Mendoza’s annual Grape Harvest Festival is a staple on the national events calendar, and has been going from strength to strength ever since its foundation in 1936. An intrinsic part of the Mendocino spirit, the festival celebrates the wine region’s most bountiful time of year, the harvest season. The celebrations harness the spiritual, agricultural and social elements of viticulture over the course of six days and nights, starting this year on Sunday February 26th and ending on Monday March 6th. Winegrowers, vineyard workers, locals and tourists alike all descend on Mendoza to ring in the ritual of harvest.
The festivities are spread over the six days, with each day lauding a different aspect of the winemaking process. The first day of the festival is known as the “Blessing of the Fruit” and takes place on the last Sunday of February, where thanks are given to God for the harvest, and the new wine is offered up to the deity while invoking the Carrodilla Virgin. Then the wine is blessed and put into casks to mature.
The second celebration, on the first Friday of March, is called “The White Way of the Queens”, and is an evening parade where the chosen “queens” from each district ride together in floats while locals march with them holding banners and signs, creating a jubilant mood to accompany the procession.
The Grape Harvest Carousel on third day of the festival continues with the parade, but this time the Queen’s take to the streets on Saturday morning, escorted by gauchos in traditional dress, riding on horseback and pulling wooden, colonial carts typical of olden times in Mendoza. This procession attracts some 200,000 people and ends around midday.
On the evening of the first Saturday of March, just hours after the Harvest Carousel, comes the main event, or the Central Act, which takes place in Mendoza’s Frank Romero Day Greek Theater, the city’s 20,000 seater open-air amphitheatre nestled amongst the Mendocino hills. The venue plays host to a dazzling spectacle of theatre, song, folkloric dance and lights, culminating in the choosing of the annual Harvest Queen and ending in an extravagant display of fireworks, set off from the Cerro de la Gloria. While the performance varies from year to year, the concept of representing Mendoza’s past and present remains at its core, as does the accomplishment of tilling a desert region to bear fruit of such renown, a uniquely primal endeavour. This celebration in the Frank Romero Theatre continues for the next two nights, closing out the festival on the Monday evening.
The festival is a national highlight, culturally, economically and socially. For wine makers, it is an event of particular significance, an opportunity to elevate the craft of producing wine to something divine. For wine drinkers, it is one of the best times to visit Mendoza and see the culture of the wine producing region in all its glory, and to taste some of the most special wines in the world. But for many others, it is a party, a chance to experience one of Argentina’s most important cities doing what it does best.
Of course, the festival isn’t the only reason to visit Mendoza. The city and its environs also has much to offer tourists, from biking around the vineyards, to exploring the surrounding hills on horseback, to whitewater rafting, to climbing South America’s highest mountain, Mt. Aconcagua. Argentina On The Go’s 3 day/2 night tour will take you around the highlights of Mendoza; into the Andes to marvel at the incredible landscapes presented by the world famous mountain range, and to two wineries, where you will taste the region’s renowned Malbec and Cabernet wines, the essence of Mendoza. Contact one of our travel advisors at info@argentinaonthego to find out more about the harvest festival and Mendoza itself.