La "Vendimia", known in English as “vintage”, refers to the process of picking the grapes and creating the finished product, that is, the WINE. Most grape harvests in Spain begin on the 21st of September, the day of Saint Matthew, though the actual vintage (grape collecting process) often starts a week early or late, depending on the weather conditions of the year and lasts around one month. This year the vendimia harvest season has come in advance in Spain, due to a warm spring, cool temperatures in July and to a very hot August. Every year, the harvest signals the end of the grape-growing season and after the work is done it is time to celebrate the good crop in style.
But how is the process of grape harvest about?
The process of harvesting is done by hand when the grade, colour and acidity of the grapes have reached the optimum level and individual grapes are selected based on their ripening estate.
To detach the grapes of the vine, it has to be used “corquete” (curved knives). During the harvest the grapes picker have to be very careful with all the material that comes into contact with the grapes, to be very clean and in perfect condition to prevent the grapes to be in touch with any agent which would alter its quality.
The fruit collected is placed in wicker baskets (with capacity 15 to 20 kg.) and wood containers (80 to 120 kg). These containers are loaded on trailers vintage tractors, making sure that the volume of grapes does not exceed 50 inches so that the grapes reach the winery whole without the fermentation process begis earlier than necessary. Once the grapes arrive at the winery, inmediately the long process of winemaking starts.
The grape harvest festivals that are held in many places in Spain offer a sample of what the work of wine is like and of its typical popular customs. And you can have the chance to see first-hand some of the tasks involved in the winemaking process. These include the traditional treading of the grapes and the tasting of the first must. Wine related events are often organised as well, such as tasting sessions, "al fresco" (in the open air) meals or open days at wineries. The Rioja Grape Harvest Festivals and the Autumn Festivals are among the most famous ones, however you will find that these celebrations are held in many locations in each of Spain’s winemaking areas.
You will find many very good, quality wines in Spain which enjoy international prestige. A special time to enjoy this typically Spanish product is in early autumn and the festivities of the grape harvest are a great opportunity to participate in the traditions and ambience of the winemaking culture.
La "Vendimia" is also celebrated in other places such as France and Latin America, for example, in Argentina it is a national holiday and one of the most important.