by Tim Pawsey

The tradition of celebrating the harvest dates back to Greek and Roman times. While modern-day festivities have evolved, the central theme of celebrating the grape endures.

H arvest marks the zenith of comes to fruition. For winemakers and consumers alike, there is no more exciting time. As grapes are gathered for this year’s vintage, celebrations around the world mark the occasion. The tradition of celebrating the harvest dates back to Greek and Roman times. While modern-day festivities have evolved, the central theme of celebrating the grape endures. And even if today’s observances are more muted than the Romans’ notorious (and ultimately the cycle of the vine—when the year’s hard work in the vineyard banned) Bacchanalia, there’s always plenty of joy—and wine—to go around. Here are a few options from around the world. AUSTRIA, HEURIGER WEIN Should you find yourself in Austria during harvest (or later in the year), chances are you’ll visit a heuriger, a wine tavern, where only the current vintage is served. Think of it as a pop-up for the freshest Grüner Veltliner you’ll ever taste. Heuriger Wein means “this year’s wine.” The tradition dates from the late 18 th century, when family vineyards and simple taverns were permitted by emperor’s decree to sell their own wine and food. FRANCE, BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU DAY The French have a knack for pageantry and ceremony, particularly when it comes

to grapes and wine. In recent times, the third Thursday of November has taken on major significance as it seems half the planet now celebrates Beaujolais Nouveau Day! The late Georges Duboeuf deserves the credit for single-handedly transforming a local celebration into an international event that initially saw vintners racing their first bottles of the new harvest to Paris. Beaujolais Nouveau has done more to raise awareness of Gamay than any other single promotion. It’s intended to offer a fun, fresh out of the cellar drop to give a sense of what promise the new vintage holds. However, Beaujolais Gamay grapes produce several styles of wine. To taste aged crus—Gamay wines from all 12 Beaujolais appellations—wine lovers attend the five-day Sarmentelles de Beaujeu festival, where Nouveau is poured alongside older vintage wines. CALIFORNIA, LODI GRAPE FESTIVAL One popular offshoot of harvest celebrations is the grape stomp, a time-honoured nod to an era pre-dating the mechanical wine press when grapes were pressed entirely by foot. In North America, the grape stomp has emerged as a popular harvest-time attraction. Today, teams of grape-stained contestants vie to see who can generate the most juice within a set period. One of the more celebrated stomps takes place in San Joaquin County, California, where September’s Lodi Grape

Festival dates from 1934. The modern- day version spans four days, with carnival rides, art shows, a kids’ parade and, naturally, wine—including the area’s hallmark, juicy Zinfandel, as well as hefty Cabs and plenty more. ARGENTINA, FIESTA NACIONAL DE LA VENDIMIA The city of Mendoza hosts Argentina’s Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia every March. Its sheer scale makes it one of the top 10 harvest festivals in the world—think Carnaval meets crush, with hundreds of street and stage performers. Each year the festival crowns a harvest queen and, overall, pays tribute to vineyard and cellar workers. AUSTRALIA, BAROSSA VINTAGE FESTIVAL In South Australia, the Barossa Vintage Festival celebrated its 75 th anniversary this past April with 75 special events, including vineyard dinners, art shows and scarecrow displays. Held in Tanunda in the heart of the Barossa Valley, Australia’s longest-running wine festival draws guests from around the world, who come to savour everything from quintessential Barossa Shiraz to racy Riesling and many other long-established varieties. GERMANY, WURSTMARKT Germany lays claim to the world’s largest (and likely oldest) wine festival.



Powered by