The Parisian Vineyard Revival

Henry Samuel has an interesting report in the Telegraph on Parisian winemakers seeking recognition for their vineyards and wines.  The Île-de-France is the metropolitan region around Paris and was named for the historical province that existed before the French Revolution.

Between the Middle Ages and the end of the 17th century each little town or village in the Paris region had its own vineyard and the  Île-de-France had over 100,000 acres of vines.

The region shares its climate and latitude with Champagne and  in the past its wines stocked the cellars of the French Kings.  However the French Revolution, Phylloxera and the rapid spread of urbanisation took their toll on the vineyards and they practically died out.

However not all of them were engulfed by urbanisation.  Pockets of vines survived.  The vineyard of Le Clos Montmartre sits at the foot of Sacré-Coeur.  In the Middle Ages the hill was covered in vines planted by Adelaide de Savoie, the sister of the Pope, in the first half of the 12th  century.

The Abbey of Montmartre continued to make wine there until the late 1400′s when, ruined by war, the nuns were forced to sell off their land to commercial wine makers.

In the early 1920′s the vineyard was in danger of being swallowed up by buildings and caused a public outcry.  The artist François Poulbot led an effort to save the garden of singer and comedian Aristide Bruant (best known as the man in the black hat and red scarf in the famous Toulouse-Lautrec poster) from a real estate development plan.

As a result, the Clos Montmartre was established as public land, and replanted in vines in 1933 to honour its heritage. The following year, the first vendange (grape harvest) of the reborn Clos Montmartre was celebrated, as it has been ever since, in the middle of October. The sale of the wine goes to charity.

Today there are around 200 vineyards in the  Île-de-France  covering 30 acres.  Nearly two thirds of the vineyards are run by associations or individuals, and third by local authorities.

“Local vintners now want these Ile de France wines awarded a new official “patrimonial” stamp of approval, as practically all are currently breaking draconian French laws on planting restrictions.

“The vast majority could theoretically be ordered to grub up at any time,” said Patrice Bersac, president of l’association des vignerons franciliens réunis (the association of united Parisian and Ile de France winemakers).

He wants French authorities to take inspiration from an initiative in London in which grapes are collected from numerous gardens of the capital to create an authorised blend.

Chateau Tooting produced by the Urban Wine Company has been given the thumbs up by experts, with the rosé described as “crisp, dry and elegant”.

“The French (wine growing) policy is outdated and unbearable. You English, meanwhile are able to take more liberties with rules on planting vines. I admire your freedom and sense of humour – you certainly need it to make wine in the UK,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

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