South America's biggest wine festival to kick off in Argentina

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The Independent Online

Mendoza, Argentina's wine center among the nine "Great Wine Capitals" of the world, is hosting the premier grape-picking and wine event in South America between February 28 and March 8. The first Vendimia festival (vintage festival), celebrated in 1936, turned an ancient tradition dating back to the 17th century into a large celebration offering shows, parading floats, vines blessings and the election of the Vendimia Queen.

For the harvest season, at the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, Mendoza organizes an impressive festival attracting tourists from all around the globe. The celebrations start with the fruit blessing by the Mendoza Archbishop, followed by the parade of beauty queens ending in the election of the Queen of the Vintage, crowned with wine leaves and grape clusters.

Every year during the first weekend of March, Mendoza city puts on a show, called Acto Central, with fireworks and choreographed routines on a 130-meter stage hosting 800 artists in the Greek Theatre Frank Romero Day, in front of 30,000 spectators, for the closing of the festival. In 2010, the Acto Central celebrations will take place between March 6 and 8.

In the region, visitors have the opportunity to choose from a variety of tours, to discover wine paths and bodegas (wineries), as well as the natural wonders of the area like the Aconcagua Provincial Park, named after the highest mount in the Americas, culminating at 6,962 meters (22,841ft).

The Mendoza province, located in the Western part of Argentina, is the cradle of wine production in South America and its biggest wine center; 90 percent of Argentinean wine is produced in the 700 to 800 wineries of that mountainous Andes region. The city of Mendoza was awarded the title of "Great Wine Capital" of the world by Global Network GWC, along with Christchurch (New Zealand), Melbourne (Australia), Bilbao (Spain), Cape Town (South Africa), Florence (Italy), Mainz (Germany), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco (USA) and Bordeaux (France).

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