If life without regular cheese-and-wine sessions is starting to feel a bit dull to you, we have the perfect solution: go to France! Home of Brie, Camembert and Roquefort, just to name a few, cheese is only the tip of the French gastronomy-iceberg. There are so many opportunities for foodie indulgence across the channel that we just had to make this list of our very favourites. Amazing food festivals, big and small, are happening all over France year-round. They are the perfect events to incorporate into your stay at one of our luxury French chateaux, no matter which region you choose to stay in. Read on and be tempted!
Fête de la Gastronomie (The French Cuisine Festival)
Each year since UNESCO declared France’s gastronomy to be a part of “humanity’s intangible cultural heritage”, the French government has held a nation-wide celebration of the country’s many flavours. The French Cuisine Festival takes place in late September, and during one weekend you’ll encounter everything from workshops, winery tours and product tastings to markets, foodie outings and chefs demonstrations.
These (and much more) all take place in different locations all over France. During the festival, French people travel all over the country to sample regional delicacies and restaurant chefs will often create special menus to highlight the best local produce. There are also many opportunities to learn about French cooking, as well as the art of wine-paring. For foodies, it is the perfect time to make a visit to France!
Salon du Chocolat (The Chocolate Fair), Paris
There are plenty of highlights to the Parisian winter season. One of the very best is Salon du Chocolat, at which over 700 chocolatiers, pastry chefs and confectioners from more than 60 countries gather at Porte de Versailles to put on a grand exhibition of the worlds greatest bean. Prepare to stuff your face for five glorious days in November because visitors at the chocolate fair get to taste and experience some of the best chocolate innovations in the world.
A ticket will also get you access to professional and fun workshops, tasting sessions and cooking demonstrations. With all the dedicated junior-events going on, its a dream event for families visiting Paris. As part of the Salon, there is even a fashion parade with dresses all made of – you guessed it – chocolate. At the end of the fair, the best chocolatiers of the year receive the prestigious Chocolate Award.
Les Habits de Lumière, Epernay
Epernay is known to most as the champagne capital of France. It is an endlessly charming place, and the perfect host to Les Habits de Lumière – a weekend-long event in December dedicated to celebrating the bubbly heritage of the region. The festivities include cooking demonstrations, workshops, cellar tours and champagne tastings, but these are also complemented with musical entertainment, fireworks and a big parade on Avenue de Champagne!
For its short duration, the festival truly lights up the city while making sure that the “Champagne way of life” is thoroughly celebrated. On the last day of the event, there is a special tea party for children to enjoy while parents and anyone else takes the opportunity to revel in a final taste of bubbly, sweet treats and local cheeses. Let’ just say that Les Habits is a sparkly weekend all around.
Fête de la Truffle (The Truffle Festival), Sarlat-la-Canéda
As you might have expected, the Truffle Festival of Sarlat is a long weekend in January entirely dedicated to the emblematic black Perigord truffle of the region – a true delicacy if ever there was one. The fête hosts a myriad of activities along the lines of truffle identification workshops and truffle-hunting demonstrations, and there is a big market where growers sell the very best of local produce and products.
At many of the restaurants in town, you’ll be able to try samples of truffle and foie-gras croustous, and local chefs will often host demonstrations and group cooking classes. These are perfect for those wanting to learn how to create their very own truffle-based dishes with the goods they’ve purchased at the fair. Alongside the festival, culinary students and apprentices will also be competing for the prestigious Jean Rougié Award for truffle-cooking.
La Percée du Vin Jaune Wine Festival, Jura
La Percée du Vin Jaune is a two-day festival in February which celebrates a very special type of local wine, vin jaune (“yellow wine”). A little-known speciality, vin jaune is a white wine which has matured in oak casks after fermentation. This festival held exclusively in its honour takes place in a different village every year, but its principle remains the same.
When you enter the festival with your ticket, you receive ten tasting tickets and a tasting class. You then walk around the village where winegrowers have opened their cellars to the public and will happily fill your glass and chat with you about their unique product. Music is always playing in the streets and lots of food vendors open up shop, so aside from vin jaune, you can taste many other local specialities. There are also some exiting contests for growers taking place in the friendly and welcoming festival-atmosphere.
