Harvest time is the busiest moment of the year for any winery worth its salt. All the work carried out at the vineyards throughout the year culmi-nates with the harvest, which takes place from August to November in Spain.
By mid-September, producers in Jerez are busy working with the 60,000 tonnes of grapes picked this year whereas places such as Getaria, on the Basque coast, don’t expect their grapes to be fully ripe until October.
It is arguably the best time of the year to visit the wineries and vineyards where wine is made. For those interested in learning first-hand where it all begins, there are numerous activities on offer as well as harvest festivals in Logroño, Zaragoza, Rueda, Toro or Arlanza, among others. These are some of the most interesting over the next couple of months:
The owners of Bodegas David Moreno have been showing their vineyards to visitors for the past six years during harvest time. The success of this initiative has led them to extend it to the rest of the year. It is not unusual to see groups of friends or families harvesting a vineyard close to the winery in Badarán (La Rioja) from mid-September to the end of October.
Visitors are shown a guardaviñas (a traditional stone shelter), walk around vines and check the grapes’ maturity. After a snack, it’s time to grab a basket and a pair of secateurs to pick the grapes, tread them in the old-fashioned way and carry them to an old press. After tasting the must, visitors go on a winery tour and a enjoy a traditional Riojan lunch or dinner in the winery’s cellar. The activity lasts four hours and costs €60 (€38 for children, free for kids under 5 years old). David Moreno offers other vineyard activities throughout the year, such as vine pruning (January to March) and leaf pruning and desuckering (May to June).
From September 5th to October 12, Thabuca Wine Tours organizes Vendimia Experience, where adults and children can experiment the harvest first-hand. The pack includes visits to several Rioja Alavesa wineries and the chance to be guided by a wine producer to pick and tread grapes. Must and wine tastings are included, along with a snack and a hearty Rioja lunch. Prices start from €175 per adult and include accommodation for two nights. There are special rates for children.
Centro Temático del Vino Villa Lucía in Laguardia, in the heart fo Rioja Alavesa, offers a similar experience led by wine producer César Sáenz de Samaniego ending with a barbecue by the vineyards -weather permitting- or at the winery.
From September 20 until mid-October, Pagos de Araiz invites wine lovers to walk on their vineyards and taste grapes, fermenting musts and finished wines at the winery in Olite, 40km south of Pamplona. The visit lasts two hours and costs €8 per person.
Nearby in San Martín de Unx, near Olite, winelovers should got to Máximo Abete, a small family winery deeply involved in wine tourism. Visitors join winery workers on a “Harvest Day”, picking grapes, carrying them to the vats and watching the start of the production process. The day ends with a must and wine tasting and lunch or afternoon snack. The price per person is €15.
Being a major tourist destination, Catalan wineries cater for the large influx of visitors with countless activities during the annual harvest. The website www.enoturismepenedes.cat is an efficient source of informa-tion to find out what’s new at this time of the year among the wineries that form part of the DO Penedès. The choice is huge with ideas such as traditional harvesting and bottling cava at Can Rosell, tasting 25 different grape varieties on the vineyards or a walk among the vines.
Throughout September and right to the end of the picking season, Albet i Noya allows wine aficionados to experience the harvest talking to the workers, watching how grapes are handled in the winery, observing the work in the lab, or smell the aromas during the fermentation process. The cost is €17 and requires at least four people. The winery, 40 minutes away from Barcelona and a pioneer in organic wines, offers original activities throughout the year such as trips to the winery on burricleta (electric bike) from nearby Villafranca or courses to build and maintain the traditional dry stone walls surrounding many vineyards in this hilly area of Penedès.
Also in this part of Catalonia, Bodegas Nadal offers visitors the chance to pick grapes and take them home in a wicker basket provided by the winery. It cost €18 and is available until October 11.
If you want to find out what is like to work the vines for one day, Cepa 21 (led by the Moro family) runs a one-day Harvest Workshop between September 15 and October 15. Participants are taken to the vineyards and learn to recognize, both with traditional and professional measuring tools, when the grapes are ripe. They also have a go at picking grapes by hand, pressing and measuring sugar levels in the must. A tour of the winery is followed by a wine tasting and the cost is €15 per person.
Bodegas Fariña, one of the driving forces behind the DO Toro, offers a package for wine aficionados which includes taking part in manual grape-picking, watch how trellised vines are machine-harvested and enjoy a harvester lunch with grapes, cheese and wine. After the meal at the winery, visitors get a chance to taste a sweet must from the day’s harvest. The activity is available on October 4 and 11 and costs €45, with reduced rates for children.
Jumilla Wine Route, in partnership with Bodegas Luzón, run the Open Harvest Days between September and December with wine and must tastings, traditional treading, the chance to make your own wine or a special gymkhana with blind tastings on November 9 to celebrate the European Day of Wine Tourism. The cost of each activity is €8 per person. Meanwhile, at Hacienda del Carche visitors are shown around the vineyards during harvest before tasting some of their wines.
As well as the hop-on hop-off Bus do Vinho (Wine Bus), which departs Vigo every Saturday until the end of October, the Ruta do Vinho Rias Baixas has planned a two-day photography course (September 20 and 21). Local photographer Xurxo Lobato takes visitors to pazos (traditional châ-teaux), wineries and vineyards to capture vines at their best and record the frantic activity that takes over the area at this time of the year. During September, the route also offers winelovers the opportunity to see the arrival of grapes at the winery, the process of destemming and the preparation of the first Albariño must.
During the picking season, Martín Códax, one of the wineries in the Rías Baixas DO, allows visitors to harvest at Pé Redondo, their experimental 3-hectare vineyard. Armed with gloves, secateurs and DO-approved boxes, wine aficionados spend the morning picking grapes -which will later be used to make “real” wine- from the trellised and pergola vineyards. This is followed by a tasting of four wines and lunch at the winery. The afternoon is spent visiting the winery. The cost is €50 and the activity lasts for eight hours.
At the other end of Rías Baixas, close to the Portuguese border, Fillaboa takes visitors around their vineyards to show them how maturation and picking is done professionally. The activity, which is available every Friday between September 19 and October 3, includes the chance to see the grape reception area in full activity, a visit to the elegant Fillaboa pazo and a tasting of Albariño grapes, must and wines. The cost is €15 per person.
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