Wine Festivals in France Autumn 2016
Monday 05 September 2016
With the grape harvest soon upon us in France we make a selection of some of the wine festivals taking place this autumn.
Despite autumn being one of the busiest times 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.
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 23rd to 25th 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, in recent years voted the favourite village of the French.
- Fête de Vin Nouveau, Eguisheim, Haut-Rhin - 24th/25th Sept and 1st/2nd Oct.
- Fête des Vendanges Barr, Bas-Rhin - 30th Sept/1st Oct.
- Fête des Vendanges à Marlenheim, Bas-Rhin - 16th Oct.
Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux - 10th Sept - The main wine festival in Bordeaux takes place in June, but this is a worthy sequel. Wine tasting at around 55 fabulous chateaux whilst you run a 42 kilometre marathon starting and finishing in the village of Pauillac. The tastings accompanied by plates of cheese, oysters and steak en route. An event now in its 32th 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. Dinner and fireworks in the evening. Entries now closed but spectators welcome.
Ban des Vendanges de la Jurade de Saint-Emilion - 17th/18th 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 to proclaim the start of the harvest. Smaller scale events around the occasion.
Portes Ouvertes des Sauternes et Barsac - 7th/8th Nov. - Around 50 chateaux that open their doors to visitors with each one providing a range of attractions as well as wine tasting. Food, concerts, and other cultural offers. Although Chateaux d’Yquem considers it below itself to participate there are many great chateaux that do, with wines just as good at half the price.
Portes Ouvertes des Pessac-Leognan- 5th/6th Dec - Around 40 chateaux the open their doors to show their red and white wines, accommpanied by local fayre and events.
Burgundy/RhoneJazz à Beaune - Sept 2016 - The 16th 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.
Les Vendanges de l'Histoire - 15h/16th October - The 17th year of the festival celebrating the appellation Côte du Rhône Chusclan, which attracts around 4,000 visitors each year. Lots of activities for all the family as well as plenty of wine on tap.
Fête des Vendanges, Joigny, l'Yonne - 16th October - On the programme for the 26th 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 - 22nd/23rd 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. This year the 30th anniversary.
Foire Internationale et Gastronomique, Dijon - 1st to 13th Nov - During the first few days of this major international fair in the Salon Vinidivio there is a celebration of wines from Germany, as the country of honour in the festival.
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 - 16th Nov to 19th 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 - Nov 2016 - 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 - 10th/11th 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 - 16th to 18th 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 - 5th to 9th 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 - 15th/16th 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 - 6th to 13th Nov - 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 - 25th Nov to 27th Nov - The 13th 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.
LoireFestivini, Saumur - 3rd to 11th 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 - 30th Sept to 2nd 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 - 3rd/4th Sept - Too late to make it this year, but not to be missed another year. 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 - 5th/6th Nov - The 6th 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 - 17th 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 - 18th to 21st Nov - The 21st 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 - 10th/11th 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, Aveyron - October 2016 - 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 - 4th to 6th 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 - 16th/17th 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 - December 2016 - 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, 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 - 5th to 9th 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.
This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 05/09/2016