Jerez: La Fiesta de La Vendimia
Jerez de la Frontera, located in the Cadiz region of southwestern Spain, is a picturesque city surrounded by sprawling fertile land. This has provided the ideal conditions for two things the region is most famous for: vineyards and horses. Add the third – flamenco – and you have La Fiesta de la Vendimia de Jerez.
The art of jerez
La Fiesta de la Vendimia (the Grape Harvest Festival) has been taking place in September since 1948, in honor of the grape harvest that fuels the region’s sherry production. The Palomino grape typical of the region is actually quite ordinary, but the process of making sherry is highly complex – and has been perfected over the centuries into an art form by local producers. ‘Jerez’ says it all; it is the name of the city, and also the Spanish word for ‘sherry’.
Sherry is classified as a fortified wine made from white grapes, differing from white wine mainly in the processes of fortification and ageing that follow the fermentation. The resulting sherry takes many different forms. There are dry sherries like Finos, Amontillados and Olorosos; sweet sherries like Pedro Jimenez and Moscatel; and blended cream sherries. Of course, that’s just a drop in the glass – those who are truly interested will love the sherry tasting opportunities available in and around Jerez, and there is no better time than during the Grape Harvest Festival.
A celebration of sherry, horses and flamenco
Of course, the Grape Harvest Festival is more than just an excuse to drink sherry and eat some of Spain’s best tapas in the warm Andalusian sun. It is actually one of the city’s most important events, and pays tribute to three emblematic elements of Jerez culture: sherry, horses, and flamenco. Taken all together, the festival is a celebration filled with color, music and dancing, with a joyous spirit filling the air.
Although the festival lasts for several weeks in September (exact dates coincide with the grape harvest and are yet to be confirmed) there is no shortage of activities. The main attractions include flamenco shows, horse parades, visits to vineyards, wine tasting, exhibitions and competitions. There is also a wine harvest market where visitors can sample typical Andalusian products.
The Pisa de la Uva (Treading of the Grapes) is certainly the most important ceremony, and traditionally takes place of the first day of the festival. It begins with a priest’s blessing of the grapes, which are laid in baskets of the steps of the cathedral. Four men in pristine white shorts then proceed to stomp on the grapes. The air fills with white doves and music, and wine pourers make sure that all spectators share in a glass of fino. The Queen of the Harvest surrounded by her handmaidens in traditional dress oversee the whole ceremony, which is indeed quite unforgettable and not to be missed.
September in Andalusia
September is a spectacular month for touring Andalusia, and the Grape Harvest Festival is a unique experience that your group will treasure. Get in touch with us to get the most of your Andalusian tour and make sure your group gets to see all the highlights of the festival!
© Photos from Turismo Jerez