Having grown up in a grape farm, my life has been sort of always linked to Vendimia. That’s why I tend to remember major dates and events.
When I was a kid, the harvest of the grapes and the selling of the home-made wine was what got us by. So, when we actually harvested those precious grapes, which had survived the scarcity of water and the menace of hail, some sort of celebration was in order. After the last grapes were picked, we would all get together with the other farming families and have a knees up to celebrate all the hard work gone by. Even us children were allowed to drink a little bit of wine with soda on that night.
But I remember 1913 my dad and his friends all organised a coach for each vineyard to parade through the city during the celebration. Everyone in the city loved it and so we continued doing it every year – I guess that was the first parade. In the mid-30s I remember the first official harvest queen being chosen for the whole province. I can also still recall how badly we all wanted to go to this big party where the Queen would be chosen. So we did, and I felt ecstatic when I saw the fireworks for the first time.
The festival just got bigger and bigger from there – with priests starting to bless the grapes and glamourous performances in the city centre. I even remember one year, 1947 I think, when Evita came. Loads of people suggested she be the harvest Queen, but she said it should be someone local. That was the same year that the Queen was elected by a lottery because two of the girls had the same number of votes.
What I also do recall, was the first time the celebration was held in the Amphitheatre. This was in the year 1963, and we would not have missed it by the world. Since we could not actually afford to go, my husband thought we would find a nice spot on the hills nearby from where to see it all. It was spectacular – you could see all the colours and lights and hear music that echoed throughout the hills. I remember looking down and thinking about those days it all started with us all getting a bit merry after the final day’s pick!
By Nati Serre
Published in the February/March 2012 edition of Wine Republic