FÊTE DE VENDANGES, OUVEILLAN, AUDE, LANGUEDOC
(FOIRE AUX ROUGNES DES VENDANGES - BROCANTE - VIDE GRENIER)
SOUTH OF FRANCE

The Fête de Vendanges, is a wonderful weekend of festivities, parades, flea market, car boot sale, house clearout sales, craftsmen and craftswomen plying their trade, folklore, and music, in the village of Ouveillan, about 15 kms from Narbonne, and a similar distance from Beziers. Come to enjoy the life of this lively village, recreating the toil and festivities of days past as well as traditions and skills that live on today.

Until your visit to Ouveillan, and the Fête de Vendanges in October visit this feature story - an edited english translation of a french introduction to the Festival by Jean-Pierre Orth of "La Caponada", about the festival.

HISTORY OF OUVEILLAN AND SURROUNDING REGION

The Aude plain, where the river now takes its current course is what remains of an ancient coastline where the étangs (salt marshes and lakes) have dried up. It is here amongst the variety of the communities, native soils, varied cultures, and interesting villages one finds Ouveillan.

Ouveillan dominates the plain from a high hill, with a distinctive church steeple, old streets, and ramparts and the shape of a feudal castle revealed through the criss-cross pattern of walls, tiled rooves, and buttresses now no longer used.

Like a lot of villages of the Lower Languedoc, Ouveillan has seen great changes, since the time when the étang dried up and when the Cistercian monks of Fontfroide built a barn at Fontcalvy.

This peaceful market town, and its surrounding region has lived through four great events, all linked to the vine, and this in a little more than a hundred years:

1. The extensive planting of vineyards after 1850.
2. Philoxerra destroying the vines.
3. The slump in the wine business.
4. The influx of Spanish vignerons between the wars.


Fete de Vendanges, Ouveillan, Aude. Languedoc

Fete de Vendanges, Ouveillan, Aude. Languedoc


Fete de Vendanges, Ouveillan, Aude. Languedoc



1. The period of prosperity of the vine and wine after 1850 saw the construction of many large village houses and chateaus in the style of castles of times gone by. "Wine" chateaus - "pinardiers" that are characteristic can be seen at Terral, Sériège, Preissan, and the Domaines of Bousquet, Bonneterre, and Colombet.

2. Phylloxera hit first the vineyards around Ouveillan in its slow inescapable invasion of the department of Aude. Starting from Gard, the infestation took more than 4 years to reach here. Everyone from the largest to the smallest producer, had their vineyards destroyed, and had to completely replant their vines.

3. The wine slump affected many vignerons (vineyard workers, owners and wine producers), who came together under the banner of Marcellin Albert in 1907 to defend against the fraud and anarchy of the wine market.

4. The arrival of Spanish vignerons between the two wars created a change in the population. Staying after the harvests and bringing their famiIies, the Spanish brought more southern character and cultural wealth to the village .

Ouveillan - capsules of from its history

Ouveillan is picturesque. The houses of the "fort" originate from medieval times, neighboring houses date from the 16th - 18th centuries. 19th century buildings can be seen on boulevard Gambetta, boulevard Robespierre, avenue d'Argeliers, avenue de Narbonne, and avenue de St Chinian. In the surrounding area 19th century chateaus fighting well the ravages of time.

In 1920, the village had 2,517 residents (2,200 today). The principal activity being the vine and wine and associated trades. There were 229 horses and mares, without counting 50 mules and 30 asses, as well as 7 automobiles!

Among artisans there were:

2 cartwrights, 5 blacksmiths, 3 sadlers, 2 coopers, 3 distillers: 2 tartar manufacturers, 6 fodder and grain merchants, 10 merchants and wine brokers.

Also included were veterinarians, grooms, assistants who were helping in the horse transport industry, as well as 12 grocers, and 6 dairy producers.

A steam tram route from Narbonne to Ouveillan was inaugarated in 1904. Later in 1927, a bus line was created between Ouveillan and Narbonne, Ouveillan and Beziers: The competition of road and rail transport had begun ....

Read about the background to the Fête de Vendanges

On the Narbonnais plain Ouveillan is representative of a Languedoc village where past traditions and present industry work hand in hand and are well represented. Come to this year's Fête de Vendanges, Ouveillan, Aude.!
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