Fall is one of the best seasons to visit Provence. Temperatures hover at a comfortable level, harvests reach their peak, and prices plummet. There are many deals to be found during “shoulder season”—those off-peak periods when the crowds have thinned and the weather is still fine.
Not a month goes by in Provence that’s absent some celebration of food or wine, and the fall line-up is especially enticing. Here are several to consider if you’ll be traveling to Provence in the fall.
Grape harvest: Fall is the time for “vendanges,” or grape harvesting. If your back is strong and your fingers nimble, try volunteering at a vineyard and picking for a day or two. This is serious business at wine-growing estates around the Côtes du Rhone, the Luberon, and the Ventoux. The exact timing of when vineyards start and finish picking is difficult to pin down far in advance, as it depends on the grapes’ ripeness and temperature conditions. The harvest usually begins in late August—kicking off with the Ban des Vendanges (Harvest Proclamation) in Avignon—and continues through most of October.
Wine celebrations: Alternatively, spare your back and head to one of the many grape harvest celebrations held throughout Provence. For example, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has a day of activities planned for September 24, 2016 at Domaine Château Jas de Bressy. The charming fishing port of Cassis, near Marseille, is hosting Les Vendanges Étoilées de Cassis from Sept. 23-25, 2016. The program includes cooking demonstrations and wine tastings. Avignon is home to the spirited Millévin, an annual celebration of the new vintage, on November 17, 2016 (traditionally the third Thursday in November). You can sample the new wines at the indoor market Halles d’Avignon, and continue in the afternoon on Place de l’Horloge and that evening at participating restaurants that feature special Côtes du Rhône menus. A Wine & Chocolate Festival takes place each November in the village of Rasteau, between Séguret and Cairanne. In 2016, it’s slated for November 5-6, 2016.
Gastronomy festivals: Every fall, Vaison-la-Romaine hosts Rencontres Gourmandes, a 2-day extravaganza of cooking workshops and tastings. The festival is attended by chefs, local producers, and gourmands of all stripes. The grand finale is a Soup Festival in Vaison. Villages around Vaison and Mont Ventoux put forward their best ladles of tasty soup. Everyone is invited to taste them, and a jury determines which are best. The 2016 dates for the Rencontres Gourmandes are October 21-23.
Another opportunity to celebrate a range of local foods and wines is Festival Ventoux Saveurs from Sept. 16-Oct 30, 2016.
Seasonal produce celebrations: There’s a festival devoted to nearly every major crop grown in Provence. In fall, think Muscat grapes (annual festival the 3rd weekend of September in Ville-sur-Auzon), rice, spelt (the festival known as la Fête Médiévale du Petit Épeautre occurs in Monieux the first Sunday of September), mushrooms (a festival the second Sunday of October in St. Trinit), and more. It’s fun to join the locals as they celebrate the bounty of their land.
The highly anticipated black truffle season opens mid-November, kicked off by the Truffle Harvest Proclation celebration in Richerenches (Nov. 19, 2016). Come late November and December, a whole new crop of festivities start taking place with attention shifting to Christmas markets and santon fairs…that’s a whole other market basket of goodies…stay tuned!