángel Cárcano the Minister of Agriculture. This park, designed by Carlos Thays in 1897, is the focal point of Mendoza. Beyond the French gates you will find Islas Malvinas Stadium, host of the 1978 World Cup. In addition, the Greek Theatre is also within the gates where the annual Vendimia festival culminates. There is a zoo, a rose garden and a sizable lake with a regatta club.
Here’s a video of the amazing event:
Traditional dancers and musicians from Mendoza provide a spectacular large-scale sound and light show in the Frank Romero Day Amphitheatre on the final three evenings of the festival. At the end of the festival, around 700 performers frolick beneath rainbow-coloured lights.
The show pays homenage to the “Virgen de la Carrodilla” and features traditional folklore and music. The final event is the selection of the “Reina Nacional de la Vendimia” beauty queen with a spectacular firework display.
There are a number of important traditional events that lead to this culminating spectacle in Mendoza. The Festival begins with the humble blessing of the grapes (the Benediction of the fruit) that takes place on the last Sunday of February. In Mendoza, the peasants thank their saints for the good harvest. The ceremony of the offering and blessing of the fruit was a biblical tradition that began with Moses. Thanks are given to God for the harvest and the new wine is offered while evoking the Carrodilla Virgin, patron saint of the vineyards. The Virgin ritual was brought to Argentina from Aragon, Spain by Antonio Solanilla. It is believed that her presence guarantees a good harvest. The new fruit is blessed before being processed and put in casks.
At the Carrusel parade, parading Argentine gauchos in typical dress ride their horses up and down the streets with a trail of old wooden ox carts. These carts were one of the first vehicles used in Mendoza over 120 years ago.
On the evening of the first Friday of March, Vía Blanca de las Reinas involves a parade of the prettiest women (Reinas) from each district. The election of the district queens begins much earlier in the individual provinces. The Reinas ride alegoric chariots through the streets of Mendoza. They are dressed in decorative outfits designed to celebrate the winemaking tradition and the character of their districts. This event has been known to attract over 200,000 spectators.
The Carrusel Vendimial takes place on Saturday morning. This daylight parade, involves the Reinas riding their chariots through the streets, accompanied by formations of Gauchos riding horses. They are followed by dancers representing various provinces of Argentina and other Latin American Countries. This parade also attracts huge numbers of spectators. When the sun sets and it starts to get dark, one of the most important traditions in the Grape Harvest Festival begins; “the Queens White Way.”housands of people from all of the districts in the Province of Mendoza anxiously await the appearance of their district’s queens and princesses. There is one carriage per district. The Main Event takes place in the “Frank Romero Day Greek Theater” when the Grape Harvest Queen is selected.
While you’re in Mendoza, you may want to visit some of these wineries (click on each link for more information):
The Park Hyatt Mendoza Casino and Spa overlooks Plaza Independencia and is about 15 miles away from the main vineyards in Mendoza. In March the hotel host “Masters of Food & Wine” with talented culinary artists and renowned sommeliers. There are lunch and dinner events at Argentinean wineries with exclusive tastings.
For more information visit www.mendoza.park.hyatt.com
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com
- Mendoza Wine (winebookclub.org)
- Vendimia under the stars… What not to miss! (vinesofmendoza.com)
- Vendimia! What to see, and where to see it (vinesofmendoza.com)
- 20th Annual Paso Robles Zinfandel Wine Festival 2012 in California (wine-festivals.vinoconvistablog.com)
- U.S. Wine Lovers with a Zest for Travel and Adventure to Get Access to the Majorca Grape Fight and Wine Festival (prweb.com)
- Grape Harvest Festival 2012 in Curico Chile: Fiesta de la Vendimia (vinoconvistablog.me)