The harvest season in Saint Emilion or the ”vendange” as the French call it, is an old tradition that attracts many locals and foreigners to the area. While the prestigious wine region enjoys a steady stream of visitors starting from early Spring, Saint Emilion’s harvest season in September seems to be the busiest time of the year. It’s hard labor no doubt, but it doesn’t stop the flock of mostly young locals and foreigners taking part in this beautiful tradition. These days, the wineries are reluctant to take volunteers because of strict working regulations and their desire to control the quality of the harvest. That doesn’t mean however that you cannot take part in events related to the harvest in Saint Emilion and Bordeaux. In this article, I want to help you explore all the harvest related activities and make the best out of the harvest season of Bordeaux wines.
Some Cheateaux I’ve been talking to are still planning their activities so I’ll update here with more events as they become available.
The ceremony of the harvest in Saint Emilion – Ban des Vendanges
The ceremony that kicks off the annual harvest in Saint Emilion is called Ban des Vendanges, meaning ‘the harvest ban’. The exact term is actually lifting the ban of the grape harvest, which historically allowed the winegrowers to start collecting the grapes from the vineyards. The ceremony is held in front of the beautiful front collegiate church of Saint Emilion by the Jurade, winegrowers dressed in red caps and robes. The Jurade is a brotherhood of 140 Jurats (members) founded 800 years ago with the mission to supervise the production and making of fine wines. Today they have a more symbolic role of maintaining the traditions of the Saint Emilion wine area.
This year the events of the “Ban des Vendanges” will take place on the weekend of September 21-22, as part of the European heritage days. The first ceremony of the Jurade will take place on the evening of September 21st (Starting at 22:15) at the Tour du Roy and will end up with a sound and light show. The second day of the ceremonies (September 22) is a celebration of the new vintage.
The day includes the Jurade ceremony which will be followed by a lunch reserved for wine professionals, many of whom attend the event only for this great networking event. Learn more about the Jurades ceremony here.
If you want to see how the harvest process is actually done you can join the Journée Vendanges at Château Mangot (September 28). It’s a half-day activity where you get to visit the vineyards accompanied by in-depth explanations about the “vendanges” and the tradition and history of the château. You will also visit the cellars and taste the 2018 wines from the barrels. The day includes lunch at the park of the chateau. The price is 39 euros per person and you can book it here.
As it’s the patrimony days, it a good opportunity to discover some of Saint Emilion’s most emblematic sites. On September 21-22 you are offered free visits to fascinating places like the Monolith Church and the collégiale of Saint-Émilion, guided free tours in the city, tours for kids, light shows and more. You can see the full program for the weekend here.
If you’re going to spend the weekend in Saint emilion it is highly recommended to try and book a visit to one of the wineries in the area. Some of them will probably be busy with the harvest season but others have enough personnel to welcome you in their domain. To chose a chateau, go to my article about the best wineries to visit in Saint Emilion.
Grapes harvest in Bordeaux – other activities
The harvest season celebrations in Bordeaux are not limited to Saint Emilion. Bordeaux will host the big “Bordeaux fête ses vendanges” event on the weekend of September 12-15. On September 12, the Triangle d’Or district will host a jazz concert to celebrate the new harvest. On September 13-14 the city center will transform into a huge terrace with plenty of restaurants that will help you discover the different wines of Bordeaux. For more info about “Bordeaux fête ses vendanges” click here.
The grape harvest celebration will end with the Vign’en ville festival, hosting winemakers in Jardin Public that will teach you all about wine production through a series of workshops and activities. You can read more about the Vign’en ville event in my post about things to do in Bordeaux in September.
Another great harvest event will take place at the Sauve-Majeure, the ruins of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery. The site also hosts the Maison des Vins de l’Entre-deux-Mers, one of Bordeaux’s wine regions known for its white wines.
This is a very kids friendly event with pony and tractor rides, collecting grapes and a musical aperitif. The Fête des Vendanges will take place on September 14 at Place Saint-Jean in La Sauve Majeure, starting at 14:00. Click here for more info and reservation details.
If you’re a wine enthusiast and you want to discover more than just Saint Emilion, check out my guide to the wine trip in the Medoc wine region. It is a beautiful region with some of the most impressive chateaux in the area and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Bordeaux (even if you don’t like wine). If you don’t have enough time to discover all the wine regions of Bordeaux you can simply taste many of the wines at wine bars in Bordeaux. For that, you just have to read my article about wine tasting in Bordeaux.
If you are looking for another fun and delicious activity in Bordeaux, check out my food tours in which I’ll take you through a three-hour journey in the culinary scene of the Southwest of France.
If you’re visiting Bordeaux for the first time, be sure to check out my ultimate guide to Bordeaux to get familiar with all the must-see places in the city. To help you choose a hotel in Bordeaux I’ve gathered a list of the best hotels in the center of Bordeaux as well as a guide to the districts of Bordeaux to help you find your preferred location.Want more updates about things to do in Bordeaux and the area? All you have to do is follow me on facebook/Instagram ! Or better yet, join my newsletter where I share a lot of exclusive info about Bordeaux and the region – sign up here.