Wine Festivals: How the Rest of the World Celebrates Wine
Posted by Plume Ridge Bottle Shop on
As Americans approach a wine-filled season of festivity, it might be interesting to learn how the rest of the world celebrates wine.
Wine festivals date back to the Ancient Greeks’ celebration of Dionysis, the god of wine. The passage of time has led to many variations in these celebrations. Many are still centered around religious observations, but some have jumped into the new millennia with gusto. These observances run the gamut from religious themes to beauty pageants to Bacchanalian wine-soaked parties. But, they have one thing in common: reverence for the grape.
This non-exhaustive list of festivals around the world is curated from events outside the United States that are currently scheduled for 2022.
Argentina: The Fiesta de Vendimia Mendoza, February 26 to March 7 (estimated), Mendoza City.
This wine and cultural celebration dates back to the 1600s in Mendoza where harvest rituals used wine for consecration. Peasants made fruit offerings to the patron saint of Mendoza’s vineyards, the Virgin of Carrodilla. The fruit was then blessed before it was made into wine.
The fruit blessing still takes place on the last Sunday of February, marking the end of the grape harvest in southern-hemisphere Mendoza. The week-long series of events is marked by parades culminating in the Carrusel Vendimia, the procession of the local wine queens, or reinas, accompanied by gauchos (cowboys) on horses and dancers from all over Argentina and Latin America.
The epic conclusion to this 10-day celebration is the Acto Central. Harking back to the original Dionysian origins, this spectacle of light and sound takes place in a Greek Theater. It is followed by a large firework display. Naturally, all the festivities feature the region’s wines—from Malbec to Torrontés. Explore our wines from Argentina here.
Australia: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, March 12-31, Melbourne, Victoria.
Melbourne’s celebration was created specifically to honor individuals in Victoria’s food, drink and hospitality industry. Since 1993, 150 luminaries have been declared Legends by their peers and have been inducted into the festival’s Hall of Fame. The 10-day event features over 100 culinary and wine experiences, attracting 150,000 attendees to breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and tastings; this includes the World’s Longest Lunch, which takes place on a half-kilometer (1,640 feet) long table where 1,600 people enjoy a three-course culinary extravaganza.
Part culinary experience and part trade show, the festival’s website is the hub for all the activities. Visitors to melbournefoodandwine.com can sign up for experiences or take a deep dive into Victoria’s food and drink scene, learning directly from people in the trade. Explore our wines from Australia here.
Canada: Vancouver International Wine Festival, May 16-22, Vancouver.
Vancouver comes alive in May with this celebration featuring over 160 wines from 15 countries, with a highlight on one specific region or country.
This festival is for both those in the trade and the general public. The Tasting Room is central to this 10-day event and features nearly 750 wines during four International Festival Tastings. Other related seminars, vintage tastings, and wine minglers are scattered around these tastings.
Since its humble beginnings in 1979—and with only one vintner, Mondavi—the festival has functioned as a fundraiser for local theater. The week finishes with the exclusive black-tie-only Bacchanalia Gala and Auction features a five-course dinner and 10 wine pairings.
France: Bordeaux Fête le Vin, June 23-26, Bordeaux.
It’s hard to imagine anything more romantic than strolling along the Garonne River sampling wines from the Bordeaux and Aquitaine regions. This bi-annual regional wine celebration was rescheduled from 2021 to 2022, much to everyone’s delight.
Created in 1998 to spotlight local winemakers, the Fête now combines the best of Bordelais food and culture and features the wines of 80 different Chateaux.
Passes for the festival are very affordable. The passholder receives one glass of wine and 11 tastings from amongst the two kilometers of riverside vendor pavilions, as well as discounted wine purchases. In the past, this event has also featured concerts, a parade of tall ships along the Garonne, and fireworks. Explore our Bordeaux here.
New Zealand: Winetopia: May 20-22, Auckland; July 1-2, Wellington; August 26-27, Christchurch.
This cutting-edge wine festival format has only been operating since 2015. Created specifically for marketing local wines and educating consumers, Winetopia brings wines and winemakers from 60 New Zealand wine producers directly to the consumer in a pedestrian-friendly environment where the vendors are arranged by region. Attendees can walk from Central Otago to Hawkes Bay and every region in between, while tasting over 300 wines and chatting with winemakers.
The Winetopia.co.nz website’s user-friendly hybrid of event-cum-wineclub makes attending the festival and buying your favorite wine afterwards a snap. Keeping the consumer engaged year-round by delivering interesting content—and wines to their door—Winetopia’s vertical integration of wineries, marketing, and ecommerce is a fascinating model for wine events to come. Explore our New Zealand wine here.
