Sitges - Festa de la Verema - Grape Harvest Festival







The harvest is upon us. Here in Sitges, they've been growing grapes and making wine since the Romans. The local "brand" is Malvasia, a sweet after-dinner type of wine. But, of course, we're very near the Penedes growing region, so there's a lot going on right now. Sunday was the annual event know as the "Festa de la Verema". In English, that means "Grape Harvest Festival". The Torres family (the ones that own a lot of vineyards) sponsors this community event and it begins on Friday with the "Pubillas" (sort of our equivalent of "Miss what-ever-city") being presented and the official grand opening of the Festa. It is necessary for all of us to begin drinking wine at this time. That means a bottle for breakfast, a bottle at lunch and another one at dinner - all for the purpose of maintaining the "festival" mood. This chore continues through Sunday, when the "big event" occurs and entails various sardanas, music, petards, and revelry. On Sunday, there is a grand competition between teams representing the various grape growing cities in the Penedes (where the Torres vineyards are). These four person teams must first tote large wooden buckets of grapes up to barrels, and then stomp as much juice as possible out of them. There were 14 teams. As you will see in the gallery, there are two people in the barrel and one passing the bucket of pressed juice to a fourth person who is standing at a large Plexiglas beaker with liters marked on the side. For encouragement there is loud music with a true "stomping" rhythm playing during the activities. The teams are allowed to load as many grapes as they can carry during the first 6 minutes, then they stomp for 6 minutes. Next there is a pause, where the judges check out how much juice is in each beaker and there is an announcement about which team is leading before the second round begins with the same activities. When the second round is over and all the teams are covered in grape stains, the winning team is awarded a number of bottles of wine equivalent to the heaviest "pubilla". This happened to be 56 bottles worth as the grand prize. Now, I will leave it to your imagination as to how certain less scrupulous of the teams augment their production. But suffice it to say that we would not really want to drink the fluids that were pressed! Soon after the weighing and awarding of the wine, fireworks began and showers of multi-color discs descended on the crowd that was watching. That signaled the opening of the "wine fountain" from which everyone in attendance was offered a glass of Torres wine as we were serenaded by a sardana band.