A few days after I arrived in Spain, San Mateo began, Logroño’s biggest festival of the year. What a way to welcome me to La Rioja! San Mateo (Saint Matthew) is actually a huge wine festival (Fiesta de la Vendimia) that coincides with the saint’s feast day. Wine literally flows all over the city-they even have a fountain of wine! It is a week of absolute mayhem that can only happen in Spain. Beginning on September 17th this year, San Mateo started off with a bang in front of the town hall with the chupinazo (literally setting off a rocket) and then a massive food fight in the streets. This was not even my first wine festival; this time last year I was in Switzerland and experienced the wonderful the Fête des Vendanges de Neuchâtel. Let’s just sat that Spain is a little less reserved than Switzerland and leave it at that.
Luckily one of the young teachers at my school, P, invited me out with her and her friends for the chupinazo and the first day of festivities. The vino tinto started flowing freely at 11am. The streets of Logroño were so packed with people it you could barely move-I didn’t know there were that many people in La Rioja! Teenagers would run by pelting each other with eggs and flour, people would dump buckets of water on the crowd from the balconies, everyone was wearing a red kerchief around the neck proclaiming their allegiance to this festival and many had the traditional bote full of wine hanging off their shoulder to drink from. It was madness!
The party finally stopped this morning, 8 days later. Everyone was off from work for the week and the kiddies were out of school. It was loud and noisy and crazy. Luckily (or unluckily) my apartment is right in the center of everything, which meant it was so so so loud, but I never missed anything. Evey hour or so, a marching band would go by my window with crowds of people dancing behind them. I could hear concerts around the city and the fireworks going off every night, and there were bullfights everyday. They even had a traditional wine stomping demonstration in the main square, but they didn’t let me up there to give it a try. No worries-I have the whole year to try to knock that off my to-do list.
Parades would go by every hour or so for the week, occasionally with people dressed in the traditional costumes or with giant paper-mache heads (cabezudos). I live two streets over from the infamous calle Laurel and her famous pintxos places, which meant I was out an about almost everyday, making new friends and discovering new favorite foods! I even found a place that has red wine sorbet! Only in La Rioja. Did I mention a glass of nice aged red wine is .60 euros? I think I am going to really love living in La Rioja.
Have you ever been to San Mateo in Logroño? Have you ever been to a wine festival? What was it like?