Fête du Crabe (The Crab Festival), Audresselles
In the little fishing village of Audresselles in northern France, time appears to have stopped many decades before industrial fisheries hit the Opal Coast. Here, fishing is still a small-scale family business and a whole summer weekend is set aside each year to celebrate the locals’ favourite fresh catch: crabs. Crates and crates of crabs and shellfish are brought into town from the small fishing boats pulled onto shore, and visitors are welcome to join in the spectacular lunch and party.
There is live music (often involving bagpipes and old sea shanties) and dancing held to warm applause. Everyone’s attention is on the simple but delicious meal of freshly cooked crabs served with soft baked bread. However, if you can’t visit the area for the Crab Festival, it’s still worth popping into the authentic old town of Audresselles for an amazing seafood experience any time of year.
La Trace du Fromage (The Cheese Trail), Aveyron
La Trace du Fromage is a quintessentially French celebration of both the country’s most famed export – cheese – and the natural beauty of Aveyron’s countryside. One singe Sunday in March, anyone can take part in this organised hike making its way through the heart of the beautiful Aubrac area. On the way, you’ll be introduced to hospitable producers of local food who are happy to let you try their wares.
You’ll probably end up having many samplings of the area’s famous Laguiole cheese and of aligot, a regional classic made of mashed potatoes blended with melted cheese. Another favourite from the trail is the warming mulled wines. When the hike is completed, a two-course dinner will be served in the village of Aubrac to end a long day of exploration. There are three versions of the trail you can choose from, ranging from quite relaxed walking to a more intense hike.
Fête de Printemps (The Spring Festival), St Emilion
St Emilion’s very own Spring Festival occurs for one day in sunny June, during which everything is about celebrating the great wine and the medieval heritage found in and around the city. The event is put on by the Jurade, a historically powerful wine brotherhood in St Emilion. Reminiscent of old history, they parade through town during the festival wearing their traditional crimson robes.
In modern times, the Jurade organize wine events such as this one (where new members to the order are inducted), with the aim of sharing their delicious local wines with the world. At the Fête de Printemps visitors will encounter local arts, crafts and produce for sale, but most importantly wine tasting with a spotlight on Bordeaux reds. At the end of the harvest, the festival is followed by yet another celebration – Ban de Vendanges.
JustRosé (Fête du Vin Rose), Marsannay
Mardannay is an area best known for its red and white wines, but during the May days of JustRosé, the town is painted pink in honour of its lovely liquid blush. JustRosé is a lively festival with tons of pink experiences to discover. Mid-festival there is a pink stage area for musical performances, dances and animations to be held. There is also a fabulous gourmet food village (complete with pink menus) where visitors can get a real taste of Marsannay.
Speical art exhibitions are put on in the host city, perfect for wandering around in the afternoon. Young foodies will find a variety of family-friendly activities for kids to get involved in too, so the whole family can come along on this trip. And of course, there is lots of pink wine for you to sample and even more for you take with you and savour with a home-cooked meal.
Fête de la Fraise (The Strawberry Festival), Limousin
In the pretty Limousin town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, the juicy and delicious French strawberry is celebrated for a whole day in May each year. For this decadent event, several markets are set up in the centre of town for visitors to indulge in every form of Strawberry imaginable, and musicians roam the streets creating that wholesome atmosphere we love so much about festivals.
Strawberry-themed workshops are held by local chefs, and all kinds of sweet red treats are on offer. Kids can both indulge in the sweetness and play in the junior-areas. The highlight of the day is usually the making of the giant tart when all the bakers and patissiers in town get together and create an 8-metre wide tart filled with 800 kilograms of fresh berries. The same afternoon every visitor at the festival is offered a slice to finish off the day on a sweet note.
France has more local delicacies on offer than we could possibly fit onto this list. Whichever part of the country you choose to visit, you’re sure to run across something amazing. So, browse our full range of magnificent French properties to find your next holiday destination, or read more food blogs on Oliver’s Journal.