This is a rather experimental, but I think quite wonderful idea for a cycling and wine weekend. Everyone knows about Beaujolais Nouveau, the mad dash to get the new wine when it’s first released, but not many people know that in our beautiful corner of Southwest France we have our own top secret version, Gaillac Primeur.
In some ways it’s the same as the Beaujolais event – it’s the release of this season’s wine, which has a very particular, and to my palate, very agreeable easy-drinking taste. In other ways though it’s completely different, simply because no-one’s heard of it. There are no tourists here at that time of year, and not many people come here for the Primeur – it’s very much a local wine festival aimed at the people who live here and who love their appellation. But it also has to do with the Gaillac appellation itself. It’s the oldest in France, uses grape varieties and production methods found nowhere else, is more diverse than any other appellation, and yet is barely known in France, never mind the rest of Europe. All of this adds up to a wine festival which is as far off the beaten track as it’s possible to get, and as uncommercialised as you can imagine. It’s a real slice of French rural life, and an opportunity to visit the vineyards in party mode as well as pick up some wine that you can’t get anywhere else.
So how does cycling fit in to this? Well, one of the local clubs runs a “sportive” which does a tour of the vineyards participating in the Primeur. You pick a route of between 25 and 65km and off you go, stopping off at as many producers as you want to, tasting wine and eating food. You’ll be riding with guys from the local clubs; this isn’t an event which people travel far to ride, it’s just local riders enjoying the cycling and wine festival in the fantastic scenery this area is known for. It’s also an authentically French experience, which is getting harder and harder to find. This is not a show for tourists, it’s just local people doing what they’ve been doing for centuries. You’re not going to get fit doing this, but you’re guaranteed a great time! Cycling and wine? What’s not to like!
But what about the weather? Well you probably won’t be riding in shorts, but late autumn is a fantastic time to ride around here. Most days are sunny – and by the afternoon the temperature is usually up to around 15 degrees, sometimes more. It’s usually dry, wind is a rarity and you should catch the tail end of the spectacular autumn colours. Whatever happens it’ll be a lot nicer than riding in the UK!
We suggest you come for the weekend, but you can stay longer if you like. The highlight of the weekend will be the sportive on Sunday, but we’ll ride on Saturday too – and can organise more rides if you want to stay longer. Price is from €140 per person based on a shared room. It’s especially suitable for groups, so if you want to come with friends, get in touch and we’ll figure out a price.