4 Apr 2012
April in Chile brings sunny afternoons, crisp evenings, and the annual harvest season for Chile's vineyards and farms.
The month also brings a flavorful variety of one-of-a-kind tourist attractions, including partaking in a Santiaguino culinary tradition on Good Friday and celebrating the National Day of Chilean Cooking, on April 15.
Vendimia in the wine valleys
The finely-tuned climatic conditions responsible for Chile's famous wine begin to change around April, as cool mornings and crisp evenings chase away the summer heat. Vine leaves turn a burnished orange, and vineyards fill with wicker baskets in time for the grape harvest.
While it's possible to participate in an authentic grape harvest - complete with grape picking, grape stomping and grape eating - the country's biggest vendimias are now one of the annual highlights on a gourmand's calendar: wine tastings, traditional food and fine dining, cultural shows, "dance-off" competitions of the cueca (the national dance), and even beauty pageants to choose the "Queen of the Vendimia."
Try visiting the Vendimia de Isla de Maipo in the town's main plaza (April 14 - April 15), or the traditional, pick-your-own vendimia in Kulenko, outside Cauquenes (April 14 - April 15).
Eating fish with the locals in La Vega
If you find yourself in Santiago with an empty belly on April 6, head over to La Vega, the capital's most colorful, flavorful and odorific semi-outdoor market. In observance of Good Friday - and in celebration of the excellent fresh seafood caught along Chile's Pacific coastline - Santiago families traditionally head to La Vega for a meal of fish on Good Friday. If the chaotic scramble of eating in La Vega among the produce stands and the fish mongers doesn't appeal, duck into the smaller La Vega Chica nearby, which also hosts a bundle of tiny kitchens serving high-quality, low-cost traditional food.
Rodeo season in the countryside
April also brings the beginning of rodeo season, when huasos (Chilean cowboys) saddle up their potros (stallions) and try to bring home the bacon - or empanada, in this case. The Chilean horse is a newly-recognized equine breed, and famous for its intelligence and agility in traditional rodeo events. The Rodeo de las Viñas - or the "vineyard rodeo" - will be held in Santa Cruz later in the month (April 14 - April 15).
Spice up your seat in the stands with one of the many classic Chilean foods on offer: cazuela (a delicious stew with meat, potato, pumpkin and clear broth); asado (grilled meat); pastel de choclo (a meat pie topped with freshly ground corn and basil); humitas (tasty ground corn dumplings steamed in the husk); and the ever-present empanada (pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings, but traditionally with meat, onions and olive).
A culinary celebration of all things Chilean
April 15 is the official Day of Chilean Cuisine, or Día de la Cocina Chilena - a day of celebration, cooking and enjoying all the unique flavors of traditional national food. Each major city will be hosting gastronomic events, where you can sample all of the traditional rural dishes - like cazuela and pastel de choclo - as well as seafood dishes like paila marina (seafood and shellfish stew), the famous lobsters from Juan Fernández and ceviche chileno (fish and shrimp marinated in lemon juice, served cold). Chefs in major cities like Santiago, Concepción, Viña del Mar-Valparaíso and La Serena will also be showcasing high-falutin flavors like lamb stewed in Carmenere wine with rosemary, or fresh salmon grilled with the Mapuche spice blend merkén.
Thrashers and rockers for Metal Fest 2012
The year's biggest metal festival crashes into Santiago in April as well - just in case all that wine tasting and good eating left you ready to rock. In the Movistar Arena on April 28 - 29, the Chilean capital will be hosting some of the most important names in metal: Anthrax, Misfits, Kreator and local acts like Massacre, Kingdom of Hate and Exodus.
Staying true to the festival vibe, Metal Fest will also host a Harley Davidson exhibit, tattoo parlor and a "metal queen" competition - so if you missed your shot at the crown in the vendimia, this is your lucky second chance.