In Roman times, no grapes could be harvested before the official authorization to begin picking, an edict called “lever le ban des vendanges,” to lift the banning of harveting. Today, the custom of “le ban des vendages” is respected on much less strict terms with French institutions within the Minister of Agriculture and local wine organizations conferring on a date to begin harvesting.
For the past 16 years, Avignon has celebrated the ban des vendages for the Côtes du Rhône with a festival that traverses generations: a parade through the city streets of members of wine federations dressed in ancient colorful garb – a medium age of 60 – arriving to the Cathédrale Notre Dame des Doms of the Palais des Papes for a mass blessing this year’s harvest.
Just prior to the Mass, what is dubbed as the world’s largest rock group featuring more than fifty drummers, pounds out tunes that reverberate against the stone edifices of the Palais.
After the Mass, a crowd gathers in the expansive garden above the Palais to hear proclamations lifting the ban in numerous languages followed by the ceremonial frist pressing of the grapes, a tasting of a Côtes du Rhône appellation – Rasteau this year – and a picnic at tables and on the grass, the food and three wines (see below) offered at booths for reasonable prices.
For the thousands at the picnic, it is a family affair, and the average age is now in the 35-40 range, that is until a rock group lights up the stage at 9:00 p.m. until midnight, and the demographic dips to twenty-or-thirty somethings keen on a bit of drink and canoodling.
Three Prize-Winning Vintages
Each year, the Compagnons des Côtes du Rhône conducts blind tastings by a panel to select a red, white and rosé wine from the vintages submitted by wineries located in the Côtes du Rhône. At receptions and events during the year held by the “Compagnons” including the Fête du Ban des Vendanges, these wines serve as ‘ambassadors’ for the AOC Côtes du Rhône. This year winners, which were available for sale at the Fête Saturday, are:
RED: AOC Vinsobres 2009, Cuvée Grenat, a blend of 65% Grenache, 35% Syrah. Cave La Vinsobraise, Route Départementale, Vinsobres, Tel 04 75 27 64 22, Email: email@example.com, Website
WHITE: AOC Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2010, Blend of 75% Viognier, 20% Marsanne, 5% Bourboulenc. Château Noël Saint Laurent, 1847 route de Noves, Morières les Avignon, Tel 04 90 33 32 07, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website
ROSE: AOC Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2010, Cuvée Rosélia Blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre. Chantecôtes, Cours Maurice Trintignant, Sainte Cécile les Vignes, Tel 04 90 30 83 25, Email: email@example.com, Website
A City Center Wine Appellation
The Clos de la vigne du Palais des Papes is only wine AOC in a city center in France with 554 stumps planted on terraces on the grounds around the Palais des Papes.
The AOC produces both red — varieties of Grenache and Syrah and white — varieties Grenache blanc and Viognier — wines which were offered Saturday evening at 50 euros each.
Le Ban des Vendanges Côtes du Rhône: website
Inter Rhône: website