I have never seen so many wine festivals successively! In Chile, when the grape harvest season starts, every single city makes its own wine festival, for celebrating the commencing of the vintage, it is called “Fiesta de la Vendimia” in Spanish; the harvest festival. In every harvest festival, depending on the town that is held, there is a different program of activities, but in general, in all of them, you have the chance to taste the regional wines and food, to listen to national Chilean music and to watch national Chilean dance shows all day long. And for night, there are concerts and lots of fun!
During my Chile experience, I went to 2 harvest festivals in March. First of them was the one in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a really nice small city in Colchagua Valley. It is actually where you might want to stay in order to visit some of the premium wineries of Chile; like Lapostolle, Montes, Viu Manent and many others.
Fiesta de la Vendimia in Santa Cruz of 2016 lasted 3 days; from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. My friends and I were there most of the time. As soon as we arrived there, we bought our glasses of wine and tickets for the tasting of wine. Depending on the price of the wine, the tasting price was 1, 2 or 3 tickets. There was also another type of ticket which was more expensive, with which you can taste the premium wines. So, we bought from both types of tickets and started our journey of tasting.
Most of the wineries from the region had a stand, in front of the stands were always really crowded, most of the times we had to wait in the queue to reach our wines. But the atmosphere was really good, full of familiar people who came to enjoy their wines and to taste what is produced in their region.
I tried to taste the Chilean emblematic variety Carménère from different wineries, to know more about it and compare it inside of the region. Actually, some of the wineries made a great job on picking it on the optimum maturity and obtaining really nice fruity aromas combined with freshness in the mouth.
The wine tasting was finished early at night around 9 o’clock, so we started to take a walk at the festival. We passed from a street full of artisanal products of the region. I really liked that part, especially one of them, where they made small harvester women of wool and other decoration articles with wine theme. It was just priceless. We kept on walking and saw a crowded part where people made a circle and watched a show. It was a traditional spectacle of two men called “Chinchinero and Organillero”. They were playing a kind of drum which is connected to their shoes with a rope and dancing at the same time. It was worth to see. After watching this spectacle, we continued walking and passed from “Street of Beer” where they had all different artisanal beers. Although it was a wine festival, it was almost impossible to pass from there without will to try out a different glass of beer. What I actually tried in small tasting cups was beer with chocolate and beer with ginger. I didn’t expect that, but the one with ginger was really fresh and tasty. Finally, we finished our walk by passing from the “Street of Meat” where you can find all kinds of meat in the barbeque. I ate a lamb skewer and a “choripan with pebre”. Choripan is a type of sausage cooked in barbeque and put in a piece of bread. Pebre is a kind of salad with tomato, onion, coriander, yellow chili pepper, lemon, oil and a little bit of vinegar. It is a really tasty option of street food.
The other day, when we went to festival during day time, we watched another spectacle which was really colorful and enjoyable. It was from the festivity that is called “Fiesta de la Tirana” and the dance is called “Diablada”. The women dancers are called “China Supay” and the guy is called “Diablo”. This festival is originally celebrated in the north, close to Iquique through the mountains. . Luckily, I had chance to see this in Santa Cruz. I also continued tasting delicious wines. From the regional food, I tasted different types of local cheese, from goat and cow milk, on a stick. I also tasted different types of empanada and we had a picnic with them accompanied by Chilean wine. Such a nice atmosphere!
The second festival that I went was the one in Curico which is a really cute, small city in Maule Valley. It was not the first time that I was in Curico, actually before the festival, I had chance to visit an exposition of photos from the old vintages and old festivals. There were pictures from the vintage 1950 in Curico and from the first Fiesta de la Vendimia, which was celebrated in 1986. So this festival was celebrating its 30th year in 2016.
The system of the tasting wine in Curico was same with the one in Santa Cruz, but in this one there wasn’t another ticket for the premium wines, moreover you could even purchase the bottles of wine with the tickets. We arrived to Curico and got our glasses and started tasting the regional wines. I tasted pretty good wines from many wineries like Aresti, Valdivieso, Miguel Torres. I tasted a wine called “Mulas” of Miguel Torres, it is an organic wine and its name is coming from the mules that they were using traditionally in the vineyard to carry the grapes, from the vineyard to the winery.
In the big scene in the main square of Curico, Plaza de Armas, we listened to a typical folk group which plays music for “cueca” which is the national dance of Chile. While professional dancers danced cueca in the scene, all the Chileans were dancing it in the dance floor. This dance is quite fast, and what they told me is that the men are chasing the women like the hens chase the chickens. That is one of the theories of how the dance was choreographed. It was quite interesting and I wished I could dance it somehow. (Note to myself: Learn how to dance cueca!)
Along with the good wine and enjoyable music, you know what is missing: the food! Of course we tried the delicious meals that they cooked. First, we ate “ceviche de salmon” which is made with raw salmon, onions, coriander and a lot of lemon juice. And then, we saw a nice rock oven in which they were baking empanadas. They were just so delicious, because this baking method gives them a special crispness, while the meat inside is still very juicy. I really suggest you to try and discover these flavors of Chile in the harvest festivals!
For more information about these festivals you can visit:
All images © 2016 by Nedret Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.