1 April 2009 by Pete Mathers
If you’re partial to a spot of enotourism – or just fancy a good glass of wine – then head to the town of Logroño, the centre of Rioja wine production. The all-giving vine has a revered place in society here (even the paving stones have a grape-and-vine-leaf motif) but never more so than in the week following the feast of San Matteo on 21 September: the traditional grape harvest festival.
Bacchanalian festivities include colourful parades, the running of the bulls and the treading of the grapes, accompanied by barbeques of sizzling chorizo and flagons of free-flowing Rioja. The ‘fountain of wine’ is one of the week’s finer spectacles. Follow the musicians, floats and fancy dress characters from the town hall to the Gran Via, where the fountain spurts rich red Rioja into the afternoon air. Well perhaps one day it did; now they use a mixture of water and colourants, allowing the ‘wine’ to change from red to rosé to white as the festival progresses.
On the eve of the first day, after all the grapes have been suitably squashed and offerings have been made to the necessary head honchos, everybody rushes to the Calle Laurel, the street of 100 tapas bars, where wine, food and traditional dancing are enjoyed without pause for the next six days.