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Autumn Wine Festivals in France 2013

Tuesday 03 September 2013

With the grape harvest soon upon us in France, we make a selection of some of the wine festivals taking place this autumn.

As one of the leading producers of wine in the world it is hardly surprising that the celebration of viticulture figures prominently in the festivities that take place across the country.

And despite autumn being one of the busiest time of the year for wine growers, many still seem to manage to find time to participate in the traditional fête des vendanges.

What follows is a list of some of the more notable festivals and exhibitions that attract strong public interest and participation.

Other smaller village fêtes not listed here take place across the country, and individual wine growers also arrange their own events for celebrating the grape harvest, such as 'portes ouvertes' occasions, when their cellars are freely open to visit without appointment and promotional offers are frequently available.

Supermarkets and wine retailers also join in with their own foires aux vins.

On a national basis, mention must be made of the  Fête nationale de la gastronomie, which takes place over the three days of 20th to 22nd September, a celebration launched in 2011 to honour the richness and diversity of French food and wine products (and, since you ask, to revive the flagging fortunes of French cuisine!). It is an occasion when thousands of events will be taking place throughout the country.

Alsace

More festivals take place each year in Alsace than you can shake a stick at, and the autumn seems to be the time of year when the whole region is en fête! We have picked out three festivals that are popular, set in attractive villages of the region, and all offering pretty much the same sort of programme - vin nouveau, costumed parades, gala dinners, antique fairs, flower displays, local food and concerts.

The village of Eguisheim is particularly worth a visit, for, as you can read elsewhere in this Newsletter, it was this year voted the Village préféré des Français.

Fête de Vin Nouveau, Eguisheim , Haut-Rhin - 28th and 29th Sept.

Fête des Vendanges Barr, Bas-Rhin - 4th Oct and 5th Oct.

Fête des Vendanges à Marlenheim, Bas-Rhin - 19th and 20th Oct.

Bordeaux

Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux, Aquitaine - 7th Sept - Wine tasting at 60 fabulous chateaux whilst you run a 42 kilometre marathon! The tastings accompanied by plates of oysters and steak en route. No wonder it has been dubbed 'le marathon le plus longe du monde'. An event now in its 29th year, organised by marathon runners, but for all-comers. Around 8,000 thousand runners participate. Lovely route around the various wine chateaux and lots of fun, with most runners in fancy dress. Ball and fireworks in the evening. A quite terrific event, although there is a fairly hefty entry fee! More information at Medoc Marathon.


Ban des Vendanges de la Jurade de Saint-Emilion, Aquitaine - 15th September - Less a wine festival than a wine ceremony, which formally inaugurates the start of the grape harvest in a rather spiritual manner. A bit of a curiosity because of the semi-religious nature of the occasion, but it is a process that is mirrored in other wine areas of France. A cortege of several dozen costumed 'jurats' walk through the village to a church service, and then to the 13th Century Tour de Roy, which dominates Saint-Emilion, to proclaim the start of the harvest. Smaller scale events around the occasion.

Burgundy/Rhone

Jazz à Beaune - 14th Sept to 19th Oct - The 13th festival of Jazz et Grands Vins de Bourgogne. The free 'vendange du jazz' takes place on 14th and 15th Sept. Both free and ticket only concerts during the period. Tastings sometimes before and after the concerts.

Fête du Vin Bourru, Nuits-Saint-Georges - 12th and 13th October - An event built around tasting of the newly fermenting wine harvested in the year. So if you are looking to taste and elegant pinot you will be disappointed. Nevertheless, an event that attracts around 5,000 visitors each year, when the usual complementary range of produce and animations are present.

Fête des Vendanges,l'Yonne, Joigny - 15th and 16th October - On the programme for this event are stalls from which local producers offer tastings of their wine, together with local food produce, folklore, music and other activities associated with the celebration of wine.

Fête des Grands Vins de Bourgogne - 15th to 17th November - A major festival, now in its 141st year, organised by the Confédération des Appellation et des Vignerons de Bourgogne that takes place at  the Palais des Congrès de Beaune. Around 3,000 different wines from 700 domaines and 25 cooperatives. Attracts 6,500 visitors. The famous auction Vente des Vins des Hospices de Beaune takes place at the same time. Major dinner with wines from best young wine growers.

Fête du Beaujolais Nouveau - 20th Nov to 24th Nov - Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé! OK, so we know it's marketing hype, but why let cynicism spoil the party? Despite the snobbish insults it has attracted in the British press in recent years the event is still a pretext to party all over France. But it is within the village of Beaujolais itself where the core of the celebrations takes place. Although the wine is released on the 15th, the fête des Sarmentelles (as it is called) takes place a week later. Torchlight parade, dinners, tasting tours, fireworks, concerts. Great spectacle.

Champagne

Fête des Saveurs en Champagne, Marne 14th to 20th October - A week during which the wine cellars of (many) of the winegrowers are open and celebratory events surrounding food and wine are organised.

