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Detail of the inaugural act of the Rioja Wine Harvest festival in Logroño, La Rioja

Travel to Logroño to experience its wine harvest festival

La Rioja

Wine is a complete tradition in La Rioja, a region recognised throughout the world for the quality of its wine. At the start of September, the grapes are harvested in Logroño, marking the start of the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival, or the festivities of San Mateo The celebrations last all week and the main event coincides with the feast of San Mateo (St. Matthew) on 21 September. During this time the city is filled with wine-loving visitors from the different autonomous regions and the streets take on a festive atmosphere. What’s more, the event has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest.The Rioja Wine Harvest Festival has a packed programme of non-stop events and for that week, Logroño becomes the city of festivities and wine.

The festivities are officially started by the mayor and the Vendimiadores Mayores (two young harvesters; a girl and a boy who represent their city and its people and attend most of the events) from the balcony of the City Hall. This is followed by the chupinazo (the firing of a rocket) marking the start of the celebrations. The different areas of the city come alive with music and food tastings, parades, a bull fair, concerts, dancing and all types of contests. And what can you do after the sun goes down? If you still have the energy, the streets are filled with partying and fun at night (some of the most popular streets are Calle San Agustín, Calle Laurel Calle San Juan).

The Vendimiadores Mayores at the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival in Logroño, La Rioja

The grape treading event is the absolute essence of this festival. If you don’t want to miss it, it usually takes place on the second day of the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival in the Plaza de Espolón square. The grapes are gathered and poured into a large vat on the stage. Two men dressed in the festival’s traditional attire (white shirt, waistcoat and red cummerbund) roll up their trouser legs and take off their shoes to then climb inside the vat barefoot. They stomp the grapes as they turn with their arms intertwined, showing the audience how the must was traditionally macerated. When the grapes have be turned into must it is then poured into a clay pitcher. The first pitcher of must of that year’s harvest is presented to the Virgin of Valvanera, the Patron Saint of La Rioja.Over the course of the week the different festival associations in charge of managing most of the shows and the ‘Regional Houses’ have a very important role. Each day of the festival is dedicated to one of the Regional Houses of Logroño. These houses in turn offer the visitors demonstrations of the typical customs and dishes of their respective regions. For example, one of the most famous is the House of Andalusia, which sometimes decorates the Revellín Wall for those who want to experience a little Andalusian folklore.

Member of a festival association preparing traditional migas during the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival in Logroño, La Rioja

At the weekend there is usually a parade, one of the festival’s biggest attractions. The streets of Logroño are ablaze with colourful artisan floats decorated with typical elements of the winemaking tradition. Other towns of La Rioja can also create their own floats and be in with a chance of being selected as one of three prizewinners. Other contests are also held during the week to highlight customs, such as the zurracapote contest. Zurracapote is a typical drink, similar to sangria. If you’d like to try some you can visit the chamizos (places where the festival’s associations, or groups, invite visitors to taste some zurracapote).The burning or burying of the vat is the final event of the festival. On the last day the vat is transported to the Town Hall square in a parade with the festival participants. After speeches by the vendimiadores and the mayor, the match is lit that will set fire to the vat. Some of the spectators usually accompany this final act by singing the Logroño regional anthem.

Parade at the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival in Logroño, La Rioja
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