Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October in France - The Vendage (Grape Harvest!)

October is a wonderful time to visit France. The beautiful towns and villages become even more picturesque and magical as the soft sunshine highlights the beautiful colours of autumn. In my favorite region of France, Provence, the average temperature is a pleasant 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Celsius. This is perfect weather for the grape harvest, or the Vendange, which is at its peak in October and is a critical part of the French Culture.

In celebration of the Vendage, traditional celebrations and festivities take place in all the famous wine regions of France. Visitors to France can take part in the vendages in vineyards all over the country.  Among the many celebrations are:

Fete des Vendanges in Banyuls-sur-Mer—Located in the heart of the Roussillon wine region of France, thousands of people will flock to Banyuls-sur-Mer this Saturday, October 8th and Sunday, October 9th to celebrate the grape harvest. Visitors and locals alike will gather on the beach to await the arrival of the grape harvest by sea as in the old days when the barques catalanes (boat or barge) brought the newly picked grapes to the beach. Visitors  can stomp grapes the traditional way, lots of food and wine is consumed, and there is a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers and stilt-walkers entertaining the crowds.

Arrival of the grape harvest carried by sea in the barques catalanes.

L'Armagnac en FĂȘte in La Bastide d’Armagnac  - The beautiful medieval town  of La Bastide d’Armagnac holds a wine harvest celebration the last week-end of October. A large number of local producers present their Armagnac eau de vie, which is a lighter, more delicate version of cognac Brandy. What really might interest "wine enthusiasts" are the demonstrations of the wine production  cycle from the grape harvest to the distillation process. To demonstrate the distillation process there is a traditional alambic operating in real time during the celebration.  An alambic is an "alchemical still" consisting of two vessels connected by a tube. You can also buy your own glass and walk through the streets sampling wines from different vineyards!

Grape harvest!

I couldn't resist sharing this photo!  This is from a 1909 French post card (Carte postale vers 1900) and is entitled "Vendages en france vers 1900."  I love the grape basket the young man is carrying (although no one in this photo looks happy to be taking part in the grape harvest!)

Can you guess where I'd like to be this weekend?!  Well maybe not......I have a wedding to attend in Tulsa.  I wouldn't miss it, even for the vendage!  There will be other grape harvests in France - maybe next year I'll be there for one!

Au revoir, Mitty

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