6 ways to experience the harvest in French vineyards

Did you know that you can treat yourself to a tourist harvest experience in some French vineyards? France.fr explains how to follow in the footsteps of a winemaker for a day… From the Loire Valley to Burgundy, discover the most beautiful French vineyards.

All about the harvest

Harvesting is organised from the end of August to the end of October and generally takes place for 8 to 15 days depending on the estates, the size of the vineyard, weather conditions and the technique used to harvest. Manual harvesting – carried out by hand – is used where the bunches need to be carefully selected to produce the best wines and naturally this takes longer than mechanical harvesting. Also, harvesting time is affected by regional conditions which can require earlier or later picking, depending on the maturity of the grapes. It isn’t the winegrowers who decide when the harvest begins. They must wait for an authorised harvest date from local prefects to begin harvesting their plots. This is called “le ban des vendanges”. The pickers celebrate the beginning and end of the harvest with festive parties!

Experience n°1: party at the Vendanges Musicales festival

Get a ticket for the festival Les Vendanges Musicales and enjoy a mix of wine and culture! Since its inception in 2014, this event, classified Vignobles et Découvertes (a superior wine tourism label) is dedicated to pop-rock music. Taking place each September in Charnay-en-Beaujolais (near Lyon), this year’s confirmed artists include Véronique Sanson, Olivia Ruiz and Jeanne Added. Showcasing emerging young artists of the music scene, this event carries on the long tradition of celebrating the harvest.

Festival Les Vendanges musicales (External link)

Experience n°2: Culture at the Anjou Vine and Wine Museum

Discover all about the local terroir of the Anjou-Saumur wine region at the museum of the vine and wines of Anjou. Located in the heart of the region, here you can learn about the history and evolution of viticulture and discover the know-how of the winemaker's profession. Throughout the year, the museum offers many activities including a Harvest Weekend dedicated to the discovery of wine, held on the first weekend of October. Join guided walks or yoga sessions in the vineyards, wine-themed cooking workshops and guided tours of the museum. The visit ends with a tasting of freshly squeezed grape juice! The 2022 edition will take place the first weekend of October. Note: the museum is closed from November to April.

Musée de la vigne et du vin d’Anjou (External link)

Experience n°3: Join an oenological course at the School of Champagne Wines

Discover how champagne is made! At the École des vins de Champagne, Villa Bissinger, join an oenological course to learn about the different grape varieties, appellations, and wine specificities. Discovery workshops from 90 minutes to a whole day are available for groups and pairs. The school is located in a former trading house, in the heart of the Champagne vineyards – a real bonus. This would make a great treat either for you or a loved one.

Explore Champagne (External link)

The École des vins de Champagne (External link)

Experience n°4: Take part in a Harvest Experience at Château de Pommard

Follow in the footsteps of a winemaker for a day at one of the most beautiful wine estates in Burgundy. Head to the Château de Pommard, near Beaune, to take part in the Harvest Experience (€100 per day). In the company of a Wine & Spirit Education Trust certified wine advisor, you will witness the harvesting of the grapes and learn about winemaking techniques, before having lunch with the pickers. The day also includes an exclusive visit to the Clos Marey-Monge estate, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Château de Pommard Harvest Experience (External link)

Experience n°5: Join a tourist harvest in the Loire Valley

The Château de Nitray in the Loire Valley offers the chance to experience the harvest life from September to November. Participate in the grape picking and pressing. While you enjoy a delicious lunch, an accordionist performs the most beautiful traditional French tunes. Afterwards, take a tour of the estate with the owner and visit the cellars and the tasting room. For just €42 per person for the day, you’ll learn about the art of harvesting and the richness of the French terroir on this friendly, gourmet tour. Pruning shears and boots are included!

Grape harvest day at the Château de Nitray (External link)

Experience N°6: explore the Alsatian vineyards by little tourist train

Riesling, muscat, pinot gris and gewurztraminer – these are the kings at the end-of-year celebrations! Produced in Alsace, these sweet wines come from the late harvest. At the point when the traditional harvest has finished, Alsatian winegrowers start to harvest the grapes they leave on the vibes to ripen long after they have matured. Discover all about Alsatian vineyards with a ride on a little tourist gourmet train through the vineyards! Between Eguisheim and Rouffach, every Tuesday and Thursday (June to end of September), a small train crisscrosses the vineyards for a tour lasting 5 and a half hours. Included in the programme is a guided tour of the medieval village of Gueberschwihr, tasting in the vineyards and many other surprises that reveal the heritage and terroir of the area. You can choose from four routes and become an expert on the wines of Alsace and its late harvest!

Find out more about the late harvest in Alsace (External link)

Discover Eguishem and Rouffach in Alsace (External link)

Book the little tourist train from Eguishem (External link)