Autumn heralds the end of the grape harvest in France, with festivities celebrating the country’s favourite drink all over France. Here’s where and how you can celebrate…
In the foothills of the Pyrénées, the Basque village of Irouléguy has its own small appellation that makes spicy reds and fresh, aromatic rosés, which can be sampled at the Fête du Vignoble on 9-10 September. Experience local life by having a meal with wine producers, listening to traditional music or trying the fast-moving sport of pelote basque.
If you only partake in exercise to indulge in an extra glass of wine or a multi-back of chocolate bars, you might be interested to know about the Marathon du Médoc on 9 September. A boozy, food-filled race through the Gironde vineyards, runners stop at stalls to replenish with decadent food including oysters, foie gras, steak and ice cream and to swash down glasses of wine from the pretty châteaux that are preparing for the harvest. If you manage to run the race, treat yourself to a bottle of wine. You’ve definitely earned it.
The Feria des Vendages is somewhat of an institution in Nîmes. Taking place this year from 15-17 September, festivities include a pégoulade procession and a carnival parade while musical troops take to the boulevards and visitors can find concerts all over the city. Expect lots of wine, sangria and dancing until the small hours.
Beaune, Côte d’Or
Enjoy the best of Burgundy wine with some smooth jazz at the annual Jazz à Beaune festival from 15-17 September. Often dubbed ‘the wine capital of Burgundy, the town of Beaune hosts an assorted mix of entertainment for the event including free concerts on Place Carnot where visitors can discover fresh music talent as well as more established artists.
St-Émilion is known for its world-class wines and its autumnal Jurade de St-Émilion that takes place from 16-17 September is one of the most prestigious wine festivals in France. The festival dates back to 1199 and celebrates the time when the rights of the area were passed from King John to the locals, including control of the wine. During the festival, local winemakers open their doors to the public and the jurades parade through the town in their traditional crimson robes. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings and browse the range of local arts, crafts and regional produce on display.
If you would like to take part in a wine harvest, the Veuve Doussot champagne estate in Noé-les-Mallets south-east of Troyes has the answer. The owners have created a vendange package which, for €40pp, allows wine enthusiasts to spend half the morning picking grapes with the correct equipment, followed by a tour of the cuverie, lunch with the estate’s team of grape pickers and a champagne tasting. The offer is available on 23 and 30 September.
The village of Marcillac, north of Rodez, is one of the smallest appellations in France, with just 215 hectares of vines. The spicy, aromatic reds are celebrated at the wine festival on 1 October, when visitors can get involved by donning traditional costumes and joining a grape stomp before the wine-tasting. Other highlights include a flea market, concerts and a traditional meal.
Over 7,000 people come to the port of Banyuls-sur-Mer to celebrate the end of the grape harvest every year. This year, its Fête des vendanges is taking place from 4-8 October where there will be a programme of food and wine pairings, walks through the vineyards and workshops. Highlights include the final meal that takes place on the beach to the sound of a live brass band!
Paris is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of French wine-growing areas, but it does have one surviving vineyard, Clos Montmartre. It is at the heart of the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre, which was launched in 1934 and now attracts around 400,000 visitors. The festival, from 11-15 October, features parades, tastings and concerts in the streets behind the Basilique de Sacré-Coeur.
The historic town of Joigny, in the north of the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region, is holding a wine festival on 15 October. Head for the marché couvert on the banks of the River Yonne, where wine producers are joined by stallholders selling local specialities including snails and Époisses, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese.
Traditional wine festival for the capitale of Alsatian wine in the Bas-Rhine. With its Queen election, its Fleamarket, its concerts & processions. The main animation is the great procession on Sunday afternoon. Each day, new wine and grands crus are proposed for wine tasting, accompanied with traditional meals.