Festivini: cultural wine festival in Saumur, Loire Valley

At Festivini, which runs from June to September, gastronomes and wine lovers will be in their element around Saumur in the Loire Valley. A plethora of wine-themed activities are organised in the heart of summer – and over the 17 weeks, there are numerous opportunities to put the local seven appellations of origin (AOCs) in the spotlight.

Vineyard hikes, horseback rides through the chateau estate, recreational workshops around wine development, historical heritage scenography: Festivini, wine festival of Saumur, offers many activities around wine. Here are a few ideas.

Royal Abbey of Fontevraud

The opening of the cultural season in the vineyard is marked by a magical 8 June: a plunge into the world of Alice in Wonderland. It’ll be a true metamorphosis of the abbey with a show, a light display and other artistic surprises – and with a musical aperitif, dinner and a tasting of the 7 AOC Saumur wines, this jewel of architecture and national heritage will be shown off to its very best.

Dreamlike fantasy is also the focus of artist Delphine Vaute, creator of Festivini’s poster, who depicts her original and poetic vision of the event through this and a series of labels for Fontevraud La Cuvée. She also contributes to a moving exhibition at the Terrace Gourmande of the Royal Abbey from June onwards.

Sunday in the countryside with lunch al fresco

A barbecue is on offer to visitors who want to learn about the latest vintage of appellation ‘Saumur Puy Notre Dame’. Everyone brings a picnic and winemakers are on hand with drinks. ‘Sortie de Chai’ is on 2 June from 11am-3pm, open to all with free access.

A wine-tasting cruise with the 7 AOCs

This is a great opportunity to enjoy another view of the Loire, the heritage of Saumur and the seven appellations of Saumur wines. These ‘Croisières Vigneronnes’ take visitors for an epicurean escape along the wild river, meeting a winemaker en route. Fifty minutes of pure joy.

On foot, by bike, on horseback or by segway?

Walk in the Saumur-Champigny vineyard and enjoy a wine tasting (tours last 2 ½ hours). Lose yourself in one of the Loire’s most beautiful vineyards, while discovering its history and variety and enjoying the beautiful view of the hills of the Loire. Adventurous types can try the segway ride paired with a wine tasting in the cellar of one of the organiser’s partners at Chateau de Parnay.

Dine among the vines

Organised by the Montreuil-Bellay Winemakers’ Association in collaboration with the town of Montreuil-Bellay, the ‘On dine en vignes’ evening involves a delicious meal among the rows of vines, accompanied by music for dancing with the winemakers.

Shakespeare in Saumur

On Saturday 1 September at 8.30pm, for the fifth time in Saumur, you can watch a performance of Shakespeare’s masterpiece King Lear, performed by the troupe of the Théâtre de l’Extrême in partnership with Robert & Marcel.

A wine-making discovery day

On Thursday 5 September, a meeting workshop will also be organised to connect young people (and those a little older) interested in the wine industry.

‘Off Festivini’

And for something less traditional, why not try a historic escape game at the Abbey of Fontevraud? At the heart of the Royal Abbey, follow in the footsteps of Richard the Lionheart and find his famous sceptre, which has been missing for nearly 900 years. To succeed, a team of 4-7 people must solve puzzles, debunk objects and thwart the traps set by this mystical place determined to keep its precious secrets. Be sure to register ahead of time as there won’t be room for everyone! There’s just one date: 30 August.

Saumur in the Loire Valley