Binnisalem Wine Festival, Mallorca
At the end of September every year, the good folk of Binnisalem take the opportunity to celebrate the end of the harvesting season and party with the locals. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the Wine Fair ….. Reason enough to rejoice, if reason was needed.
Binnisalem is Majorca´s main wine region and has been producing fabulous wines since the 15th century; thanks largely to a great climate and superb rich soil (next time you fly over the island, just look down at the dark red soil – it is quite distinct and unusual). There are over 60 wine producers on the island making over 300 variations of wine. Obviously on a smaller scale than the large producers on the mainland, Mallorcan wines are really very good.
So… come the end of September the Binnisalem locals go to town to plan and execute their fiesta to celebrate the culmination of another successful season. For the young and energetic, the fiesta actually carries on for just over a week with a great array of scheduled activities involving mainly eating and drinking, and dancing and drinking and fireworks …. Did I mention the drinking? It is all about the wine after all.
To begin events, the harvesters go through the ancient ritual of presenting the grape to the town hall accompanied by local musicians playing their bagpipes and flutes.
At around 5pm on the Friday night, trestle tables are set up in all the streets leading to the town square; beautifully dressed with china and interesting rustic Mallorquin ceramics. The anticipation builds as the scene is set for the town folk to come together for one big street party. If you are lucky enough to be resident and have an invitation, you will enjoy the most sumptuous evening of food, wine and frivolities.
The traditional dish on the menu everywhere that night is Fideus de Vermar and the aroma of this gastronomic delight fills the air. An ancient recipe, Fideus de Vermar consists of slow cooked lamb blended with spices and fideu noodles. Apparently, this is the fare that was prepared in days gone by and taken out to the workers in the field. And jolly good it is too.
For the less fortunate and I´m referring to non-residents, if you want a table in a restaurant you need to have a reservation – or at least a very good contact. Restaurants do a roaring trade and wine is provided by the local wine bodegas to be enjoyed at a negligible price by the customers.
After a sumptuous meal, it was noticeable that the square was getting pretty crowded. I was reliably informed that entertainment would kick off at 11, but being used to the Spanish system wasn´t surprised that nothing actually happened until midnight.
By midnight you could not move for people in the town square. It was busy without being frantic or threatening. The atmosphere was absolutely fabulous ….. very convivial and happy.
Then… a hush descended…. The lights went out, and all of a sudden a massive Devil appeared in the town square…. Fantastic illuminations followed, changing colour with the music. Before you had time to get bored of the Devil, another massive mechanical Devil appeared with pyrotechnics and catherine wheels on it´s hands…. It was an amazing spectacle rounded off with loud music and an amazing firework display in celebration of the end of season.
Thank goodness Health and Safety had been given the night off.
On Saturday, things were a little more demure. The tables, where the previous night before the locals had partied on down, had been replaced with little stalls selling locally produced goodies, turron and honey, sweeties by the bucket and natty little silver jewellery.
What is so incredible about these local fiestas is that so many people were dressed in traditional costume ready to take part of the procession …. Over 80 floats process with participants looking splendid, dancing and just generally getting involved.
Just off set down a little side street, was a little area where many of the main wine producers displayed their wines. For 7 euros (2 euros redeemable on a bottle of choice) you had a lovely big glass and could go around all of the bodega stalls and sample their latest offering.
The atmosphere again was fabulous. There were a few German guys who had obviously carried on from the night before, but nothing was a problem. Everyone was happy and it was all very jolly.
We left the wine area and managed to get a table on the outskirts of the square to partake in a coffee (that is a lie …. we had more wine).
The whole fiesta, celebration was superb. One of the most impressive things is the fact that the local people all dressed in national costume. I cannot imagine a scenario in the UK where teenagers would be dressed up in knicker bockers to enjoy a good night out in town with their neighbours.
These local fiestas are a traditional and historic Mallorquin event. For visitors, they are a window into a time gone by, when life was simpler. Long may they continue.
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