Hi friends! It’s me again. How ya doin’? I can’t believe it, but summer’s been and gone already.
I love the contrasts of autumn: cool but not yet cold, warm but not hot… and most of all the colors: countless oranges, browns and yellows that make the streets and parks of the city glow, like something out of Dickens.
Something else is going on related to my new favorite subject: Alex, my wine guru, tells me it’s time for the grape harvest.
You’ll know what harvest means generally, but for the wine scene the grape harvest is the most important time of year (meaning that as a budding wine lover, it’s very important to me too!)
Alex explained that it starts in summer and ends in autumn, when it gets especially busy in California, where the majority of vineyards in the US are located.
Everything you need to know about the grape harvest
When Alex mentioned the harvest, I pictured people working alone in the vineyards. But that’s not always how it happens.
Wineries organize big events attended by thousands upon thousands of people. They hold tastings, banquets, festivals: a lot goes on.
They even invite tourists to join in the grape-picking and wine-making. It’s a giant celebration of all the hard work done during the year to protect, tend and harvest the fruit.
I love the idea of a collective ritual so of course I did some more research to find out more on my own. For example, I read that the most important wine producing regions are Napa and Sonoma, where the wine routes are.
I’d love to go some day! Driving along with music blasting away, Hit the road, Jack!
A national festival
What about Argentina, where my mom comes from and the wine I love is produced? Well, the grape harvest is definitely just as big a deal there as it is in California, maybe more so.
Of course, all wine producing countries celebrate the grape harvest but in Argentina they’ve taken it a step further: it’s the biggest wine harvest festival in the world, held between February and March at the end of the southern hemisphere summer.
Grape picking ends with a huge party: The Fiesta de la Vendimia is a genuine national event that celebrates the cultural heritage of wine. It looks great! Held every year in the Province of Mendoza, it’s considered one of South America’s major festivals.
Some people have compared it to Thanksgiving Day in the US: there are parades, events, concerts, gatherings and dances. And, of course, the wine flows! A lot of tourists come from all over the country and overseas to celebrate wine.
There are plenty of fantastic photos of it, giant stages full of dancers, lights in the streets, a lot of people, everyone smiling… And it’s not just the City of Mendoza: celebrations are held in every town in the wine region.
But as well as being a long-standing tradition, it’s also an evolving one: there is now a Gay Harvest Festival which celebrates wine, diversity and queer culture. Fantastic!
In 2021, the festivities were held virtually, with a focus on the “History of the Harvest”. You can watch a great film of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14kTBhy0SvY
I’d love to go to Mendoza one day, in late summer. Maybe next year… I wouldn’t mind getting away from the New York winter for a few weeks to learn more about the harvest.
Let’s make some wine
After the grapes are picked, they need to be processed so they can be turned into wine. So, what treats do Argentine wineries have in store for us?
According to Alex, in Argentina the Malbecs are looking promising all across the country, from Patagonia to the Calchaquí Valleys, a region where you find vineyards as high as 10,000 feet. Amazing! Meanwhile, he suggested I try an Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon from the Uco Valley, an area that’s never far from the lips of wine experts. I like the way he thinks.
Here, the days are slowly growing shorter, it’s going to get cold again soon enough and both of those red varieties are perfect to enjoy when you’re all cozy and warm at home.
Of course, every year is different, some varieties do better one year and then another will the next. A lot depends on the climate, which is a key factor. That’s why it’s worth asking about how the harvest went each year.
I keep doing more and more research. Since I first started out, I’ve gathered information about whites, rosés, reds, sweet wines and vegan wines: a little of everything! My desk is covered in notes, like Kate Winslet’s in Mare of Easttown, but that’s how I like it.
I also have a friend to guide me, who knows a lot about Argentina, its grapes and the Fiesta de la Vendimia, so I’m all set. But the best part is how much fun all this is, and it gets more so with each step.