Raise a glass to the seasons

By | Travel
The National Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza. Credit@winetourpeter.com

The National Grape Harvest Festival is one of the most popular events in Argentina, drawing international visitors from all over the world. The festivity’s highlights consist of an impressive Central Act in the city of Mendoza during the first week of March. Recently Mendoza’s Vendimia ranked number two in National Geographic’s Top 10 World’s Harvest Festivals. Wine lovers from around the world and performing artists from all over South America are welcomed into Mendoza during this time, creating a carnival-like milieu in the streets as the wine party escalates. The celebrations of the 2015 Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza City aim to be held between March 1st on a Sunday and 10th on a Tuesday. Ever since 1936, and with increasing visitors by each counting year, various events have become well received: from the Fruit Blessing to the night parade of the chosen district’s queens in their floats along the streets of the capital city.

Each of the 18 departments in Mendoza Province prepare for the harvest festival in the early months of the year. The festivities consist of folk shows, Creole craftsmanship and preparation of traditional food, all of which may be sampled. The main event occurs in the first week of March featuring hundreds of dancers and performers, the selection of a “Reina Nacional de la Vendimia” (National Vendimia Queen) and a large fireworks display. The festival’s grand ceremony in the Greek Theatre has more than 20,000 people attending and amongst the invitees one may find the most significant national cultural, sport, political, cinematic and television personalities, as well as notable diplomatic representatives from a great number of other countries.

The Blessing of The Fruit is a religious ceremony held “in gratitude of the Gods” who are rigorously thanked for the crops that have been harvested. It is conducted by the Archbishop of Mendoza together with the image of the “Patron of the Vineyards”, the Virgin of the Carrodilla. The Governor of the Mendoza Province plays a role as he carries out an ancient ritual, the “The hit against the grates of the plough” which used to be referred to as the labourer’s rest.

The Mendoza wine region is considered the heart of the winemaking industry in Argentina for which it is world-renowned. Although it is situated in a dry desert region, Mendoza has an extensive artificial irrigation system, which allows for greenery throughout the city as well as the growth of grapes used to make its wines. Celebration of the harvest in Mendoza evolved its puritanical 17th century roots, when wine was mainly utilised for consecration.

Many companies organise trekking expeditions, horseback riding, and white-water rafting in the desert and the mountains. Mendoza’s wide range of tour operators also makes it an appealing place to organise rafting, skiing and other adventures in the nearby Andes. Many bodegas (wineries) offer tours and wine-tasting events are common during this time. Some major wineries such Norton and Rutini have regular “walk-in tours”.

Other sites in the city include plazas that boast aesthetic architecture, restaurants and even some street shows. Casa de Fader is a popular historic house museum built in 1890 and once home to artist Fernando Fader in nearby Mayor Drummond, 14 km south of Mendoza. The mansion is home to many of the artist’s paintings and may be visited without fees. The Central Park, El Parral & Vendimiadores is a modern city park where often amateur Mendocinans set up their easels and paint the scenery.

The National Grape Harvest Festival brings together societies and people from all walks of life in this season of celebration. Others appear to be drawn to Mendoza for its vineyards and trekking tours that offer beautiful scenery and wine tasting events.

What cultural offerings might Argentina provide to entice tourism at this particular time?

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