Autumn is a wonderful time to be in the mountains around Annecy. First in October there’s the fantastic Return From The Alpine Pastures festival where hundreds of cows and sheep are herded from the mountains looming over Annecy and through the town – along with throngs of mountain folk in costume accompanied by everything from brass bands to St. Bernard dogs from the nearby village of the same name, and then in the second week of November, there’s the charming Fête Du Caïon festival, which takes place on one cobbled street at the back of the old town – held in celebration and in deep honour of the Savoie Pig.
The festival starts with the herding of the pigs from the mountains who are then sat along the archways of the Rue Filaterie, poking their noses through light wooden fences, rolling in hay and generally having the kind of great time that it seems only pigs are capable of. Up and down the road there are a series of market stalls serving, amongst other things, delicious Diot au Vin Blanc, Diot hot dogs and pulled pork, as well as saucisson and pigs ears.
Rather alarmingly there’s another tradition that takes place mid-way through the festivities when everyone has had their inhibitions correctly lowered by the quaffing of copious amounts of wonderful Savoie wine – two varieties are always the stars of the show at these events – a delicate Mondeuse and a pleasant Roussette du Savoie. But I digress – once they are sufficiently quenched, the farmers compete in an imitation pig screaming contest – as you can no doubt imagine – it’s as delightful as it sounds.
The pig is loved so much in this little mountain town – whether its the pigs themselves who are plump and well looked after, or the pork products (Saucisson, Diot etc) that are sold in their thousands each day in Annecy. Indeed, every restaurant serves Diot au Vin Blanc however it is perhaps a distant second when it comes to the French people’s tastes – as of course, the Savoie is better known for its incredible cheese fondues and Raclette (celebrated in various festivals throughout the year) than it is for the humble pig – but for once a year – on a small backstreet in one of the Alp’s most beautiful little towns – the pig is the star of the show – regardless of how many farmers show off their wine scented pig screams.