Harvest Season in Bordeaux Wine Country

How to experience harvest in Bordeaux? Wineries, festivals and more...

Harvest season, or “vendanges” as the French call it, is an exciting time in Bordeaux.  In my opinion, harvest is the best time to visit wineries.

You will see wine estates “in action”: picking, sorting, pressing and fermentation.

Bordeaux wineries are particularly interesting to see during harvest as they go through a rigorous selection process only allowing the best healthy berries into their wines.  

Bordeaux winemakers are also extremely precise on picking grapes in the right moment in time.  Picking times vary plot by plot, depend on grape variety and weather.

Ripe Merlot in St. Emilion

What Month Are Grapes Harvested in Bordeaux?

Bordeaux wineries usually start harvesting grapes in the month of September.  You have the best chance to see a harvest in Bordeaux between mid-September and mid-October.  White grapes in the regions of Pessac-Leognan/Graves and Entre-deux-Mers ripen about two weeks earlier.  Harvesting in the region of Sauternes continues to late November and early December.

These harvest dates are only approximate, as many factors go into determining the harvest date as grape growers will want to pick at the optimal time which changes depending on the weather during each growing season.

Due to climate change, winemakers are having to pick their grapes earlier than ever before. Recently, some Bordeaux wineries start their harvest as early as the middle or end of August. 

Best Season to Visit Bordeaux Wineries

Also, see my article about Visiting Bordeaux in September.

Young wine tasting at Château La Gaffeliere

Can I Visit Wineries During Harvest in Bordeaux?

In general, Bordeaux wineries accept visitors during the harvest season even though access to some production areas may be limited. However, you may find that some châteaux are closed during the grape picking and winemaking.  

You can search for Bordeaux wineries available during harvest time in the Bordeaux Wineries Catalog with a Map.

I often get asked about visiting Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild during harvest time.  If you plan to visit these wineries, book your wine tours well in advance and avoid the August to October time frame.

What to Expect on a Bordeaux Wine Tour During Harvesting?

There is a lot to see during your Bordeaux winery visits in September and October. You will likely see workers in the fields cutting the grapes and carrying bushels, tractors and trucks transporting large containers of harvested grapes, workers sorting berries, and huge vats full of fermenting juice.  

Most top wineries in Bordeaux practice hand-picking to avoid damage to precious berries.  Plus, pickers reject damaged bunches or those affected by the disease helping to collect the highest quality grapes. 

Harvesting starts in the early morning hours in an effort to keep berries cool and avoid unwanted oxidation and fermentation.  Harvesting stops during rainy days due to risks of rotting and juice dilution.

As you visit Bordeaux chateaux in September and October, you may see grape destemming, sorting, crushing, fermenting, punching down and pumping over.  Some of these processes are loud and messy, but very interesting.  Beware of pump hoses all around the winery floors.  You may be rewarded by tasting some 3-day-old Cabernet Sauvignons.

My favorite part is seeing winemakers at work – constantly tasting juice, meticulously analyzing the chemical content of grapes from each plot, and deciding on the ideal time to pick berries.  

Sorting line is ready for work at Château Beauregard, Pomerol

Can I Experience Grape Harvesting in Bordeaux?

Even during the harvest season, there may be days where harvesting stops due to rainy weather.  Besides harvesting is done at an optimal time which can be different for every plot of land and grape variety.  Things like weekends, lack of workers or overflown facilities can be a factor sometimes as well.  

That is to say that harvesting does not take place continuously during the harvest season.  

Many of my wine tour clients are interested in the grape picking experience.  It appears that due to insurance and labor laws in France winemakers are reluctant to allow volunteers in their vineyards.  From my own experience, the task of picking grapes is very hard in hot conditions gets you tired very quickly.

However, some wineries invite you to enjoy their harvesting experiences in various formats.  

Grape sorting at Chateau Beausejour Becot, Saint-Emilion

Which Bordeaux Wineries Offer Harvest Experience?

Harvesting at Chateau Gruaud Larose

At harvest time, Château Gruaud Larose opens its doors to witness the birth of its wine. A lunch in the company of a hundred grape pickers is preceded by an in-depth visit of the vineyard, a tasting of the different grape varieties, a tasting of the must, as well as the first and second wine. 

Château Mangot offers a unique harvest day experience at the end of September for visitors to explore the vineyards, taste the grapes, and tour the cellars. As a way to celebrate the harvest, visitors can tour the vineyards and watch the workers up close as they harvest grapes. The experience ends with a buffet meal and a tasting workshop.

Chateau du Payre, Entre-Deux-Mers

Château du Payre offers visitors the opportunity to adopt a row of vines. Before your visit, choose your vines online and give them a fun name. Throughout the year you will receive updates from the winery about the growing progress. Then, during the last weekend of September, head to Bordeaux to participate in a grape harvest workshop at the estate where you will be able to help pick your grapes. 

During your visit enjoy a guided tour and tasting with the winemaker. The experience also includes a discovery box with six bottles from the winery and a local meal at the estate. You can stay in one of the beautiful chateau rooms.

Pressing at Chateau Gruaud Larose in Saint-Julien

Grape Harvest Celebrations in Bordeaux

The Harvest Festival In Bordeaux

This four-day event occurs at the beginning of September, although dates do vary each year, to celebrate the start of the harvest season in Bordeaux. Located in the Triangle d’Or district, visitors can expect jazz concerts, wine-making workshops from producers, and an extended terrace featuring local restaurants that allow you to taste different Bordeaux wines.

“Ban des Vendanges” In Saint-Émilion

In many wine regions in France, there is a decreed date that winemakers are authorized to start their harvest. Anything earlier than that date is not allowed. 

Near Bordeaux, you can witness this event in Saint-Émilion where the Ban des Vendange Festival is put on to celebrate the start of the harvest. 

Ban des Vendanges in Saint-Emilion ceremony takes place around mid-September.  Check the exact dates here.


Culmination of the Harvest Ban in Saint-Émilion

Can I Stay at a Bordeaux Winery During Harvest?

I think staying at a vineyard during harvest is a great idea if you do not mind to be disturbed by tractors and grape pickers in the surrounding vineyards.

See my recommendations for Bordeaux winery stays on the Right Bank, on the Left Bank and in Sauternes.

What to Wear to Bordeaux Wineries During Harvest?

Pumping over at Château Gruaud Larose in September

There is no dress code at Bordeaux wineries, however during harvest, I would recommend avoiding white clothes and nice shoes.  There is wine everywhere inside the wineries.  Perhaps, it is best to wear a comfy closed-toe pair.

See more on What to Wear for a Wine Tour in France.

Saint-Émilion in September
Picture of Polina Spirova

Polina Spirova

A sommelier and an experienced wine tour guide, I travel across Europe, collecting the best wineries to visit, best places to stay and eat.

I organize Bordeaux wine tours.

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Where to Stay in Bordeaux?

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Enjoy your time in Bordeaux!

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