Ronde des Primeurs - Wine Festival Gaillac
What is La Ronde des Primeurs?
A few weeks ago my friends in the Gaillac Rambling Club asked me for a translation of La Ronde Des Primeurs.
Four little words and me a professional translator (retd).... Pouf! Pas de problème.
Well, two of the words gave me no difficulties at all – ‘la’ the, and ‘des’ of the – but ‘Ronde’ and ‘Primeurs’?
That was another story.
A ‘Ronde’ has got nothing to do with circuits but is a kind of country dance, a rondo, a round dance.
There is something distinctly bucolic and celebratory about it, perhaps even faintly Dionysian, which in the context is not so far off the mark.
However, the 'Primeurs' of La Ronde des Primeurs are not early spring fruit and vegetables but wine.
It is indeed the first pressing of the year, young, cheeky and one of the specialties of the Gaillac Appellation.
La Ronde des Primeurs - A walk among the vineyards of Gaillac
Indeed, it can only be drunk from the 3rd weekend in November onward and really should be gone by springtime.
The red is made exclusively from the Gamay grape; the white are a blend of Muscadelle, Loin de l’Oeil and Sauvignon.
However, not all the Gaillac vignerons make a Primeur.
And there are those who label it, somewhat cynically, as the ‘wine for the accountants.’
That said, whatever your opinion, the launch of the Primeur is an excuse for a four days of partying!
So, three paragraphs later I am approaching not so much a translation as an explanation of La Ronde des Primeurs.
Put prosaically La Ronde des Primeurs is a jolly long walk through the countryside around Gaillac stopping at various vineyards on the way to taste the new wine.
Depending on the weather it is good fun, better fun or best fun (a bit like the quality of the Primeurs).
There's a choice of two circuits, one of 16 km and one of 22 km.
Each of the circuits has four vineyards where the happy ramblers can rest and refresh themselves on their dance through woods and fields and vines.
Organising La Ronde des Primeurs
Every year a different village is chosen as base.
In 2014, it was my village of Cahuzac-sur-Vère, which, as every Cahuzacois knows is the epicentre of the Gaillac appellation anyway.
Shepherding nearly 2000 people round the Gaillac countryside takes some organising!
Indeed, the members of the local hiking club - Gaillac Rando started planning the event months in advance.
They chose the two circuits, liaised with the vineyard owners who wanted to take part.
They then checked the circuits in order to decide where marshals might be needed.
They planted little arrows all along the way to make doubly sure people wouldn't get lost (and you’d be surprised).
Finally, they got the Salle des Fêtes (village hall) ready where La Ronde des Primeurs started and finished.
La Ronde des Primeurs - Wine Festival day
Year after year this is how La Ronde des Primeurs works:
From 8am on the 1st day, visitors start to pour in from all over the region.
Organizers collect the modest entrance fee of 4€ inside the Salle des Fêtes.
They give out maps, sell gobelets - well, you can hardly go wine tasting without your gobelet!
Each participant gets a bracing cup of coffee, a slice of brioche and an apple to see them on their way and then they’re off.
There are some pretty serious walkers among them, some are even jogging it!
Some of the energetic ones are back barely two and a half hours after starting.
Others are just out for the sheer fun of it.
The last ones drift in footsore, but cheerful at half past three in the afternoon just in time for the raffle.
In the afternoon, the Salle de Fêtes is full of stalls selling local produce.
There is wine (of course), cheeses, hams and sausages, foie gras, virgin oils, saffron, crepes and hundreds of little cakes made by local ladies.
The Mayor, attended by several of his assistants, pays the festival a visit, faces wreathed with smiles.
The after party
Finally, the last ‘rondeur’ wends his weary way and it's time to clear up.
This includes going right round both circuits and removing all the little arrows and ribbons.
However, it all ends with a feast.
The tables are set with apéros (aperitif) and then hunks of bread and pâté and sausage and a delicious main dish.
Finally, there are exquisite cakes to round it all off and lashings of Primeur to wash it all down.
Department of Tarn
Coordinates Gaillac: Lat 43.901816 - Long 1.896506
Related article: Gaillac Wine Festival
Credits: Photos and Text by Helene Barratt Les Heures Claires - Article edited by and for travelfranceonline.com