It’s like Carnival for wine enthusiasts and is Argentina’s biggest wine party, bringing together everyone from field workers to vineyard owners and much of the wine-loving world to enjoy four of life’s great pleasures – music, dancing, fireworks, and lots and lots of wine! In the first weekend of March, at the start of the grape-picking season, Argentinians in the Malbec region raise their glasses and celebrate with a festival that dates back to the 17th century. The tradition started out as a simple religious ceremony to give thanks for the year’s harvest but centuries later has evolved into a mega-party that draws crowds from all over the country and tourists from abroad.
The festival has been extended over 10 intense days of parades, music and art celebrations, and performing artists from all over South America are welcomed into Mendoza, creating an on-going carnival-like atmosphere in the streets. However the major attractions are on that first weekend, beginning on Friday evening with a parade of 18 Wine Queens from the provincial districts; people line the streets for a glimpse of the contestants and the chance to catch the bunches of grapes the women toss into the crowd. But why have just one parade when you can have two? On Saturday, a second parade features the chariot-driven queens, gaucho-styled men on horseback, and traditionally-costumed dancers representing the various regional cultures. Saturday night is the grand finale with the ‘Acto Central’ (Central Act), a dazzling large-scale, Vegas-styled (ticketed) spectacle in the main amphitheatre, with more than a thousand costumed performers performing to live music. And, at last, the moment arrives when the Queen of the Harvest is announced and crowned with a tiara of grape leaves, the evening ending in an explosion of fireworks.
If you are in Mendoza for any length of time, you may also come across unofficial, offshoot celebrations, each with their own particular flavour, such as the Crush of Grapes Night, Electro-Dance Harvest Night, and the outrageous Gay National Harvest (Drag) Queen which started off as a parody but now attracts many visitors in its own right!
fairs and sporting events (particularly equestrian).