Spain: Batalla del Vino, June 23-29, 2022, Haro.
How a bi-annual event from 1273 confirming property boundaries became a wine-tossing mosh pit of Millennials is a long and complex story. It began in the 13th century as a border-marking ceremony with a neighboring town on the annual Feast of San Pedro (June 29th). One such observance ended in a raucous celebration in which the townspeople began throwing wine at each other. This wine tossing became a tradition that has only become more exuberant and insane since it was codified in 1965 as the Batalla del Vino or Battle of Wine.
The picturesque town of Haro is located in the central Rioja wine region, which is known for Tempranillo and Garnacha. Each June, the population swells as thousands descend on the town to participate in the Batalla. Attendees dress all in white and wear red neckerchiefs as they parade from Haro to the Cliffs of Bilibio. Once there, more than 500 liters of red wine are thrown into the air, squirt gunned or super-soakered at participants in a mad gambit to cover as many people as possible.
After a good drenching, everyone parades back to the Plaza de la Paz in Haro, where the festival continues featuring imitation bullfights (youths chasing heifers). While no animals are harmed, many a human might sport an enormous post-festival hangover. Explore our Spanish wines here.
Hungary: Budapest Borfesztivál (Budapest Wine Festival), September 8-11 (estimated), Budapest.
Established in 1991, the Borfesztivál is the Hungarian national wine event entertaining thousands of visitors every year. Held on the grounds of scenic Buda Castle, the festival provides wine tasting for premier wines and a special location for sampling the VinAgora (Hungarian Wine Competition) winners.
Festival goers enjoy music on four different stages while sampling local cuisine and the wines from Hungary’s 22 wine regions, such as Furmint from Tokaj and Egri Bikavér or Bull’s Blood. The festival has become a premier European wine event with trade meetings for wine professionals held concurrently.
Germany: Wurstmarkt, September 9-19, Bad Dürkheim.
With over 600,000 visitors each year, the Wurstmarkt is numbered amongst the world’s largest wine festivals. It only hosts government recognized regional wines from the Pfaltz wine region, primarily Rieslings ranging from slightly sweet to dry. Taking place in the middle of town outside the Dürkheimer Riesenfass (the largest wine barrel in the world), the Wurstmarkt’s regional focus, joy rides and night life provides entertainment for all ages.
Wurstmarkt is a continuation of a Bad Dürkheim harvest festival dating back to the 15th century when the town was a popular stop along a Catholic pilgrimage to a chapel near the Michaelsberg mountain.
The festival adopted the name Wurstmarkt—taken from the popularity of the sausages served there—in the 19th century. However, this event celebrates far more than wine or even sausages: it’s a harvest fair complete with a carnival midway, beer and wine villages, music, evening entertainments, and fireworks. Explore our German wine here.
Italy: Festa dell’Uva e del Vino (Bardolino Grape & Wine Festival), First Week of October, Bardolino.
The town of Bardolino on Lake Garda in the province of Verona gives its name to that Italian wine region, and the famous red wine made there: Bardolino D.O.C. The Grape & Wine Festival pays homage to the wines made in the region: Classico, Superiore and Chiaretto (a rosé).
The week-long celebration stretches along the pedestrian lakefront of Lake Garda, where vendors display their Bardolino region wines and local culinary delights under small tents for the festival attendees. For a small fee, visitors receive a lanyard pass and glass of wine. The glass can be exchanged for a new full one at different tasting locations for about one euro.
Tucked into the eastern lakeshore, Bardolino displays it’s medieval Italian roots and mediterranean-type climate to advantage in October. With a full week to appreciate the locale and the excellent wine, the appeal of this celebration is as much the wine and food as the town of Bardolino itself. Explore our Italian wines here.
South Africa: Franschhoek Uncorked Festival, October 15-16, Franschhoek.
This annual spring event (in the Southern Hemisphere), has devotees of South African Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon heading for the mountainous and scenic Franschhoek Valley. The region’s wineries open their doors for special tasting and wine-related events. Weekend pass holders can visit all the participating vineyards for wine and food pairings and other entertainment. Each vineyard puts their own spin on the experience—from rock-n-roll concerts to lawn bowling and tractor rides through the vineyards. Best of all, participants enjoy the natural beauty and enology of the area at their own pace. Explore our South African wines here.
Whether wine celebrations commemorate Dionysis, Bacchus or a 13th century boundary, they are as eternal as human culture and date back to the world’s earliest civilizations. Appreciating and celebrating the grape is in human DNA; it connects us together even as we are scattered across the globe.Patty Lyn Tweten is a writer, graphic designer and vineyard owner. She is also a devoted fan of rosés having helped her husband make their own with the sagniée method. Instagram Linkedin
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