Wine Festivals in France Autumn 2014
Wednesday 03 September 2014
With the grape harvest soon upon us in France, we make a selection of some of the wine festivals taking place this autumn.
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.
Supermarkets and wine retailers also join in with their own foires aux vins, with discounts on selected wines and informal tastings.
On a national basis, mention must be made of the Fête nationale de la gastronomie, which takes place over the three days of 26th to 28th 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.
AlsaceMore 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, last year it was voted the Village préféré des Français.
- Fête de Vin Nouveau, Eguisheim, Haut-Rhin - 27th/28th Sept and 4th/5th Oct
- Fête des Vendanges Barr, Bas-Rhin - 3rd to 5th Oct
- Fête des Vendanges à Marlenheim, Bas-Rhin - 19th Oct.
Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux - 13th Sept - Wine tasting at around 60 fabulous chateaux whilst you run a 42 kilometre marathon starting and finishing in the village of Pauillac. 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 30th year, organised by marathon runners, but for all-comers. Around 8,000 thousand runners participate. Lovely route 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! Entries now closed but spectators welcome. More information at Medoc Marathon.
Ban des Vendanges de la Jurade de Saint-Emilion - 21st 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/RhoneJazz à Beaune - 14th Sept to 13th Oct - The 14th festival of Jazz et Grands Vins de Bourgogne which takes place in the regional wine capital of Beaune. Both 'free' and 'ticket only' concerts during the period. Tastings before and after the concerts. More information at La Jazzerie.
Fête des Vendanges, Joigny, l'Yonne - 19th October - On the programme for the 25th year of this Burgundy 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 du Vin Bourru, Nuits-Saint-Georges - 25th and 26th October - An event built around tasting of the newly fermenting wine harvested in the year. So if you are looking to drink 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.
Foire Internationale et Gastronomique, Dijon - 31st Oct to 11th Nov - During the first few days of this major international fair in the Salon Vinidivio there is a celebration of wines from Douro, Portugal as the country of honour in the festival. Around 20 producers, including the world famous Neipoort.
Fête des Grands Vins de Bourgogne - 14th to 16th November - A major festival, now in its 142nd 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 - 19th Nov to 23th Nov - Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé! OK, so we know its 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 celebrations take 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. A great spectacle.
ChampagneFête des Saveurs en Champagne, Marne 13th to 19th 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 14th 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-RoussillonFéria des Vendanges, Nîmes - 17th Sept to 21st 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.
Fête des Vendanges, Banyuls-sur-Mer - 8th Oct to 12th 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. A great wine festival and an occasion for all the family. More information at Fête des Vendanges.Fête des Vendanges de l’Histoire de Chusclan, Gard - 11th and 12th 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.
Festa de la Vendemia, Valflaunès, Pic Saint Loup - 12th to 19th Oct - A festival to celebrate local culture and wine, with the main wine tasting event taking place on the last day of the festival. Great wines in a lovely part of France.
Fêtes des Vignes de Montpellier - 22nd Nov to 24th Nov - The 11th anniversary of this event when during three days the city promotes 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 of this festival, which attracts over 100,000 visitors.
LoireFestival du Vin, Saumur - 6th to 14th Sept - The 'Festivini' festival is a major event in the wine calendar of the Loire, attracting around 20,000 visitors over a week. A full programme of a wide range of events, topped by a spectacular Dîner Découverte des Vignerons in L'abbaye de Fontevraud.
Les Muscadétours, Pays du Vignoble Nantais - 3rd to 5th 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 and music.
Vignes Vins et Randos - 6th and 7th 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 bottle.
ProvenceFestival Vin & Chocolat, Rasteau - 8th and 9th Oct - The 5th year of this festival in collaboration with the luxury chocolate make Valrhona. Workshops and tastings, with a marriage of the chocolate accompanied by the sweet wines of Rasteau.
Millévin, Avignon - 20th 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.
Salon des Vignerons et de la Gastronomie, Marseille - 21st to 24th Nov - The 20th year of this food and wine exhibition that attracts around 400 wine producers and 60,000 visitors, so a large and important event. Taste the Mediterranean.
Fête du Vignoble d'Irouléguy, Pyrénées-Atlantiques - 13th and 14th Sept - Wine celebrations in the Pays Basque. Portes ouvertes and walks with food and tastings, tastings in the chapiteau, plus local produce and music.
Fête des Vendanges, Marcillac, Averyon - 5th 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 but with a distinctive grape variety.
Salon Vin et Terriors, Toulouse - 31st October to 2nd Nov - Significant food and wine exhibition at the Parc des Expositions in the SW capital. Around 200 independent wine producers from all over France, together with stands heaving with some of the best food of the region.
Fête du Vin Madiran, Midi-Pyrénées - 15th and 16th Nov - Portes ouvertes in deepest Gascony, when the winegrowers of Madiran put on traditional chais lunches, all washed down with their hearty red wines and concentrated sweet white wines.
Fêtes des Vendanges, Jurançon, Pyrénées-Atlantiques - 14th December - 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, this year on 14th 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 des Vendanges de Montmartre - 8th Oct to 12th 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.
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