Cultures, landscapes, traditions… Spain is exceptionally diverse, but it does have certain things in common, and one of them is wine. With the harvest season just around the corner, we wanted to tell you about a few festivals dedicated to our favorite beverage and, if you’re as passionate about wine as we are, you should definitely check them out.
Perhaps you’ve been to some of them already…
1. San Mateo Festival (Logroño, La Rioja)
Let’s begin with a region that is almost synonymous with wine: La Rioja. The week of September 21st, its capital, Logroño, celebrates the Fiestas de San Mateo. The origins of this celebration date back to the 12th century when the town held a strategic spot along the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), which aided its rise as one of the era’s leading centers of commerce. Some of the festival’s classic activities include stomping grapes and the ritual of offering the fruits of the first harvest, as well as the first must, to Our Lady of Valvanera. And, of course, there’s no shortage of gastronomic events, music, and parades.
2. Rueda Harvest Festival (Valladolid)
Next we’re heading to Castilla y León to visit Rueda, the town that lends its name to one of the five appellations of origin (DOs) where wines are made in this autonomous community. The town began celebrating its Fiesta de la Vendimia or harvest festival in 1990, coinciding with the last days of the crush. Several wineries get together to share their wines with visitors, who can also enjoy tastings, exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and more. One of the most striking events is the gigantic people’s paella, which marks the end of the festival and is often served to over 4,000 people. Given how Rueda is only a thirty-minute car ride from Valladolid, it makes for a fine excuse to explore the region.
3. Valdepeñas Harvest and Wine Festival (Ciudad Real)
From one Castilla to another, specifically to Valdepeñas (Castilla La Mancha), another town with a long wine tradition. Since 1953, it has celebrated a Wine Festival as part of the Fiestas de la Virgen de la Consolación (Celebration of Our Lady of Solace), the city’s patron, during the first week of September. Again, this being harvest season, the main events include grape stomping and the offering of the first must. Wine tastings, a food fair, athletic competitions, theater, concerts, winery visits, and more… the program of the Valdepeñas Harvest and Wine Festival is generous and draws thousands of people to the town. If you decide to join them, make sure to sample the limoná, a white wine and lemon drink. It is so popular, it even has its own competition to pick the best in the county.
4. Harvest Festival of Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz)
We’re heading south now, to Jerez de la Frontera, home to the oldest wine festival in all of Spain. During the first two weeks of September, the town boasts a full program built around the three elements that define Jerez de la Frontera: horses, flamenco, and wine. If you’re a fan of at least one of the three, make sure to visit the town during this time. Here you’ll find grape stomping, tastings, winery visits, a food fair, equestrian shows, flamenco concerts, and more. And since this is an all-ages event, there’s plenty of fun for the little ones too. A wonderful option for a family trip!
5. Cariñena Harvest Festival (Zaragoza)
Imagine a fountain, but instead of water, it spouts wine… This actually happens in the Zaragoza-area town of Cariñena, the next stop on our wine tour. For more than four decades, the beginning of the harvest has been celebrated in early September with a weekend-long festival. One of the most unusual events is when the town turns on the wine-spouting Mora fountain. The festival also features food and leisure activities, and the old town center of Cariñena hosts several family-friendly events. Only 35 minutes by car from Zaragoza, it is another excellent option for a weekend getaway.
6. Albariño Festival (Cambados, Pontevedra)
Cambados (Pontevedra), named European City of Wine in 2017, kicks off the harvest season. At the beginning of August, it celebrates the Fiesta del Albariño. More than 50 years ago, the winemakers Bernardino Quintanilla and Ernesto Zarate organized a competition to decide the best harvest. The contest became a festival and then a tradition. Every year, thousands of people flock to Cambados to get a taste of the Albariños served at the dozen or so casetas (elaborate stands) of the wineries in the Rías Baixas appellation of origin.
7. Sitges Harvest Festival (Barcelona)
We’re concluding our Wine Festival tour in Sitges, not far from the Jean Leon winery. The town holds its Fiesta de la Vendimia or harvest festival in early October, an event that has been going strong for 50 years. It is one of the longest-running local festivals and, for over ten years, it has coincided with the town’s Wine Fair. The program features events like the pressing of the first must, the grape-stomping competition, the electing of the Pubilla and Hereu of Sitges (youth ambassadors who represent their town and its local traditions and culture), and the unveiling of the wine fountain.
Although some of the festivals might overlap, with the proper planning, you can make it to several in one year. Have you been to any of them? Where would you like to go next?