The Montmartre Wine Festival, 2009: Impressions

A little Paris kitsch to get things going

A little Paris kitsch to get things going

written by Michael 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 out in person.

I am writing the day after, so everything is by necessity a bit foggy and impressionistic. A petite husky-voiced street singers belts out chansons a la Edith Piaf while turning the crank on her little music box. I sit at a wooden barrel surrounded by bustling humanity and stare down at some Muscadet  in a plastic cup and six miniscule mini-oysters on a paper plate. A friend, empty plastic cup in hand, looks longingly at a vendor of Chateauneuf de Pape who is just across the street  but unreachable due to the human bottleneck in the narrow Montmartre street.

I´m used to Spanish wine fairs where the winemakers are there in person, eager to talk about their wines, and amenable to free tastes. But this is Paris and the stalls are mostly run by charmless hired guns who know the prices of the wines and little else. I admit I was developing a little bit of a bad attitude, but the sun was going down and the wine-inspired spirits were rising just when we happened upon the stall of Jean Perrier et fils from the obscure wine region of Savoie in the foothills of the French Alps and they made my day. One of the vintners was loudly hawking their wines, another was singing slightly risque drinking songs, another was playing the accordion, and all were having the occasional nip with the revelers. Now that was more like it. We elbowed our way to large wine barrel and ordered a bottle of their Mondeuse Vielles Vignes, A.O. Vin de Savoie. My wine-stained notes say it is of a “moderate purple” color, a “little jammy with wild berries”, “of subtle barnyard charm”. Next-day research confirmed that it is made from the Mondeuse noir grape which is primarily found in the Savoy region. It didn´t take long to get through the bottle; the wine tasted just fine and went perfectly with the mini Spanish sausages that materialized as if by magic and our group had mysteriously expanded. When the bottle was empty the accordion was still active qnd  the vibe was still good. In any case it would have been real work to get to another stall given the wall-to-wall mob scene in the streets, so we stuck around for a bottle of their Vins de Savoie Apremont. This proved a tasty white made from the Jacquere grape, another variety grown almost exclusively in Savoy. It is aromatic and refreshing with a citric acidity and I liked it very much. At least I did in those festive circumstances. I really must find these two wines again and try them again. This would make an excellent case study for the principle of the subjectivity of pleasure.

Jean Perrier saves the day

Jean Perrier from Savoie saves the day

So, what other wines did we try? Well, some were red, some were white, some had bubbles, and all of it was served in plastic cups. Little precise data or recollection survives. We´re not talking Wine Appreciation 101 with sniff and savour here; this is close to pure razzle. The Montmartre wine harvest is pretty much a pretext, more backdrop than main event. Should you run out and book a hotel for next year´s fetes de vendage de Montmartre? It depends on your personal tastes and especially your tolerance for chaos. I personally ended up enjoying myself a lot; if I find myself in Paris next year at this time I´ll go back for more. But Montmartre 2010 won´t be a must on my personal wine calendar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: