Many independent wine makers in France belong to the Vignerons Independants (Independent Wine growers)club which holds consumer wine fairs across France each year. This is an opportunity to meet the winemakers, sample their wines and buy at farm-gate prices.
So there will be no co-operative wineries, those who sell all their wine to a negociant or brand wines from multi-nationals or supermarkets. Entry charges are minimal (or free if you get an invite from a vineyard) – and they are arranged in a random way, so rather than all the wines from one region being concentrated in one corner, they are spread out so that a Champagne grower may be next to one from the Loire or Provence. Great to discover vineyards or regions previously unknown to you – but harder work if you are only interested in one appellation.
You are given an engraved glass on entry, but there is no limit on the number of wines you may sample (other than your capacity for alcohol) and over many years I have only seen one person clearly drunk! There are usually stalls selling filled baguettes (ham/cheese etc) – so you do not have to drink on an empty stomach.
It is probably best to ensure that you take a non-driver with you, and there are improving facilities enabling you to collect your purchases by car.
Plan which stands you want to visit ( get a catalogue on entry or check the list of exhibitors online) and make a note of any stand numbers where you purchase – you can often leave your wine on the stand to collect at the end of your visit. NEW – you can download a list of exhibitors at
Many winemakers speak English – and welcome some feedback on their wines – even if it is just a gesture to indicate pleasure or disgust – they are not expecting an erudite evaluation of all the nuances of their wines.
I tend to make a date with the Lille Wine Fair (in November) as it is easy to get to from the UK by car or Eurostar and the exhibition hall (Le Grand Palais) is in walking distance of the station and city centre hotels such as the Novotel Lille Centre Gares, ideally situated for both the Wine Fair and the city centre bars, restaurants and shopping!
ALL DATES are tentative and subject to cancellation whilst the Covid 19 pandemic lasts!!
Previous dates include:
- 24 – 26 January 2020 Rennes (Brittany)
- 14 – 17 February 2020 Strasbourg (Grand Est)
- 6 – 8 March 2020 Lyon (ARA)
- 13 – 15 March 2020 Bordeaux (Nouvelle Aquiataine) POSTPONED
- 20- 23 March 2020 Paris (75 Paris, Ile de France) POSTPONED
- 3- 5 April 2020 Mandelieu(PACA)
- 24 – 26 April 2020 Baltard (Nogent-s r-Marne)(Ile de France)
- 17 – 19 May 2020 Organic wines Salon Nature et Vins Paris
- 18 – 20 October 2019 Clermont Ferrand (ARA)2020 POSTPONED
- 30 October – 4 November 2019 Lyon (ARA) 2020 POSTPONED
- 8 – 11 November 2019 Reims (Grand Est) 2020 POSTPONED
- 15 – 18 November 2019 Lille (Hauts de France) 2020 POSTPONED
- 28 November – 1 December 2019 Paris (Ile de France) 2020 POSTPONED
For more info see www.vigneron-independant.com/
Domaine Octavie for Touraine Sauvignon
Domaine des Huards, Cheverny
Chateau Eugenie, Cahors
Chateau d’Aydie, Madiran
Chateau Gibalaux-Bonnet, Minervois
Chateau Ricardelle, Coteaux du Languedoc
By train TGV to Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Lyon…… with Rail Europe