When the grape harvest season starts in Chile, the wine growing towns organize wine festivals to celebrate the new vintage. They call it 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 the general idea is tasting the regional wines and food, listening to national Chilean music and watching national Chilean dance shows during the day. At night, food and wine continue to be in the center, and there are also concerts and of course lots of fun.
In this blog post, I’ll share my two wine festival experiences in Chile that I immensely enjoyed. First of them is in Santa Cruz, which is a nice little city in Colchagua Valley. It’s actually where you might want to stay in order to visit some of the premium wineries of Chile such as Lapostolle, Montes, Viu Manent and many others. And the second one is in Curico, another cute city, in Maule Valley.
Wine Festival in Santa Cruz
The Wine Festival in Santa Cruz lasts three days starting from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. Once you arrive you can buy wine glasses and tickets for the wine tasting. Depending on the price of the wine, the tasting prices change, and you pay with your tickets. It makes wine purchase easier. You can also buy more high priced tickets which will allow you to taste the premium wines.
Most of the wineries from the region had a stand. In front of the stands are always really crowded, so you might need to wait a little bit in the queue to reach your wines. But the atmosphere was really good, full of local and international people who come to enjoy the wines and to taste what is produced in this region.
The wine tasting finished at night and we took a walk around to see the rest of the festival. We passed from a street full of artisanal products of the region, generally food, but also craft and decoration. There were small harvester women made of wool and other decoration articles with wine themes. 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 seeing. After watching this spectacle, we continued walking and passed from “Street of Beer” where they had all different artisanal beers. Although it’s a wine festival, there was a lot of interest in beer as well. I tried beer with chocolate and beer with ginger. The latter 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 served 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’s one of the most famous and delicious street foods in Chile.
The second day of the festival we watched another spectacle which was really colorful and enjoyable. It’s from the festival 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.
This wine festival was a great way for tasting delicious wines, but also regional food, including local cheese and empanadas. The wine and food were accompanied by colorful dancers and traditional music. Such a great combination!
Wine Festival in Curico
The second wine festival is in Curico, a lovely city in Maule Valley. When I was visiting Curico before the wine festival, I visited 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. It means this year Fiesta de la Vendimia of Curico is celebrating its 30th year.
The system of the wine tasting in Curico is the same with the one in Santa Cruz, but here there is only one type of ticket, moreover you can purchase the bottles of wine with the tickets. We arrived at 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 comes from the mules that are traditionally used in the vineyards 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 on 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’s very interesting and fun to watch.
Along with the good wine and enjoyable music, there was also delicious food involved in this festival. I tasted ceviche de salmon, an emblematic dishmade with raw salmon, onions, coriander and a lot of lemon juice. And then, we saw a lady baking empanadas in a rock oven. Rock oven gives empanadas special crispness, while the meat inside is still very juicy. Everything was so delicious.
If you happen to be in Chile during harvest time, the end of February and the beginning of March, make sure to check the wine festivals around. It’ll be a unique experience to discover different traditions of Chile in a single event.
All images © 2016 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.