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  • Beaujolais Nouveau Day - coming soon!

    beaujolais nouveau

    Beaujolais Nouveau Day marks the release of this season’s fresh, new Beaujolais wine – and the big day this year is 17th November. The Beaujolais Nouveau release is always celebrated in France on the third Thursday in November and, under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m. that day, only a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested.

    Beaujolais Nouveau originated about a century ago as a cheap and cheerful drink produced by locals to celebrate the end of the harvest season of the Gamay grapes that go into this light, quaffing wine. The grapes are picked by hand in the Beaujolais province in the Rhone region of south western France.

    In Britain, the new wine is usually on sale with some fanfare on the day of its release – and should be drunk by next May, so don’t lay down bottles for too long! Parties are also held throughout France to celebrate the first wine of the season and in true French style, they are usually accompanied by fireworks, festivals and music.

    But the heart of the celebrations is Beaujolais itself, centred on the town of Beaujeu, the ancient capital.  Here Les Sarmentelles is a five day event – and for wine lovers a rather tempting one. A tasting contest features all twelve kinds of Beaujolais and the winner gets their weight in Beaujolais-Villages. In the evening, the farmers that made the wine are celebrated in a torch lit parade. At midnight on 17th November, fireworks mark the release of the new wine, which is drunk until dawn. Quick! Find your accommodation in and around Beaujeu

  • Celebrating the Burgundy wine harvest

    Burgundy, our region of the month, lies at the heart of France and is often said also to be at the heart of French cuisine. Many traditional French dishes such as coq au vin, beef bourguignon and escargots all come from Burgundy.

    Whilst the region is known for its prestigious gastronomy, rich history and many castles, Burgundy is of course most famous for its rich red wines – not to forget some pretty decent whites! Here, gentle rolling hillsides are covered with vineyards and September is a great month to explore them as it marks the beginning of the grape harvest season in France.

    The French grape harvest or vendage is always cause for revelry, ritual and celebration – but especially so in Burgundy. In September, you could easily bounce around the many wine related festivals, from the Jazz and Wine Festival of Burgundy in Beaune, from 17th to 19th, to the Heralding of the Harvest in Saint Emillion, from 19th to 20th and the Fête des Fromages Nuits St. Georges, also held on 19th and 20th.

    The Marché aux Vins in the centre of Beaune, next to the Hotel-Dieu, is an excellent introduction to the best wines of the region. There you can taste the famous names from Meursault to Puligny-Montrachet at your leisure. The Marché aux Vins is open every day and the visit and tasting costs 10 euros per person.

    Wine has shaped Burgundy's way of life for centuries and its wine making tradition goes back to the monks of Cluny and Citeaux. Chablis, in the Yonne, is the first of the great Burgundy whites and the Auxerrois wine route curves and winds through mediaeval villages surrounded by their vines, with whole communities devoted to its production.

    The countryside of the Cote d'Or is marked by an endless patchwork of carefully tended vines and you can follow the Route des Vins and sample and buy.

    Southern Burgundy is still wine country and Tournus makes an ideal base for visiting the Chalonnais and Maconnais vineyards and exploring. Don’t forget to check out the fragrant white Pouilly- Fuissé here.

    We have beautiful self-catering cottages and luxury gites to book as your holiday home base for exploring Burgundy, or you could stay in an authentic auberge or chateau for a true taste of the traditional wine estate way of life.

  • Time to follow the French wine trail


    The grape harvest months are nearly upon us, so it’s the perfect time to plan a wine trip to France. Explore vineyards, enjoy tastings, join in harvest celebrations and see some glorious countryside in the gentle sunshine of early autumn.

    With so many iconic wine regions to choose from, where would my ideal trip take me? I like to be a bit different from the crowd, so I would seek out local wine from limited production family vineyards. I’d want to taste the producer’s love for the grape and its bounty in the finished product, for them to care that the wine is explained and appreciated.

    The Loire Valley would be a good start – specifically at Pouilly-sur-Loire in the Nièvre département for its aromatic Pouilly-Fumé. The town is picturesque and around it are lots of wine domaines, two of which are chateaux.


    Then, perhaps, a steady pace along the Bison Futé quiet rural roads towards Bordeaux where my gite or B&B owners could advise on the best and least known local red wines. Here I would aim to learn about that elusive terroir effect and, frankly, how to choose one Bordeaux wine over another.

    My next stop would be the Mâconnais region of Burgundy in central France – not for more red wine but my other favourite white, Pouilly- Fuissé. Yes, confusingly, this one comes from a totally different area than Pouilly- Fumé and Chardonnay is its only grape variety.

    On the way back to the ferry, a stop in Champagne country would be de riguer. I might still have room for a couple of cases of fine but great value bubbly!

    To plan your wine trip to France, use our in-depth guide to the French wine regions

  • What’s on in France? Festivals, markets and more!

    It’s that time of year again. The time when France invites you to get out and enjoy a memorable experience shared with fellow lovers of life, music, art, culture and artefacts. Here are our picks of some of the best coming up in the next few weeks:

    Jazz in Marciac, July 27 to August 22
    This celebration of swing at Marciac, in the Gers region of south west France, has become one of the most important summer festivals in Europe and is the major date for August, with visitors coming from around the world. In fact, the festival has become a model for rural development centred on a cultural happening. So what is the festival's magic formula? The secret lies in the programme which brings together both jazz legends and hugely talented up and coming musicians.

    Lavender, wine and opera festivals in Provence throughout August
    Most famous in Provence are the theatre festival of Avignon , often compared to the Edinburgh Festival, and the opera festival in Orange, the Chorégies, held in the Ancient Theatre on summer evenings. The performances are held in places where history has left its mark such as the Palace of the Popes and the Ancient Theatre of Orange.
    The sweet scent of freshly cut lavender permeates the Lavender Festivals in Sault and Valréas. Wine is celebrated in all four corners of the Vaucluse and the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France, includins Roussillon and Gordes provide a natural setting for music festivals.

    Vineyards, wine and walks in the Loire, September 5 and 6
    Choose one of 15 wine tasting tours  and stroll from cellar to cellar in the Loire Valley with winemakers who unveil the secrets behind their expertise. Loire Valley wine tours at AOC Vouvray, Chinon, Touraine-azay-le-rideau and Saint-nicolas-de-bourgueil vineyards.

    Lille Flea-Market, September 5 and 6
    Bargain hunting on a grand scale at the Braderie de Lille, the biggest flea-market in Europe and is one of the most popular events on the French calendar. Enjoy your day at the market by hunting for the perfect item, getting some great bargains and of course immersing yourself in local culture. The event always creates festive ambiance as two to three million visitors take over the streets of Lille, with music and countless activities and events taking place from Saturday at 3pm to Sunday at 11pm.

    We have great accommodation and places to stay close to all these venues, whether you choose to go to festive France for a fortnight, a week or just a weekend.


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