Whether you’re an educated oenophile or a social sipper, wine festivals provide an unparalleled opportunity to sample vintages and varietals from Old and New World producers. While many of the globe’s top wine festivals coincide with the all-important fall harvest season, you’ll find opportunities year-round to get to know your grapes and learn from passionate local winemakers. From North America to South Africa to Down Under, tour the terroir of some of the world’s tastiest wine regions during these annual festivals.
Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
While South Australia and New South Wales are best known for warm-climate varietals like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia’s Victoria region has a diverse terroir and a number of unique micro-climates, which is perhaps why it’s home to more individual wineries than any other state in the country.
Each year, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival takes over the region with a state-wide celebration hosted in various locales across Victoria. Head Down Under in mid-March to check out hundreds of wine-focused events and gastronomical activities, including long-table lunches, urban winemaker picnics, hands-on workshops with local sommeliers, food-and-drink crawls and much more.
The Fêtes des Vendanges
Ever since it first launched in 1934, Paris’ annual Fêtes des Vendanges (Grape Harvest Festival) is a highlight in the City of Lights for locals and tourists alike. The annual celebration marks the harvest at Vignes du Clos Montmartre, a petite urban vineyard in the 18th Arrondissement in Paris’ charming Montmarte neighbourhood.
The longstanding neighbourhood vineyard produces only 1,500 half-litre bottles of Gamay and Pinot Noir each year, most of which are sold as collectors’ items or auctioned off for local charities. During the festival period, Montmartre’s narrow streets are filled with thousands of visitors who descend on the area to attend exhibitions, parades, wine tastings, artisan markets and concerts. The multi-day celebration ends with a spectacular firework display over the city’s iconic Sacré-Coeur monument.
Okanagan Wine Festivals
British Columbia, Canada
As one of Canada’s largest wine producing regions, the Okanagan Valley is home to more than 200 vineyards and four seasonal festivals that take place throughout the year, the largest being in early October to coincide with the peak of the harvest season.
The Autumn edition of the Okanagan Wine Festival features 10-days of oenophile-friendly events celebrating the best of the region’s wine culture. Highlights include wine tastings, culinary competitions, awards ceremonies, educational seminars and grape-stomping parties.
Want to learn more about Okanagan wine? Read our post about wine touring through the Okanagan.
Wine, food, art and community come together at this annual celebration in the romantic town of Verona, Italy. Hosted each year in April, Vinitaly is a comprehensive Italian wine trade fair and is widely considered one of the premier wine events in Europe, if not the world. The event has been running since 1967 and features a number of master classes, competitions and exhibitions that attract serious sommeliers, buyers and industry types, but also offers a variety of popular consumer events, tastings and cultural experiences for the more casual vino-loving attendees.
Napa Valley Harvest
Northern California’s storied wine country is the place to be from August through October when the Napa Valley harvest season ushers in a series of festive events across the region. Those who want to get in on the action – and don’t mind getting a little messy – can visit one of the many regional wineries to enjoy an afternoon of grape stomping.
Throughout the harvest season, vineyards across Napa invite visitors to participate in winemaking demos, vineyard tours, tastings and provide opportunities for wine lovers to squeeze and stomp ripe grapes to release their juices and get them ready for fermentation.
In mid-September, V. Sattui Winery’s annual Harvest Ball is one of the most coveted tickets in town. The chic black-tie soiree, now in its 35th year, includes a multi-course dinner prepared by the winery’s own Michelin Star Chef paired with top-tier wines, live music, and a late-night ‘After Party’ with dancing and gourmet small plates in the underground barrel cellar below the winery.
Niagara Ice Wine Festival
Those who aren’t afraid of the cold, can escape to a wine-themed winter wonderland each January during the Niagara Icewine Festival. This Ontario winemaking region is renowned for its sweet Icewine and honours its harvest season each winter over three weekends of wine tastings, culinary pairing events, outdoor street festivals and the elegant Niagara Icewine Festival Gala.
The uniquely Canadian festival attracts wine-lovers from around the world and spotlights dozens of local vineyards that range from large-scale producers like Inniskillin, Peller Estates and Jackson-Triggs to smaller boutique vineyards in the cold-climate wine region.
South Wairarapa, New Zealand
If you fancy a wine festival that’s a little quirky and off-the-beaten-track, Toast Martinborough might be just the ticket. The small-town tasting festival takes place each year on the third Sunday in November in the village of Martinborough located about 90 minutes east of New Zealand’s capital Wellington.
The one-day event has a strong community feel and invites guests to walk (or take a complimentary shuttle bus) between eight to 10 small-scale vineyards and boutique wineries throughout the town. Each stop features wine tasting events, nibbles from on-site caterers and food trucks, and live bands providing entertainment.
International Pinot Noir Celebration
Pinot Noir enthusiasts flock to picturesque McMinnville the heart of Oregon wine country each year to sample their favourite grape at the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). Held annually on the last weekend in July, the festival puts this much-loved red wine grape varietal in the spotlight and showcases more than 70 wineries from around the world.
The full weekend schedule includes tastings, seminars, vineyard tours, and a must-see outdoor Salmon Bake, during which wild salmon filets are roasted on alder stakes over a large custom-built fire pit. More of a white wine fan? The IPNC also hosts a one-day Oregon Chardonnay Celebration each year in February featuring a seminar and Grand Tasting event featuring Chardonnay samples from more than 40 Oregon producers.
Prefer beer? Check out 5 Beer Festivals from Around the World.
Note: Wherever your passion for wine takes you, get informed— find out why alcohol and travel insurance don’t mix.