Monday, March 09, 2009

kissing queens and sipping wines in the Mendoza Festival

Yes.... this was one official duty I performed dutifully with the beautiful queens of Mendoza... with my heart, soul, mind and body and in the fullest spirit.

I was one of the Ambassadors invited last weekend by the Mendoza provincial government for their annual Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (The Grape Harvest Festival or Wine festival ) which is held in March. On friday evening, at a cocktail, we were introduced to all the 18 beauty queens from the various districts of the province of Mendoza. I had to kiss them one by one ...and by the time I reached the end of the lineup ... hmm I was drunk even before touching the wine. And I reached heaven after sipping the wines ..

And the the tall beauties made me remember what Economist wrote about former President Menem. It said¨Menem was fond of blondes twice his size and half his age¨. He married a taller Chilean blonde, Cecilia Bolocco , the 1987 Miss Universe. She was 36 while Menem was 71 at the time of their marriage in 2001. The marriage lasted till 2007.

No wonder some of the Ambassadors in Buenos Aires never miss the Miss Vendimia event and take the diplomatic job of promotion of cultural relations more seriously.

Las Reinas( the queens - in English) were there literally all over Mendoza; on the parade floats, on the TV, in the cocktail parties, at the theatres, in newspapers, in the banners and fliers and in the streets. The Mendocinos have the perfected the art of marketing of their wines with the beauty queens. Selection of the Vendimia Queen is the main event of the festival and all other activities are built around it.

Each of the 18 districts of the province elect their beauty queens and bring them to the provincial capital for the Vendimia. On saturday morning each queen gets on the float of her district and parade through the streets.

It is like a Carnival with music,dance and fireworks. But a Carnival with difference. It is sheer elegance, style and taste. No nudity, no freak out. But a delectable blend of queens and wines. While Carnival is an explosive blow out, Vendimia is an aethetic appreciation of beauties in the same way as one savours the aroma and taste of the wine suavely, smoothly and subtley.

The Mendozinos claim that Vendimia parade is the largest open-air festival in the world with 200,000 to 500,000 participants. The numbers and claim get exaggerated after each glass of wine !

The selection of the Vendimia queen is the central part of the show at the amphitheatre on saturday night in front of an audience of 40,000. This year it was Candela, the one from San Martin district who got selected. Famous bands and singers participate in the show before and after the queen selection.

Here are some pictures of the parades:

The Reinas throw grapes and other fruits including big melons at the audience on both sides of the street.

Cowboys and folk music and dance groups parade on saturday morning, along with the beauty queens. The tourists are joined by the governors of the neighbouring wine-growing provinces, national celbrities and the vote-seeking political leaders.

The wineries invite foreign importers to the festival and tour of their production units and vineyards.

The Argentine wine has been steadily gaining attention and space in world markets in recent years. Earlier, the argentines were content drinking all their production ( per capita consumption had reached as much as 90 litres per year, but has come down now) and did not bother to market abroad. Now they are investing in marketing and production of high quality wines. Their wine exports were 850 million dollars in 2008. Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world and has still untapped potential. Malbec is the signature wine of Argentina.
I visited some wineries and enjoyed the wine tastings. I was impressed by the Salenteine winery at Uco Valley, which is an architectural beauty. It is a masterpiece in the middle of the vineyards against the backdrop of the Andes mountain range. It has a restaurant for fine dining with some great wines including a Pinot Noir to go with the lamb and trout, the regional specialities of Mendoza. The Catena Zapata winery also stands out majestically with its Mayan architecture.
Behind the queens and wines, there is the Medozino character of hard work, determination, pragmatism and vision. They have converted the desert land into vineyards and fruit orchards with irrigation. They even irrigate the trees which cover every avenue and street of the city. Mendoza should have the maximum number of tress per every inhabitant of any city in the world. During the wine festival, the wine institute made a presentation of their strategic vision upto 2020.
Cheers !!!... to the Mendozinos, for their workculture which is a blend of hard work and vision !!!
Cheers !!!... to Mendoza for the delicious and aesthetic blend of queens and wines !!!

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