One of the highlights of the year on the Argentine cultural calendar has to be the Grape Harvest Festival in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, Mendoza. The Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia takes places every year in the city of Mendoza itself, attracting thousands of wine lovers from Argentina and further afield. It marks the start of the harvest and is a festive celebration of all things wine related.
Late February marks the start of the grape harvests in Argentina, and nowhere is this more celebrated than in Mendoza. Each of the 18 departments of the Province of Mendoza start preparing for the festival early on in the year, with the main event taking place during the first days of March. It is a huge event that fills the streets of Mendoza with a Carnival atmosphere and is the highlight of the viticulture and wine making tradition in Argentina.
The wine festival combines traditions dating back centuries, such as presenting offerings of fruit to the image of the Virgin of Carrodilla, the patron saint of vineyards and harvests. Other elements are more modern, with parades, a massive concert, the electing of a Harvest Queen, and of course plenty of wine flowing. Just as Rio de Janeiro has Carnival, Mendoza has the Grape Harvest Festival.
2015 Harvest Festival Guide
1 MARCH – SUNDAY
Bendición de los Frutos (Blessing of the Fruit)
A long-standing Catholic tradition, the Blessing of the Fruit gives thanks for the harvest. Grapes are offered to the Virgin of Carrodilla, asking for her blessing for the fruit about to be harvested. The image of the patron saint of vineyards is then paraded around the city.
Where: Prado Gaucho, in Parque General San Martín
6 MARCH – FRIDAY
Via Blanca de las Reinas (The Queen’s White Way)
A big part of the festival is the electing of a Harvest Queen. Each district of Mendoza elects a queen and princesses, who parade through the streets on the much anticipated Queen’s White Way parade. The queens ride on their district’s decorated float, as the procession makes its way through the cheering streets of Mendoza city on Friday evening.
Where: The streets of Mendoza city
7 MARCH – SATURDAY
Carrousel de las Reinas (The Queens’ Carousel)
Another parade of the queen’s takes place on the Saturday, this time during the day. They parade through town, throwing out fruit, wine and other gifts of the harvests to the waving crowd. The queens are joined by Argentine gauchos on horses.
Where: The streets of Mendoza city
7 – 10 MARCH
The Main Act
The festival culminates with a spectacular show in the Frank Romero Day Greek amphitheatre. On Saturday night, the 7th of March, the show kicks off, with a beauty pageant electing the official Harvest Queen, and a theatre spectacular including tango, choreographed dancing, music, gauchos and fireworks. There are additional shows on the following three nights (8th- 10th March) to give more people an opportunity to join in.
Where: Frank Romero Day Greek Theatre, Parque General San Martín
Besides these main events, Mendoza will be buzzing with other activities during this time, including art exhibitions, food stalls, activities for children and plenty of festivities. But most importantly, people travel to Mendoza during the Grape Harvest Festival to savour the region’s renowned wine – free-flowing Malbec is reason enough to travel!
Continue celebrating Argentina’s wonderful wines by booking a wine tour in Mendoza during your travels.