Banyuls, a wine cut out of rock
The history of Banyuls wines goes back to Antiquity, when Phoenicians decided to plant grapevines along the Côte Vermeille. After many centuries of Celtic, Greek and Roman occupation, skills evolved. During the 12th century, and to face pouring rains, the Templars introduced surface and sub-surface water drainage techniques: just like in rice fields, grapevines are terraced and maintained by close to 3,700 miles of low walls.
Vine stocks, some of them a hundred-years old, take root in schist rock, solid yet friable. Steep slopes and low walls make it impossible for machines to access the area, so you'll have to pick up your secateurs! Grape harvesting is exclusively done by hand. On October 4-8, head over to Banyuls-sur-Mer, only two hours away from Montpellier: the end of harvest is always cause for celebration, in harmony with coming and going boats. In the best tradition, this ancient mode of transportation allows winemakers to carry the crops from the steep hills of the region to the village.
Banyuls-sur-Mer tourism office
Avenue de la République
The vineyards of Capbreton, amid sand dunes
The sun, the ocean and the wind…Those are the three things that couldn't even begin to disturb the winemakers of Capbreton, a small town located about 18 miles from Biarritz in the southwest of France. Having disappeared for more than a century, the Dunes de la Pointe vineyard experienced a second birth in 1995. Constantly shunted between the warmth of sand dunes and the coolness of the oceanic climate, grapes are subject to heavy maturation. Perched on top of the Aquitaine dunes, vine stocks are being fertilised using fresh sand.
Over a total area of 5 hectares in a particularly fragile ecosystem, the Capbreton's vineyard yield is on the small side. Regardless, some 20,000 bottles are produced each year, for the enjoyment of wine lovers looking for originality. Concerned with making wine without relying on technology, the vinification happens in small stainless steel vats.
Domaine des Dunes de la Pointe
1, rue de la Pointe
Lérins Islands' grapes on the red carpet
About 3 miles away from Cannes and its mythical Palais des Festivals, or some 18 miles from Nice, some very unusual grape harvest is taking place each year. In fact, the Lérins archipelago houses a vineyard that has been maintained by Cistercian monks for years. The Lérins Islands vineyard was actually born when the first monastic community settled on the Saint-Honorat Island in the 5th century.
There, vine maintenance has been entirely mechanised, and pesticides and pollutants are not part of the monks' vocab. As proponents of both nature and excellence, they perpetuate some ancestral plot-by-plot vinification traditions. The technique consists in spreading plots over separate casks and is therefore mode demanding. 8 hectares of vine and six different grape varieties make for some 40,000 bottle production each year! Do not miss the Journées Vignes et Vins (Vineyards and Wines Days) that take place every first Friday of the month. You'll be able to attend instruction workshops and taste the monks' production.
Abbaye de Lérins
Île Saint-Honorat CS10040
06414 Cannes Cedex
Rangen vineyard, for wines that taste like adventure
Made in the south of the Alsace region, the Great Vintage Rangen is a wine with a strong personality. It takes its name from the steep hills on which it grows, rangen meaning slope in old German. Mountaineering and climbing enthusiasts will notice a characteristic of the Rangen vineyard: the inclination of the slopes varies between 45 and 55°, forcing the harvesters to collect grapes while abseiling. The second feature of the vineyard is just as remarkable: the volcanic ground in which the roots grow collects and accumulates heat during the day, only to vent it at night.
If you travel by the Strasbourg region, it is the opportunity to try out the famous Barr Harvest Festival in the capital of Alsace wine. On the program, processions of flowered floats, animations pertaining to the flea market, new wine tastings, dinners, concerts and miss harvest election! This unmissable festival takes place from September 29th to October 1st.
Barr Harvest Festival
Sacred close in Montmartre
You know the Sacré-Cœur, but have you heard of the Montmartre vineyard? And yet, coexistence between the vines and the city of Paris hasn't always been harmonious! As construction kept going within the city limits, the vineyard shrank in size and the vines died of illness in the early 1930s. At the instigation of the République de Montmartre association (created in 1921), new vine stocks were planted by the city in 1933. Today, we can count more 1,700 over 1,556 sqm. The founders of the association have to be thanked for we owe them the Montmartre Harvest Festival, first celebrated in 1934. It takes place each year during the second weekend of October, this year from the 11th to the 15th. Expect exhibitions, concerts, tours... and even fireworks!
Montmartre un Village – tourism office
21, place du Tertre
84th celebration of the Montmartre Harvest Festival