8 Wine Festivals Worth Traveling For

A good day means a glass of wine with dinner; a great day includes a tasting menu with wine pairings; and something really special—well, that’s when the words “wine festival” come into play. From exclusive tastings to rowdy bacchanals, we’ve picked eight noteworthy wine celebrations that aren’t to be missed—including several planned for this summer.

Bordeaux Fête le Vin
With a classification system that rivals the U.S. tax code for complexity and even more intimidating prices, Bordeaux isn’t generally known for its user-friendly wines. The Bordeaux Wine Festival—featuring a two-kilometer “Wine Road” winding along the Garonne river—aims to change all that. This bacchanal-for-the-masses showcases wines from the region’s major appellations in one easy-to-drink place, complete with tasting pavilions, wine workshops, outdoor reading rooms, and concerts. The Bordelaise fête is held every two years in June, with the next set for 2016. If you’re impatient or prefer something a little higher-end, get your Bordeaux fix at Burdigala, a Manhattan wine dinner. Or, better yet, snag one of the 1,000 or so highly coveted invites to the Commanderie du Bontemps' annual Fête de la Fleur, timed to the flowering of the vine's small white lillies, signaling the harvest season's imminent arrival. Hosted this year on June 18 at Château Montrose's restored barrell cellar, the festivities—organized by a 350-member fraternity of regional winemakers—coincide with the 200th anniversary of the historic French vineyard, which recently completed seven years of renovations. Another lavish ceremony, garden party, and dinner (likely prepped by a Michelin-starred chef) are to be expected. 

La Nuit en Rosé
Drink pink during this three-day, tri-city festival dedicated exclusively to rosé wines and champagne. The New York version of “Nuit en Rosé” (hosted this year on June 25–27)—which also takes place in Los Angeles and Miami—features a four-course dinner paired with Château d’Esclans and a weekend of sunset cruises on the Hudson, each with a selection of over one hundred rosé wines. It’s rosé's moment in the sun—and more specifically, the gently setting sun, bathing Manhattan’s skyline and river in the same coral, pink, and blush hues of the wines themselves. Pink sunglasses provided. nuitrose.com

Batalla del Vino de Haro
Not for wine purists or the faint of heart, the Batalla del Vino—literally “Wine Fight”—is more of an excuse to wear wine than drink it. Held annually in the quaint medieval town of Haro in Rioja each June (this year from June 28–30), the spraying, pitching, and guzzling of wine continues day and night, as water trucks filled with wine cruise the streets helping people in need of refills. Squirt guns are more likely to be found than decanters, and the event evokes a kind of running-of-the-bulls for vino tinto. Best paired with a (more low-key) tour of Rioja’s top wineries. wine-fight.com.

International Pinot Noir Celebration
Held in a small Oregon town hailed as the “Beaune of the New World,” IPNC takes Pinot appreciation to new extremes. The food—think fresh Pacific Northwest fare and a salmon bake under the stars—would be enough to lure some. But make no mistake: these people are here for the Pinot. Starting at 9 A.M. each day, attendees tour Willamette Valley wineries; hone their tasting technique in guided seminars; and immerse themselves in a series of geology-, history-, chemistry-focused courses called “University of Pinot.” The three-day event is held annually in July. Get ready for the 2015 edition on July 24–26. 800-775-4762; ipnc.org.

La Paulée
For nearly a century, Burgundy’s winemakers have celebrated the end of the grape harvest with a trio of wine-soaked events so legendary, they’re known as “Les Trois Glorieuses.” The black-tie dinner, standing-room-only auction, and winemaker lunch (which lasts the better part of a day) are held each November in the Cote d’Or. But while they’re invitation-only, don’t despair: The French tradition has inspired an even more elaborate stateside version that features the same formidable producers and bottles during a week’s worth of events. The wine tastings and lavish feasts culminate in the world’s most famous BYOB dinner, where collectors raid their cellars for top “treasures” to share over dishes prepared by Michelin-star chefs. Alternating between New York and San Francisco, Burg-hounds swear there’s no better place to taste Burgundy’s best bottles—including the region itself. 212-625-2519; lapaulee.com

La Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia
For ten days each March, Mendoza erupts in a Carnaval-like celebration of the grape harvest. There is wine tasting, to be sure—but also grape blessing, music playing, folkloric dancing, laser shows, and more than a few parades. One such promenade fetes the coronation of a new “Queen of the Grape Harvest,” with the vinous monarch selected from women nominated by each of the region’s eighteen departments. Other fiesta-goers look forward to the “Acto Central,” a sensory-overload performance featuring hundreds of actors and dancers in a cornucopia of lights, colors, and fireworks. Argentina’s wine capital puts on a spectacle that pairs perfectly with a glass of Malbec and adventurous attitude. vendimia.mendoza.gov.ar.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine
Pebble Beach might not be as famous for vineyards as its northern cousin, Napa, but each April, the California town becomes a magnet for the world’s top makers and drinkers of fine wine. The four-day food and wine festival features pleasures for every palate—from seminars on Chateau Margaux and Domaine Faiveley, to crash courses on sauvignon blanc and assyrtikos. Other sessions give you a chance to learn blind tasting with Master Sommeliers, or experience a “champagne epiphany” with help from Krug and Ruinart. Still thirsty? The festival’s Grand Tasting brings together tongue-tantalizing wines from over 300 vintners and 30 world-renowned chefs. 866-907-3663; pbfw.com

The brainchild of Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, this artisan wine fair seeks to celebrate what it calls “wines with emotion” —or, “Wines that have a humanlike, or living, presence.” The festival, held each May in London, features over 150 producers from around the world. Any and all wine served must conform to RAW’s “Charter of Quality,” which includes specifications on hand harvesting grapes, eco-friendly farming techniques, and foregoing manipulation during the winemaking process. These so-called “natural” wines have been alternately touted and dismissed as either excellent or over-hyped. Let your tastes buds decide for themselves by exploring RAW’s wines and nibbling bites from London’s best chefs as you sip. rawfair.com.


Image Credit: Courtesy of Pebble Beach Food & Wine