If you’re fortunate enough to be cycling in Burgundy during the summer or fall, make a point of checking to see if there are any festivals or wine events while you are there.
If you’re cycling in the area, why not plan to visit a local wine festival? If you’ve never stumbled upon a festival while touring the French countryside, you’re in for a treat. They are an experience of a lifetime. They remind me of old fashioned festivals that I remember going to when I was a kid: lots of food, games, pony rides and music. And of course wine. They’re extremely popular with the locals, think of market day times two! Attending a local fair or festival is the ultimate way to experience the best of French life.
If you’re cycling in Southern Burgundy along the Canal du Centre or on the voie verte to Cluny, check and see if there are any music festivals at the Cluny Abbey. If you’re visiting from spring to fall, there’s a good chance you’ll find some kind of event to attend. For additional information, contact Cluny Tourism.
What better way to explore the medieval town of Nolay than during a festival? The Festival of Wine and Music has something for everyone–music, street performances, wine tastings, a walk through the vineyards with tastings and a grand Banquet de Paulee. A Paulee is a Burgundy festival to celebrate the end of the wine harvest. “De Cep en Verre”, from wine to the glass is an annual festival that normally runs the first week of August. Nolay is located less than 18 km from Beaune, so it’s a perfect detour if you are cycling anywhere in Southern Burgundy.
A special event during the Nolay festival is a 7 km “walk among the vines”. This walking tour departs from the Hotel de Ville de Nolay at 9:15, and offers a very unique opportunity to meet the vintners in their vineyards. Wine-tasting stops accompanied by petits-fours and commentaries from the vintners to help visitors better understand the transformation from the vine to the glass. This commentary will be in French, but even if you don’t understand much, I doubt this would take away from this unique opportunity. The tour finishes in Nolay town center with an awards ceremony for the participants who scored highest on a vineyard questionnaire. I suspect if any English-speaking individuals participated in this event, they’d win a prize regardless of the questionnaire! If you’re interested in information on the vineyard walk, it would be wise to order your ticket(s) in advance from the Beaune Office of Tourism.
If you’ve visited Dijon or Beaune or any of the surrounding areas in Burgundy, there’s a good chance you have heard of cassis, the dark, sweet liquer made from black currants. About 16 million litres are produced annually, but sadly, most of it is consumed in France. While many people think of it as just an apertif, many products are made from cassis. This is something that visitors to La Fete du Cassis will quickly learn as they experience an entire festival dedicated to the many faces of cassis!
This event is held annually in early September in the town of Concoeur to raise awareness of cassis and specifically the cassis produced in the Nuits St. George region. The event is free and enables visitors to sample gourmet jams, creams, liquers, appetizers, breads, wines, cheeses, desserts, pastries, and juices, and many other products, all made with cassis. Cooking demonstrations also show the many ways that cassis can be used in cooking. There’s always plenty of music and wine to enjoy along with the cassis. For more information on this event, visit Wines of Burgundy.
La Fetes de la Vigne”, the festival of the vines began after World War II, and is held every 2 years in Dijon at the end of August. This festival features a week full of events in the streets and squares of Dijon and villages throughout the department including dance, gastronomy and of course, wine. Musical and dance groups from around the world are invited to come to Dijon to perform during the festival. Many of the festival events are free, but many of the preformances have a charge. You can get a full list of events from the Dijon Office of Tourism.
These are just several of the many festivals that are held in Burgundy every year. You can check with the tourism offices of towns you will be visiting in advance, or you can just take a chance that you’ll encounter one during your travels. If you do, it will probably be a highlight of your trip!