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The Wine Fountains that Keep On Giving

These wine fountains represent more than just a celebration of the local wine, they are also a symbol of spiritual and cultural journeys.

July 1, 2021

Whether it be to rejuvenate tired travelers or to celebrate the wine harvest, these wine fountains have become a landmark in their towns and are engraved in many memories.

 

BODEGAS IRACHE, SPAIN

In the wine region of Navarre in Spain, known for its crisp rosé and fruity red blends of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is perhaps the most well-known wine fountain of all—the Bodegas Irache Wine Fountain. The Bodegas Irache winery is located right on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a popular pilgrimage route created in the 9th century that takes walkers on an 800 km journey through parts of France and Spain, with all paths leading to the evangelical St. James the Apostle (Santiago de Compostela)’s tomb.

Traditionally, pilgrims stop by the fountain to fill up a scallop shell with wine. The shell is an iconic symbol seen throughout the Camino painted on trees and streets, guiding the pilgrims towards Santiago. The origin of the shell is heavily disputed, with some believing that the lines on the shell represent the many paths leading to the tomb and others believing that the shell represents the setting sun, a symbol of the journey to the west, where the final destination lies.

The wine fountain was built in 1991 as a homage to the generosity the nearby former Benedectine monastery displayed back in the day. The beautiful monument composed of a church and cloisters became a landmark in the 18th century, as it was the first to serve as a hospital for pilgrims.

 

Photo: Dora Sarchese Vineyard

DORA SARCHESE, ITALY

Over in the mountainous wine region of Abruzzo, sits the Dora Sarchese vineyard, which produces the famous Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, the Lapis Rosé and a Classic Method sparkling rosé wine using a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo base, the first of its kind.

In 2016, the vineyard inaugurated a wine fountain, from which visitors can enjoy a constant flow of wine. The idea came from Dina and Luigi, two passionate walkers from nearby town Ortona who had previously encountered the Bodegas Irache wine fountain on the Camino de Santiago. When they formed an association with fellow walkers to create the modern pilgrimage Camino di San Tommaso (Way of St. Thomas)—a 313 km journey from Rome to Ortona passing through the tombs of apostles Peter and Thomas as well as churches, medieval abbeys and well-preserved villages—they knew the path needed a wine fountain to give tired pilgrims a boost. Dora Sarchese vineyard was the natural choice. The vineyard even quotes Persian poet Omar Khayyam, who said “Drink wine from an unknown source and be glad because you don’t know what life is unfolding for you!”

 

Photo: Gilbert Bages

RED-TAINTED FOUNTAINS

Though not sprouting actual wine, a few fountains around the world dye their water a shade of red during special wine festivals.

In the last week of September, music and fireworks explode across Logrono in La Rioja—one of Spain’s most prominent wine regions—as the capital prepares for the Fiestas de San Mateo, the Wine Harvest Festival. Laughter fills the air as the young do the traditional foot crushing of grapes and nearby, crowds cheer as bullfighting shows go on.

A tapas and wine mecca, the medieval town also boasts an impressive block of 50 tapas bars known as the Tapas Trail, which vibrates with energy during the festival. If that isn’t impressive enough, the town turns one of its fountains shades of burgundy for this very momentous occasion.

The impressive wine feature is quite a sight to see and has inspired some of the best photographers around the world to sneak in a photoshoot. Wine photographer Gilbert Bages (@drinkinmoderation)’s photo was even selected as a finalist of the Pink Lady Food Photography Awards, a prestigious award recognising the art and diversity of food photography.

You can also find water fountains tainted red in Mendoza, Argentina during the National Grape Harvest Festival which starts in January at the start of the harvest. The city celebrates with food, music, dance and beauty contests, and people spend the evenings browsing through the many stands, sampling different kinds of wine. It’s a season-long celebration, as the festival culminates in March only to be followed by World Malbec Day in April.

Needless to say, wine regions know how to pay tribute to their terroir.

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