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- Off the beaten path in Paris -
The Montmartre Vineyard

Parisians at the Montmartre wine festival
Paris celebrates its only remaining
vineyard at the Montmarte Wine
Festival in mid-October.

Before artists like Picasso, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec turned Montmartre into the center of bohemian Paris, this famous city hilltop district served a different function,

It was home to church-owned vineyards that churned out full-bodied wines for the local cabarets and drinking establishments.

But by the twentieth century, due to the annexation and subsequent urbanization of Montmartre by the city of Paris, the district's legacy of French winemaking was in danger of being erased.

In the late 1920s, a group of artists led by François Poulbot decided to take a stand.

The artists petitioned the government to halt a real estate development project on a plot of land in the back of Montmartre hill, and instead grant them the property so that they could recreate the original vineyards.

The French government, notoriously staunch in its support of cultural projects, approved the plan, and Clos de Montmartre was born. The first vines were planted in 1933 and the first wines were produced the following year.

Today the vineyard, the only one of its kind within Paris city limits, spans 1,556 square meters with 2000 vine stock in 27 varietals. It produces about 1,700 half-liter bottles per year, all of which are auctioned off for charity during the annual autumn Fête des Vendanges (Montmartre Harvest Festival).

The annual festival, which takes on a different theme every year, is traditinally celebrated in mid-October as the neighborhood provides a setting for exhibitions, musical performances, and other events for the public. That includes a particular wine festival tradition -- whereby singles participate in the "We're Not Getting Married Ceremony", a ritual presided over by the mayor of Montmartre and played for laughs.

Montmartre wine festival parade
Montmartre Harvest Festival in Paris
ends with a parade of wine industry
members in traditional costumes.

During the cool fall weekend, the area around Sacré-Cœur Basilica is usually crowded with street performers and stalls offering cheap or free tastings of French wines and artisanal delicacies.

The festival ends with a grand parade in which members of the confréries bachiques (wine brotherhoods) and chevaleries du tastevin (wine-tasting knighthoods) in traditional costumes, followed by a crowd-pleasing fireworks display.

If the revelry in the streets is any indication, Montmartre's wine heritage is still very much alive!

Unfortunately, the Clos de Montmartre vineyard is not open to the public, but you can catch a glimpse of it on the way to the Museé de Montmartre from the Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Line 12) metro stop.

More about the Paris Montmartre vineyard & festival around the Web:


Montmartre Wine Harvest Festival - This is from the official Paris city guide to the annual celebration with information, dates, contact information.

Paris's secret vineyard - Here's an archived Guardian UK story article with entertaining background on Paris winemaking as well as details on the annual festival.

Ile-de-France Wine Region - Check out a good overview of the region including Paris.


About the Author... Jessica Arriola Marati



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