Vendimia Festival - JEREZ
by Simon Zolan and Chris Chaplow
3 to 18 September 2022
Confirmed by the Town Hall)
Pisa de la Uva - 20.00 hrs 3rd Sept 2022
at the Alameda Vieja
Full 2022 Agenda
In most wine-growing districts of Spain, the harvest festival begins on the feast of St Matthew (21 September). In Jerez the Fiestas de la Vendimia starts officially on 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.
Dating from 1948, relatively new for a Spanish fiesta, the festival is held at a weekend as close as possible to 8 September. The first grapes may be picked a week or two earlier, especially if the weather has been very dry and sunny. Frequently the harvest is a week late and lasts about a month.
TREADING OF THE GRAPES
The 'Pisa de la Uva' (treading of the grapes) is the most important ceremony, which starts with the Blessing of the Grapes traditionally take place on the evening of the first official day of the Festival at 20.00 on the steps of the Cathedral (Iglesia Colegiata). Visually it is a perfect setting for the ceremony, and fitting since the cathedral was constructed with special taxes on the wine and sherry industry. However in 2020 the treading of the grapes event was moved to the Alhameda Vieja park and iadded a free concert at 21.30. Whist the move to a visulally inferior location was originally cited as a coronavirus measure it appears to have been made permanent. Promotional photos of the 2022 edition by the city council misleadingly show the pre 2019 cathedral location.
Sherry Harvest, Jerez
The Pisa la Uva ceremony lasts an hour and is well worth seeing. First of all, the priest blesses the grapes laid out in baskets on the steps of the cathedral. The choir and the town brass band then burst into music, including favourite Pasodobles. The elected 'Queen of the Harvest' occupies the seat of honour and is surrounded by her handmaidens, all chosen from the most beautiful girls of Jerez, wearing white dresses and blue silk scarves, representing the white chalky soil and blue sky that give life and body to the vines.
The Vendimia Queen and her handmaidens casts her basket of grapes into the "lagar" (a rectangular wooden wine press). Slowly, the four men in pristine white short trousers with a red sash tread the grapes. Contrary to popular belief, they are not barefoot - they wear special studded shoes to crush the grapes, not the pips and stalks - as they begin the first pressing of the vintage (mosto). Then, suddenly, the air is filled with white doves and bells ring jubilantly from the tower. At the end of the official proceedings, a venenciador (wine pourer) is on hand to share a chilled glass of fino with the attendees.
On a practical note, there is limited seating on the cathedral steps, however if you arrive an hour before, there is plenty of prime view seating available. Don't forget your camera and a bottle of water. After the ceremony, the town's dignitaries and representatives from the bodega (and public) rush to the Patio de Armas in the Alcazar de Jerez for a prize-giving. Fireworks are set off. The celebrations have only just begun, as the festival has been expanded over the years to cover a large number of events over a two week period.
Note: The video above was filmed on the cathedral steps in 2015, a unique year when the 'Vendimiadoras' (the girls in traditional dress that carry the baskets of grapes) 'did not turn up' and the issue became front page news in the next morning´s local newspaper. The councilor responsible blamed it on the agency that they had hired others claimed it was funding cutback. Whilst the organisation and details will impress all foreign tourists, locals who had seen more and better in previous years, were not so impressed. You can hear the "boo..." on the video ( at 0 min 55 sec ) when the audience realised that two gentleman from the sherry industry, as opposed to a group of young ladies from Jerez in traditional off the shoulder dresses with long flowing skirts were delivering the grapes.
Sherry Harvest, Jerez
In Jerez the Vendimia used to be preceded by a Grand Procession.
OTHER vendimia events
During the next few days, both public and private parties fuel the atmosphere of rejoicing, day and night. Some of the events you can see include bullfights in honour of the ladies of Jerez with the finest toreros, young bullfighters and even a comic bullfight; equestrian events such as showjumping, perhaps a motorcycle race, art exhibitions, concerts, tours of the bodegas and vineyards and flamenco shows including M de Mujer (M for woman).
As well as the spontaneous dancing and merrymaking in the streets - there is no time to sleep!
Vendimias in Andalucia
Jerez is the largest of the vendimia festivals in Andalucia, but many villages with a wine-making tradition fold their own fiesta in early September. Here is a guide to the main Vendimia Festivals.