While the arrival of Autumn is reminding us of its gradual presence in the early mornings and evenings, Paris has been enjoying a blue-skied Indian summer this past week. It has been a time for us to head outdoors to celebrate it. I have an excuse for you to join in, too, with the October Wine Festival Montmartre (known as la Fête des Vendanges).
Each year grapes are harvested from the Montmartre vineyard and made into wine. The locals have celebrated this tradition since 1934 – and so 2015 marks the 82nd edition of the Fête des Vendanges, or the Montmartre Paris Wine Festival which takes place around the second Saturday in October. Last year it attracted 500,000 visitors.
The Montmartre Vineyard
Montmartre was covered in vines in the Middle Ages (first evidence dates back to 944). Just around the corner from Sacré Coeur (the second most visited site in Paris after the Eiffel Tower), you’ll see the Clos de Montmartre’s vineyard, rue Saint Vincent, on the hill or butte, with an altitude of 130 metres. 2000 vines were planted in 1933 in memory of the vines of times past with Gamay, Pinot noir and Landay grapes.
Today the grapes are cultivated without using any pesticides and about 950 bottles of Clos Montmartre are produced every year, elaborated in the cellar of the town hall of the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Grape juice is also made for the children taking part in the events.
This year, according to Sylviane Leplâtre, wine expert for Paris vines, the climate has been more favourable than previous years and a rosé has been particularly produced to suit public demand. How is it? According to Leplâtre, it’s unique colour is salmon pink, it has floral and sweet spicy notes on the nose and the taste is light and delicate.
The grape harvest celebrations last for 5 days and festivities are full on. Just looking at the programme reveals all sorts of workshops (art including Manga; a how-to guide for the local beehives; floral displays, etc.), competitions, concerts (including a singing-in-the-wine Bordeaux evening), tours and lectures (many of them need to be booked in advance online), and of course the wine tasting and Parcours de Goût (Tasting Journey of producers of hams, cheeses, oysters, wine, etc from all around France) from Friday to Sunday.
For a feel of the celebrations, check out Carol Gillott’s artistic ParisBreakfast view of last year’s event. She recommends you bring your own glass, save yourself for the truffled omelettes, and perhaps even wear a black jacket and red scarf …
Ever since the very first festival took place in 1934 with actor Fernandel as “Godfather” (Parrain) and actress Mistinguett as “Godmother” (Marraine), French celebrities are chosen by the mayors of Montmartre and Paris to lead the festivities. Next week actress/model Melanie Thierry and singer Raphael will take the lead.
Saturday 10th October marks the main events: the Ban des Vendanges, a gathering of the robe-clad Confrerie brotherhoods of local food and wine; the Clos de Montmartre wine auction, when the produce proceeds go to charity organisations in the district; the Grand Parade (Défilé), when 1500 participants leave the Mairie of the 18th at 3pm and arriving at 5.45pm at Place Saint Pierre; and at night enjoy a 15-minute firework display orchestrated by world firework champion, Joseph Couturier, at the foot of Montmartre.
And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the chocolate (try the chocolate buttes and kisses!) and macarons from my pastry chef chocolate friend, Christophe Roussel, who is in Rue Tardieu, just opposite the 2,280 steps and entrance to the Finiculaire cable car. Please say bonjour from me!
Metros: Abbesses or Anvers.