We’ve only lived in France for 7 months and already we’re returning here to an annual event. How’s that possible? Once we had decided that Carcassonne was going to be our new hometown, we had to find a place to live. Thanks to Bill’s Internet searching skills and to the generosity of our landlords, that part was easy, although they insisted that we visit the property in-person before they would accept our rental deposit. Darn, that meant that we would have to fly over from Atlanta to France to cement the deal. I wondered at the time if there might be some kind of festival going on since we had been following the city’s website for quite a while and noticed that every weekend there seemed to be a party. How about the 2-day Fête du Vin wine festival?
Although we didn’t move over to France until the end of February 2016, we did indeed come over to Carcassonne for a couple of weeks last October to sign our lease and to become familiar with the neighborhood we had chosen. When your rental house is literally in the shadow of the castle above, you want to make sure that you know everything else that’s around you. We had a rental car for that vacation, but it often stayed parked just so that we could get used to walking around the streets that would be surrounding us, crossing a bridge on foot that had been accommodating other travelers for at least 700 years, and visiting the open air market where 3 days a week freshly-picked fruits and vegetables are on display all year long.
We also wanted to see what it would be like to be within a 15-minute walk of all sorts of fairs, festivals, concerts, demonstrations, and exhibitions that we had seen advertised on the Internet. As luck would have it, the Fête du Vin was being celebrated while we were here and guess what was going on last week, almost exactly one year later, that we attended? Once again Place Carnot, the big square in the middle of the city, was covered with tented booths packed with wine from area vineyards and knowledgeable staff, often owners, enthusiastically describing the fruit of their efforts, no pun intended. It was exciting to be around passionate people wanting to share their knowledge and their wine! The previous year we had the pleasure of splitting a bottle of wine with a vacationing Australian couple who happened to stop at the same booth as we. This year, from that same corner of the world, it was sharing 2 bottles with a delightful exchange student from New Zealand and her visiting dad. At next year’s festival if we meet someone from Tasmania, we’re going to be in trouble.
Lessons learned from last year to carry forward into the following years: 1.) Share your tastings with each other. For a nominal fee you can get a substantial tasting and last year we never made it past our first booth. This year we split one tasting at a few booths and got to sample many different wines that we’d heard of but had never tried. 2.) Be prepared to eat dinner. Lots of food, cooked on the spot, was available to go with all of that delicious wine on offer. 3.) Take an empty backpack. Many of the vintners only have their wine available at festivals like this or back at the winery and even though that might not be far from Carcassonne, without a car it’s a challenge to get there. 4.) Don’t stress over not being able to visit all of the booths. There were 30 vineyards/domaines/châteaux represented at this Fête so we’ll just have to try again next year.