Take a closer look at France's wine harvest this summer

Posted 22 Sep 2017

August, September and October are some of the best months to visit France. The leaves turn a burnished gold, the scorching temperatures cool and the bulk of tourists leave – and it’s also when the annual wine harvest takes place.

Also known as 'les Vendanges', the harvest is a magical time when the fields fill with grape pickers and the villages buzz with the anticipation of the year’s first drop. Below we've selected some choice regions that specialise in wine harvest, giving you an insight into the fermentation process – and even better – a sneak preview of the wines you'll get to taste.

burgundy-vineyard

Burgundy

On our Discovering Burgundy and Beaujolais tour, we’ll take you into the heart of one of France’s most famous wine regions. Juliénas, notable for its production of full-bodied reds, is a nationally renowned vineyard. Don’t leave without trying a glass (or two) of bold, spicy Beaujolais.

Different grapes mature at different times, with some left longer to further concentrate their sugar, as is the case with dessert varieties. Sauternais falls into this category – it’s grown in Sauternes on the Garonne River, and the grapes are purposefully exposed to ‘Noble Rot’, a kind of fungus which increases their sweetness.

Witnessing the wine harvest in Burgundy is a sensual feast for the traditionalist: in some regions, the use of machinery is prohibited, lending the scene a rustic and timeless air as workers labour under the sun.

alsace-white-wine

Alsace

Our Alsace Route du Vin tour will take you cycling along a string of vineyards, deep into the heart of the harvest. There are over 100 medieval towns and villages to discover along the route, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. We recommend stopping to try the fruity Pinot Noir, Rouge de Saint-Hippolyte, in the commune of the same name. Visit any one of the local winegrowers for cellar tours and tastings, or drop by the local vineyard of Andlau to try out with the wine-making process for yourself.

On your travels around Alsace, make sure to stop off in the village of Barr for the Grape Harvest Festival, where you can see concerts and processions and of course, experience your first taste of this year’s vintage.

bordeaux-wine

Bordeaux

Accompany us on our Wines, Vines and Sunshine in Bordeaux tour, and you'll soon fall in love with the quaint villages, riverside towns and vineyards of the Dordogne region. Bordeaux is famous for its soft, silky and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.

Head to Château Barde Haut in Saint Émilion area to learn more about fermentation – the process which comes after crushing and pressing. Cultured yeasts are added to the grape juice to produce a high-quality and consistent product. During fermentation, all of the sugar in the juice is turned into alcohol. The process can take anywhere from 10 days to a month, and sometimes more. And naturally, your day isn’t complete until you sample some Saint Émilion Cru for yourself.

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