Fall Festivals Highlight Spain's Food, Wine and History


(c) 2011 TURESPAÑA

A number of annual fall festivals throughout Spain will immerse visitors in various culinary and literary traditions through harvest celebrations and ceremonial events.

Two particular harvest festivals are celebrations of wine, paying homage to Rioja and Sherry.

The Jerez Grape-Harvest Festival from September 10-18 happens in Jerez de la Frontera, based in Andalusia, one of Spain’s three sherry-producing towns. Festival goers not only could savor a glass of fine sherry in an old taverna, but also can enjoy the town’s other notables: equestrian exhibitions and flamenco performances.

The first day of the festival is not to be missed. The Blessing of the Grapes” ceremony occurs outside of the cathedral in Plaza de la Encarnación, where a priest gives his blessing to a basket of grapes that are later moved into a wooden wine press. Then four workmen donned in shorts and special boots begin the first pressing of the vintage to the sounds of a choir. The blessing concludes when the church’s bells start ringing and white doves are released, to indicate a festive week ahead.

Held in Logroño, La Rioja, the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival turns the town into a flurry of vibrant colors with 10-foot-tall costumed characters (called Pasacalles) dancing in the streets. Every corner, too, has a performance or a parade with visitors and locals savoring food and wine, a nod to Logroño’s culinary traditions. The festival takes place from September 21-27 and opens with a ceremony in which a boy and girl in traditional costume carry baskets of grapes for workmen to stomp. The resulting first grape juice, or mosto, is given as a sacrifice to the patron saint of La Rioja, the Virgin of Valvanera.

Continuing on with grapes, why not enjoy the fun of throwing them in a playful fight? During September, at the Grape Throwing Fiesta in Majorca, thousands of people in the town of Binissalem will chase a piper down the streets into the fields of grapes for a full fruit arsenal. This year’s festival happens from September 14-26.

No trip to Spain would be complete without learning about its beloved literary hero – Don Quixote de La Mancha – and his creator, author Miguel de Cervantes. October 9 marks Cervantes’ 464th birthday and Madrid pays tribute to him with Cervantes Week from October 4-27. Festivities will bring visitors back to Spain’s Golden Age with concerts, performances, lectures and celebrations. Restaurants will offer menus with Don Quixote-inspired cuisine.

Top off your Cervantes adventure with a trip to Zaragoza, for Fiestas de El Pilar from October 8-16. Enjoy eating, dancing and shopping in the historic Plaza del Pilar

Seafood lovers can head to O’Grove, Galicia, for the Fiesta del Marisco (Seafood Festival), a two-week gastronomic feast featuring the best of the regional cuisine and fresh catches from October 1-12.

Saffron, a common ingredient in Spanish dishes, is honored for its place in gastronomy and history at Saffron Rose Fiesta in Consuegra, Toledo in late October. From October 28-30, the festival features harvest competitions, dancing, folklore singing and exhibitions.
For more information, visit www.spain.info/en/.

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