Habits de Lumière, Épernay, Marne - 12th and 13th December - More a winter than autumn festival we accept, but one we cannot fail to list here, for it is a marvellous gastronomic celebration, with street shows, food demonstrations, vintage cars, firework displays and musical events.

Languedoc-Roussillon

Féria des Vendanges, Nîmes - 12th Sept to 15th Sept - A wine festival that sits alongside a bull fighting weekend in the famous arènes, but you are not obliged to go to both. Wine and sangria, concerts, horse demonstrations, parades, folklore displays. On Saturday night this year the king of salsa, Yuri Buenaventura, performs.

Fête des Vendanges, Banyuls-sur-mer - 11th Oct to 13th Oct - A wine festival by the sea, with the lovely wines of Banyuls accompanied by plenty of music, good food, barbecues on the beach, arts and fireworks. An occasion for all the family, and one of our favourites.

Fête des Vendanges de l’Histoire de Chusclan, Gard - 12th and 13th October - A celebration of the Côtes du Rhône Villages of Chusclan but also of old traditions, with costumes, food, games and displays that recreate the ambiance of the interwar years. Beautiful medieval fortress that overlooks the vineyards, containing a visitor observatory.

Fêtes des Vignes de Montpellier - 22nd Nov to 25th Nov - The 10th anniversary of this event when during three days the city honours its winegrowers to promote the wines grown in the wider agglomeration. On Friday and Saturday around 40 winegrowers in the bar à vins in the centre of the city, with portes ouvertes on the Sunday. Other animated events in bars and in the street over the whole weekend.

Loire

Festival du Vin, Saumur - 7th to 15th Sept - The 'Festivini' is a major event in the autumn wine calendar of the Loire, attracting around 20,000 visitors over a week. A full programme of a wide range of different events, topped by a spectacular Dîner Découverte des Vignerons in
L'abbaye de Fontevraud.

Les Muscadétours,
Pays du Vignoble Nantais - 4th to 6th Oct - A festival launched with success in 2012, the event is based at the prestigious and beautiful Domaine de la Garenne Lemot at Getigne-Clisson, a publicly owned chateau. A programme built around tasting Muscadet wines, together with food, history and nature.

Vignes Vins et Randos - 7th and 8th Sept - Fifteen organised walks through the vineyards of Anjou, Touraine and the Loire Valley. Music, history, tastings, events and other activities to suit all tastes. Around 8,000 participants each year. An event in which enjoying the countryside features as strongly as uncorking the wine.

Provence

Festival Vin & Chocolat, Rasteau - 19th and 20th Oct - The 4th year of this festival in collaboration with the luxury chocolate make Valrhone. Workshops and tastings, with a marriage of the chocolate accompanied by the sweet wines of Rasteau.

Millévin, Avignon - 21st Nov - Tastings of the Côtes du Rhône Primeurs and other vintages in the very convivial atmosphere of the Halles d'Avignon and other venues. Oysters, charcuterie and other local produce accompanies the wine, as well as music. A dinner evening ends the festivities.

Salon des Vignerons et de la Gastronomie, Marseille - 22nd Nov to 25th Nov -
The 19th year of this food and wine exhibition that attracts around 400 wine producers and 60,000 visitors, so a large event and an important one for the quality of the exhibitors. A real taste of the Mediterranean.

South West

Fête des Vendanges, Marcillac, Averyon - 6th October - Costumes, folklore and a brocante combine with food and wine to create a delightful festival in the village of Marcillac, one of the smallest appellations in France.

Salon des Vins & Gastronomie de Bergerac, Aquitaine - 25th Oct to 27th Oct - The second year of this exhibition, which attracted strong interest last year. More formal than a village festival, but an opportunity to encounter some of the wine producers and taste regional produce.

Fêtes des Vendanges, Jurançon, Pyrénées-Atlantiques - Less of a festival, than a programme of cultural events over the autumn organised by the growers association. The programme climaxes with a 'portes ouvertes' on 8th December, when driving around the winding roads of the area with one hand on the wheel and the other holding your wine glass can be quite a sobering experience!

Fête du Vignoble d'Irouléguy, Pyrénées-Atlantiques - 6th and 7th Sept - Wine celebrations in the Pays Basque. On the Saturday a walk with food and tastings through the vineyards, tastings in the chapiteau,the Grande soirée festive des vignerons, with further events and tastings on Sunday.

Paris

Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre - 9th Oct to 13th Oct - Paris may not commonly be recognised as one of the wine growing regions of France, but for the past 80 years the 18th arrondissement has held a wine festival which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. It celebrates the history behind the nearly 2,000 vines that make up the Clos de Montmartre. Wide range of cultural and food experiences.

If you know of other interesting wine festivals in France, whatever the time of year, then do drop us a line at editor@french-property.com, so we can continue to develop the database and promote the festivals to other readers.

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