The team from DiscoverVin were lucky enough to be in Bordeaux for the 2012 Fete le Vin. Held every 2 years - this year between the 28th of June and 1st July 2012 - it was a massive wine event.
Temporary marquees were constructed on the renovated quays next to the Garonne River in central Bordeaux. With a backdrop of the architectural splendour of this UNESCO world heritage city, it was a spectacular space to hold a festival.
Entry was free to wander around, but in order to taste one had to buy a "tasting pass" which consisted of a booklet with a series of coupons (cost 18 euros or about $21 at the time we bought tickets). With these tickets we could get a taste of wine from each marquee, plus there were a couple of spares to enable us to get some extra tastes at our favourite stands. Each marquee showed the wines from a group of appellations e.g Médoc/Haut Médoc or Saint Émilion/Pomerol.
You could come and go as you pleased over 4 days. This meant, for example, you could spend your day wandering or shopping in the maze of streets and squares of old Bordeaux, and then pop down to the festival, or go to the oyster market for Sunday brunch and then over to the festival, or a quick taste at the festival before heading out to dinner, or even going down to the quays after dinner for a taste and to watch the the fireworks!
As well as the wine stands there was a wine school giving structured tastings (you could queue at certain times to get in which seemed easy enough to do) some trade displays, food stalls, temporary restaurants, a wine library, tall ships docked at the quays, ferries to catch, and art displays. In the neighbouring Place des Quinconces were a series of concerts for an additional cost - classical, jazz and rock all given air time.
Here is a video recently released by Bordeaux Wine:
Our only criticisms were that several of the servers seemed less than knowledgeable about the wines they were serving (they looked perplexed if technical questions were asked and no - it wasn't our French. A question about which grape variety was used was greeted with an embarrassed looking "mmm ..... not sure" or a shrug of the shoulders on more than one occasion). And at peak times it was exceptionally busy - the stands could have been enlarged easily it seemed. Lastly, perhaps some more expensive wines could be served even if we had to pay more for the opportunity ($21 for all this was very cheap!).
In all the crowds were happy, convivial and calm. We saw no evidence of drunkenness or misbehaviour which apparently was reported as a problem in 2010 and was a concern of the organisers prior to this year's festival (and as a result the sizes of each wine pour had been reduced in 2012).
As an introduction to the architectural and cultural wonders of Bordeaux the city and to Bordeaux wines, this would make a fabulous few days in late June 2014!
One of the highlights each night was a massive fireworks display and amazing sound and light show projected onto the stunning buildings in Place de la Bourse. More on that in our next blog and video.