The harvest is an intense time of year, when winemakers "work 18 hours a day and sleep four hours a night," according to François Faiveley, of the Nuits-Saint-Georges winery in Burgundy. Yet some winemakers are so excited at the prospect of a great vintage that they somehow squeeze in a few extra hours for harvest festivities. For visitors looking to stomp grapes, eat seasonal regional foods, gaze on golden autumn light on rows of vines, hang with the locals and feel the thrill of the crush, here are some places around the globe to taste the first fruits of the harvest before the grape juice disappears into barrels.
Alsace is the rare French wine region that enthusiastically celebrates the harvest. It also scores over Bordeaux and Burgundy's Côte d'Or in the dreamlike beauty of its landscape: the vineyards share the slopes of the Vosges mountains with a national park and half-timbered Germanic villages that are instantly familiar from fairy-tale illustrations. Though proudly French, this province speaks a German dialect called Allemanisch and drinks German-inflected Sylvaner, Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines from tall, narrow bottles.
Celebrations revolve around the sweet, cloudy fermenting wine called neia-siassa in Allemanisch. Two big street parties will take place in the village of Barr on the weekend of October 1 to 3, and in nearby Obernai from October 16 to 17. Head for the center of town, which will be blocked off to traffic, then pay a modest 15 francs for a glass and drink your fill while nibbling on nuts, bacon and the onion tarts that are also popular across the border in Germany. Folk music and dancing satisfy the French love of dressing up.