Vendimia: Mendoza’s Grape Harvest Festival
The city of Mendoza is gearing up for its biggest party of the year, the National Grape Harvest Festival.
Held the first weekend of March, the Fiesta de la Vendimia is the time when this normally sleepy northern city comes alive to celebrate, with the local nectar flowing freely. Aside from an abundance of Malbec, it features traditional cuisine, folkloric song and dance, and a beauty contest to select the ‘Queen of Vendimia.’
Wine connoisseurs from around the world and artists from all over South America flock to Mendoza during this time, creating a carnival like atmosphere in the streets as the world of gauchos, international jet setters and Mendocinos (as locals are known) collide.
Activities take place province-wide in the months leading up to the main event with each of the 18 regions of Mendoza selecting a local contestant for the beauty pageant.
Celebration of the harvest in Mendoza has come a long way from its puritanical 17th century roots, when wine was mainly utilized for consecration. Peasants would offer fruit to the deity of the Virgin of Carrodilla, the celestial patron saint of Mendoza’s vineyards. After the work was done they were finally able to rest and celebrate.
The more irreverent modern-day celebration goes back to 1936 and today is one of the largest festivals in the world.
The grand finale starts on Friday night with a live show and the introduction of pageant contestants in the Greek-style Frank Romero Day amphitheater. On Saturday, beauty contestants ride along floats in a downtown parade and the local wineries give away free wine to spectators.
The flashy main event is on Saturday night when 25,000 fill the theater to see a Mendoza-cum-Las Vegas style performance and watch the ‘Queen of Vendimia’ crowned with her tiara made of grape leaves and vines. The show is followed by fireworks and music. Those who didn’t secure tickets for the big night can watch it all on a big screen set up in downtown Mendoza’s Plaza Italia. It is also televised across the country.