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A tourist can wander around the labyrinths of Montmartre for days and never know it’s there! A true Montmartrois, however, is well acquainted with the hill’s hidden gems. Le Clos Montmartre, today’s sole remaining Parisian vineyard, was originally planted in 1933 and is still alive and kicking today. One of the hill’s prides and most indigenous landmarks, this tiny steep vineyard is just about the most astonishing sight you can stumble upon while exploring the hill.

There’s A Vineyard in Town! Photo: billparis.wordpress.com

The meaning:  

les vignes” =   the vineyards

Vineyards first, wine later. Photo: Kalin Petrov

The history:

Vineyards have long thrived on the hill of Montmartre. Back in the Middle Ages, the hill was covered with grapevines. They were introduced to the region by the Romans, who built a temple there, commemorating the god of wine, Bacchus.  Then a 12th century Benedictine abbey had its wine press on the hill and although the abbey was demolished during the French Revolution, the vineyards remained.

In the beginning, there were grapes. Photo: Wikipedia

In the early 20th century, however, phylloxera destroyed all vines and the territory almost became a victim of property developers. A group of local artists, led by the famous illustrator Francisque Poulbot, then petitioned the government to save the land and have it replanted again. The plan was approved and Le Clos Montmartre was renewed in 1933.

Poulbot’s most famous illustrations representing street children from Montmartre. Those images became so widespread and representative of the painter’s style that they became known as “poulbots” themselves

The fact file:

The vineyard stretches over 1556 m2 on a steep hill, grows 27 varietals and yields 1500 half-liter bottles of gamay and pinot noir per year.

The peace, the quiet, the beauty… Photo: blog.paris-on-demand.com

The wine:

A bottle of Clos 2010; photo: http://www.jusseo.com

Le Clos Montmartre, as is the famed wine’s name, is not to be found in any restaurants or shops. Produced under firm control in the cellars of Hôtel de Ville, it is then sold at an annual auction and the income is put into social works in Paris’ 18th district. A bottle of the famous Clos is expensive beyond its quality, but then buying it has always been more about getting a collector’s item and supporting a local charity.

The saying:            

A blessing or a curse, there’s an omen for all drinkers of Montmartre’s wine. According to a popular 17th century saying:

Whoever drinks a pint (0.93 l), will pee a quart (67 l)

Le Clos Montmartre – wine with character. Photo: Jean-Guy Chaumard

Not to be missed:

The most exciting time to visit the vineyard would definitely be during the annual Grape Harvest Festival (10-14 October). La Fête des Vendanges takes on a different historic theme each year and features a celebrity godmother and godfather, invited to lead the festivities.

All smiling and welcoming, the participants in the festival, aren’t they? Photo: Jean-Guy Chaumard

The current 79th edition is themed “Montmartre celebrates the Delicacies” and this year’s special guests are the singer Anggun (who represented France in the Eurovision Song contest 2012) and the culinary critic and TV/radio host Jean-Luc Petitrenaud.During the 5-day feast, Montmartre’s cafés and restaurants will promote the godmother’s and godfather’s favourite dishes by featuring them on their menus.

The poster of the current 79th edition of the Harvest Festival 2012

Throughout the festival you’ll see members of fraternal orders from other winegrowing regions of France and the world walking around in traditional attire and unusual hats.

The impressive requisite of the Swiss guests of the festival; Photo: Jean-Guy Chaumard

You can also explore the vineyard from within, lick your fingers during the Chocolate Day, witness the coronation of the Harvest Queen and, should you wish, even bid in the auction for the famous Clos Montmartre!

Bréton winemakers here can’t wait to crush some grapes with their feet. Photo: Jean-Guy Chaumard

Saturday is the big day with the parade and fireworks, but with all the music, marching bands and street theatre, you’ll find it hard not to get swept up in the merrymaking during all the other days, as well!

The grand fireworks closing the festival; Photo: Julien Batard – www.xtremweather76.com

How to get there:          

Clos Montmartre

14-18, rue des Saules, 75018, Montmartre, Paris

Metro lines:  12

Metro stop:  Lamarck-Coulaincourt

NB ! The Montmartre Vineyards are usually closed to visitors. Your chance to getting in is the annual Fête des Vendanges. Otherwise, entry to the vineyard can be arranged through the Montmartre tourist Office at Place du Tertre, provided you are in a group of 12. Once inside, you will pay for a tasting, although the tour is free. 

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