Rioja harvest festival

During September, the little Spanish town of Legrono celebrates an age old tradition; that of the Rioja Harvest festival, or the ‘Fiestas de San Mateo’ (feast of St Matthew). Although St Matthew is the patron saint of Book keepers and Accountants, the only counting you might see are the glasses ready to be filled with the delicious Rioja served as part of the celebrations!

The festivities begin on the 21st September, with all of the town gathering in the centre at the Paseo Del Espolon, where a procession of hundreds of children carry pallets full of red grapes fresh from the vineyards in the surrounding area and pour them into a large wine barrel. After that, two men dressed in traditional regional costumes jump into the barrel and begin crushing the grapes with their bare feet. This continues until they have crushed enough for the first jug of juice of the harvest, which is then presented as an offering to the ‘Virgin of Valvanera.’

The Virgin of Valvanera is a religious statue, found in the Rioja region and believed to be from the 8th Century. Legend has it that a thief prayed to the Virgin Mary to change his ways, and whilst he was praying an angel appeared to him and to go to Valvanera (in the Rioja region) and search for an oak that stood out from the rest, with a fountain that gushed at its feet and surrounded by swarms of bees. In the trunk of this oak, he found the statue of the Virgin Mary, and a shrine was erected in her honour. To this day, you can find the Virgin of Vulvanera statue housed in the Monastery of Vulvanera, where the jug of grape juice from the Roija Harvest is placed at her feet every year.

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As well as the solemn aspect of the festival, you can expect a lot of excitement too in the form of bull-running, festival floats, a carnival parade, music and even ball games spilling into the streets! And- of course- the festival culminates every evening in a community feast with cooking meat, fresh bread, and plenty of Rioja.Although the festivities have been put on hold this year, you can still enjoy our ‘Fiesta del Vino’ here at El Pirata- Patron Jose has created the ‘Patron’s colección’- six specially curated wines from the El Pirata cellar, which you can enjoy with 30% off when you buy a bottle between 5-7pm every.

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