The wine festival of Montmartre

Clos Montmartre (2)

Michael Oudyn

I am away from Barcelona visiting Paris.  I find myself up in Bohemian Montmartre gazing through a wire fence at  the vines of  “Clos Montmartre”, the last active vineyard inside the Paris city limits.

“Clos Montmartre” is found on a quiet picturesque backstreet up a hill from the Moulin Rouge where Toulouse-Lautrec drank his Earthquakes (half cognac and half absinth) and then died of alcoholism at  36.  It is just around the corner from the house where Maurice Utrillo was born, raised, and took to painting the streets of Montmartre as therapy after being institutionalized for alcoholism at the age of 19.  The lesson: always drink in moderation.  Which apparently isn´t that hard to do with cuvee Montmartre.  According to the few who claim to have actually drunk the stuff it can be pretty nasty.  Each year the wines are given fancy names like cuvee Georges Brassens (in honour of the iconic folk singer) and  then auctioned off at high prices for charity.  But most choose to put it on display and show it off periodically  rather than actually drink it.  It makes a better conversation piece than an aperitif.  The production is very limited, so there´s not much hope of finding it, or fear of having it served to you unawares.

But Montmartre wines haven´t always had such a dubious reputation.  They were famous during Roman times and not that long ago the hill was thick with vineyards.  Parisian legend has it that the greatest wine connoisseur of all time, Bacchus/Dionysius himself, lived on  Montmartre.   The vineyards of Clos Montmartre were planted on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Bacchus.

But in modern times things are more folklore/tourism.  Every first weekend of October Montmartre turns officially Dionysian during the three-day Fetes de vendages de Montmartre (The Montmartre Grape Festival).  It is free and there are tastings and celebrities and about 150,000 visitors per year.  And even a  theme.  Last year it was cinema with short-film screenings and a concert of music from the Montmartre cult film Amelie.

I don´t know.  I´ve never been to this festival, but it sounds like good, clean fun in a Bohemian-Kitsch sort of way.  Has anyone ever been?  What´s your advice?

3 Responses to “The wine festival of Montmartre”

  1. Raymondo Says:

    Great post Michael, nice balance of erudition, wine lore, and fun.

  2. The Montmartre Wine Festival, 2009: Impressions « Wine Tripping Says:

    […] By oudyn On June 4, 2009 I posted an article on the history of the wine festival at Montmartre. (read post)  So, serious wine journalist that I am, I thought I would go back to Paris and actually check it […]

  3. Nata Says:

    Casualmente hemos acabado en esta fiesta de vinos de montmartre…bueno la verdad es que vino NO HEMOS PROBADO, Lo que hemos vevido es el CHAMPAGNE el de deverdad, el frances el autentico….IT WAS THE BEST I HAD TRIED IN MY LIFE!!! Y LA BOCATA DE FOIE GRAS ya no te cuento…mmmmmm.
    Buneno tambien probe un chupito de vino tinto, porque los pageses ivan por las calles con un caro lleno de botellas de vino y te invitaban gratis y te daban un chupito de PLASTICO como tu dices… bueno, que tal era el vino de chupito? pues INTERESANTE!

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