The harvest is the culmination of the grapevine cycle, when the fruits that will give rise to the wines we appreciate so much are gathered. It’s a millennia-old tradition that dates back to civilizations that celebrated the end of the harvest with rituals and festivities, marking the beginning of wine production.
Today, the harvest remains a special occasion for grape growers and winemakers, as well as wine lovers who can enjoy a unique experience and take part in exciting activities. Each wine region has its own celebration, but they all offer a wide range of activities for all ages.
In this opportunity, we invite you to some of the harvest festivals in four European wine tourism destinations: Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal.
In Italy, the harvest festivals have their origins in ancient rituals, such as those honoring the god Bacchus in Ancient Rome. One famous celebration is the Festa dell’Uva in Impruneta, in the historic Chianti Classico area of Tuscany, where grape harvesting dates back to Etruscan times. On the last Sunday of September, there is a parade of carts decorated with grape clusters competing for the best design award. There are also tastings, concerts, performances, and a craft market.
In Marino, a small town in the Castelli Romani region of Lazio, water from the fountains is replaced with wine during the Sagra dell’Uva. The celebrations begin on the first Sunday of October and commemorate the victory of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 by Marcantonio Colonna.
The Asti Harvest Festival in Piedmont, the home of the famous Asti Spumante wine, is one of the oldest in the country. It features a historical parade with 3,000 participants dressed in medieval costumes and a horse-drawn cart race called Palio di Asti.
In the heart of Piedmont lies Alba, famous for its white truffles, where Barolo and Barbaresco wines reach their peak of excellence. In mid-September, Alba lights up with a celebration that pays tribute not only to the harvest but also to the truffle culture.
In the sunny land of La Rioja, the harvest turns into a festival of passion and folklore. Harvesting usually starts in mid-September and ends in early November. During this time, several harvest festivals take place, such as San Mateo in Logroño on September 21st, the city’s patron saint day. It includes food tastings, parades, a bullfighting fair, concerts, and dances.
Another important Rioja festival is in Haro, celebrated on September 29th, featuring a mass, a procession, a symbolic grape stomping, and a grape juice tasting.
In Jerez de la Frontera, while the Harvest Festivals revolve around wine, they also encompass other cultural aspects characteristic of the region. The Feria del Caballo, for example, offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the distinctive wines of Jerez. Horses, flamenco dancing, and sherry come together for an exceptional experience of tradition, elegance, and authenticity.
France boasts some of the world’s most prestigious wine regions, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne. Harvesting typically occurs from late August to early October, depending on the weather and grape ripening.
In early October, the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre celebrates the only remaining vineyard in Paris. Activities include a symbolic grape cutting, a parade of wine brotherhoods, the blessing and auction of new wine, concerts, street performances, and a grand final dance.
The charming medieval village of Saint-Émilion, in the Bordeaux region, is famous for its world-class wines. For several days in September, its cobbled streets come alive with joyful celebrations. Members of the winemakers’ guild called the ‘Jurade’, dressed in red robes and white capes, parade through the village, climb the church tower, and announce the start date of the harvest. Surrounding vineyards host a spectacular ceremonial harvest, followed by a procession to the town, where freshly harvested grapes are blessed. Visit
ors can participate in wine tastings, workshops, and vineyard tours. The combination of architectural beauty, winemaking excellence, and French culture authenticity makes this festival an incomparable experience.
One of the most emblematic regions is the Douro Valley, with its famous Port wine. There, the grape harvest takes place from early September to late October. During this time, several festivals are celebrated, such as the Festa das Vindimas in Lamego, in early September, which features a pilgrimage, a procession, an ethnographic parade, and fireworks. The Douro Valley grape harvest festival creatively combines a passion for wine, gastronomy, and the seventh art. The events include presentations, talks, film screenings, and awards, as well as wine tastings at various locations in the region.
Also worth mentioning are the grape harvest festivals in Palmela, in the Setúbal region, and the famous Madeira wine festival in the Madeira archipelago, which takes place in September, where old winemaking traditions are revived. Grapes are handpicked and placed in wicker baskets to be transported to the winepress, where local winemakers, following tradition, crush the grapes with their bare feet.
Participate in the grape harvest
As you immerse yourself in these wonderful wine regions to enjoy their ancient festivals, wine, and gastronomy, keep in mind that many wineries offer visitors the opportunity to participate in hands-on experiences, from picking or stomping grapes alongside locals to soaring over the sites in a hot air balloon. Autumn is an ideal season to go out and celebrate wine.
Embark on a new wine adventure during this grape harvest season. At Viavinum, we are experts in designing wine travel and wine tourism experiences in these four European destinations.