Thursday 06 September 2018
With the grape harvest now having started in France, here are 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 21st to 23rd September, a celebration launched in 2011 to honour the richness and diversity of French food and wine products. It is an occasion when thousands of events will be taking place throughout the country.
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.
For more information about the wine festivals in Alsace go to Routes des Vin d'Alsace.
Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux - 9th 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 33rd 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. More information at Marathon du Medoc.
Ban des Vendanges de la Jurade de Saint-Emilion - 15th/16th 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 Graves - 20th/21st Oct - Around 69 chateaux open their doors to show their wines in over 3,000 hectares of vineyards. Wine school will lead several tasting workshops.
Portes Ouvertes Fronsac - 28th/29th Oct - Open doors in the chais following the 12km/24 km marathons that takes place.
Margaux Saveurs - 16th/18th Nov - A more refined and orderly portes ouvertes in this prestigious appellation. A pity some of the best producers prefer to remain behind closed doors, but a good range of tastings, lunches and dinners, musical events and artisanal market.
Portes Ouvertes des Sauternes et Barsac - 10th/11th 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 the famous Chateaux d’Yquem considers the occasion 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 - 1st/2nd Dec - Around 40 chateaux the open their doors to show their red and white wines, accompanied by local fayre and events.
Portes Ouvertes Castillon Cotes De Bordeaux - 8th/9th Sept - Around 18 winemakers open their doors at this appellation on the eastern boundary of Bordeaux.
Jazz O'Verre, Beaune - 28th/29th Sept - The 19th 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 Jazz-Beaune.
Les Vendanges de l'Histoire - 14h/15th October - A 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 - 14th October - On the programme for the 29th year of this Burgundy wine event are stalls from which local producers offer tastings, together with local food produce, folklore, music and other activities associated with the celebration of wine.Fête du Vin Bourru, Nuits-Saint-Georges - 20th/21st 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.
Fête des Vendanges, Banyuls-sur-Mer - 10th/14th 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 really great wine festival, in a beautiful location, and an occasion for all the family. More information at Fête des Vendanges.Fête des Vendanges de l’Histoire de Chusclan, Gard - 13th/14th 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.
Vignes Vins et Randos - 1st/2nd 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.
Autour du Vin - Draguignan - 27th/28th Oct - Around 40 wine producers, together with food, market and artisanal products.
Festival Vin et Chocolat, Rasteau - 3rd/4th Nov - A festival in collaboration with the luxury chocolate. Workshops and tastings, with a marriage of the chocolate accompanied by the sweet wines of Rasteau.Millévin, Avignon - 15th 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 Vin et Terriors, Toulouse - 2nd/4th Nov - Significant food and wine exhibition at the Parc des Expositions in the SW capital. Around 150 independent wine producers from all over France, together with stands heaving with some of the best food of the region.
Portes Ouvertes, Madiran, Hautes-Pyrénées - 17th/18th 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 - Sept to Dec 2018 - Less of a festival than a programme of cultural events over the autumn organised by the 45 members of the growers association. The programme climaxes with a portes ouvertes on 8th Dec, 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! Fabulous sweet white wines that have yet to receive the recognition they deserve.
Fête du Vignoble d'Irouléguy, Pyrénées-Atlantiques - 9th 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 de Montmartre - 10th/14th Oct - Paris may not commonly be recognised as one of the wine growing regions of France, but for the past 85 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 year, Portugal, its gastronomy and unique wines are given pride of place.