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by Madhurima Mukhopadhyay

Wine harvesting is more than just plucking the grapes off the vines and pressing them...

Wine harvesting is more than just plucking the grapes off the vines and pressing them. Wine harvesting is seen as a major reason to celebrate and across the wine regions of the world people celebrate the occasion with much mirth and joy. From quite homely gatherings at the smallest of wine growing hamlets in the hills of Europe to the highly publicized Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia in Argentina, wine lovers get together in many ways to mark the completion of a wine circle.

Harvesting time

Since wine grapes are weather sensitive, their growth and maturation depend greatly upon the climate. As a result, the wine harvesting months vary from place to place and while most wine grapes are harvested in  September or October in the northern hemisphere, February to April are common harvesting months in the southern hemisphere. Certain kinds of wine, like ice wine are harvested as late as January simply because they need to be left on the ice to freeze for the sugar levels to rise. The various harvesting festivals too therefore are held at different times.

Pre-historic wine harvest traditions

 

Before the days of the fancy machines, every single wine grape was handpicked. The ripeness of the wine was solely determined by tasting and then the pressing was done by hand as well. Human beings have been known to consume wine for millennia. Did you know that Oktoberfest, the famous German festival that we today associate with beer, was actually a wine harvesting festival that begun in the 18th Century? Then, the ancient Greeks celebrated a festival called Oschophoria which was held in autumn to mark the wine grape harvests.

Interesting global wine harvesting trends

While hand picking has largely given way to mechanical picking, the merriment involved in the process has mostly remained unchanged. In various countries we find various festivals taking place. Let us take a look at some of the most interesting wine harvesting festivals and the traditions associated with them.

  • Grape harvest festival, Vevey (Switzerland) – This festival is held once in 20 years only. The reasoning behind this is that it takes 20 years for one generation of humans to take shape. 20 years is also the time taken for a vine to live its entire life. So every 20 years this quaint little Swiss town holds one of the most spectacular festivals that is dedicated solely to wine. The festival was first held in 1797 (yes, it’s that old!) when the best winemakers were awarded in a public ceremony. And you thought wine awards were a thing of the modern times! While it is said that the event needs a 10-year planning period, it also takes 10 years to cherish the memories one accumulates at the festival. The next festival is scheduled to take place in 2019. Starting to plan a trip to Switzerland in five years, are you?

  • Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, Mendoza (Argentina) – The Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia is one of the most popular wine harvest festivals in the world. People from every corner of the globe visit this Latin American nation during the end of February to catch the traditions that have been associated with this fest for centuries. The first tradition observed is the Benediction of the fruit from which the wine would be extracted. Once that is done, few Reinas (queens) are elected and they parade the city in chariots to mark the wine harvesting season. Apart from this, fireworks also form an important custom to mark the harvesting of wine grapes.
  • District Wine Harvest Festival, Canberra (Australia) – This harvest festival celebrated its 100th year in the Australian capital in 2013. The festival takes place in April and is attended by winemakers and wine lovers who together celebrate the wine harvest traditions of the region.

Wine harvesting in India

Although Indians have been consuming wine since the 4th Century BC, it is only recently that wine in India has made a real splash. Since the 1980s vineyards have mushroomed and today we find many wine harvest festivals being celebrated with pomp and style. The SulaFest and the Great Grover Stomp were two recent events that celebrated the wine harvesting season in India. The All India Wine Producers Association in partnership with the India Grape Processing Board organized the second annual India Grape Harvest & Wine Festival, the biggest wine harvest fest in the country. It was held in in Nasik, the wine capital of India. The event was held around the time of Valentine’s Day and the love for wine flowed over! The usual time for harvest is between February and April but the high temperatures witnessed in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh sometimes make way for two sets of crops to be harvested.

Experiencing the wine harvesting traditions

The global wine traditions are so varied and unique in their own ways that it does not do justice to simply read about them. As a result, wine lovers who genuinely take an interest in the drink are often found hopping from one festival to the other to experience and soak in all the local traditions and cultures associated with this very important time in the wine world. So if the wine lover in you wants a truly memorable vacation this year, maybe you should start planning a trip to one of the many enchanting wine regions of the world. Visiting a wine harvest festival will rejuvenate your heart and drizzle your mind with memories to last a lifetime! 




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