La Vie en Rosé: Celebrating the Wine of Montmartre

When showing visitors around Paris I often hear the same lamentation: “There’s so much to see and do, we didn’t have enough time!” To which my reply is: I’ve been here over five years, and if I had to leave tomorrow  I’d say exactly the same thing.

Once you’ve fallen for Paris it becomes abundantly, almost painfully clear that one lifetime won’t be enough to squeeze all the juice out of it. There are just too many eyefuls and mouthfuls and glassfuls to be had. Check one experience off the list and it splinters off into a fractal of a dozen new adventures. You can never squeeze all the juice out of the city because the city keeps making more of it…and in this case, literally.

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Sunday marked the end of the Fête des Vendanges, an annual celebration of a remarkable beverage indeed. Cascading lazily down the northern slope of Montmartre is the only working vineyard left in Paris. Local legend says that developers once sought to fill the empty lot with a soulless apartment complex, prompting the area’s artists to quickly plant grapes and take advantage a French law that forbade construction on any existing vineyard.

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Most Octobers since then the “villagers” of Montmartre have not only sung the praises of the previous year’s harvest but also danced it, dressed it up, and paraded it around. Each year a jovial atmosphere of costumed events, musical performances, and stalls bursting with regional foods animate the cobblestones once scuffed by the heels of Impressionists.

This year I made sure to experience it firsthand, with one sole mission in mind: drink some of that wine!

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I had spun endless yarns during my tours about Montmartre’s wine, but because of its extreme rarity I’d never drank any (or even seen any). With barely 1,000 bottles produced each year it’s the gastronomic equivalent of Sasquatch riding a unicorn – impossible to find in any bar or café. In fact the only time we mere mortals can catch a glimpse is during this festival, before it flies away, presumably to Narnia on the back of the Loch Ness Monster.

Hence my determination to get a taste this time around. After several fruitless meanderings I came across a rather nondescript awning, one you could easily walk right past, beneath which two volunteers quietly offered tastings of the elusive elixir.

Success! The Clos Montmartre. A rosé. True Parisian wine.

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In the interest of marital serenity I opted out of coming home with a 50€ bottle, instead purchasing a glass. With a victor’s smile I sniffed, swirled, re-sniffed…flashed a look down at the Eiffel Tower…and then savored a flavor that for me was five years in the making.

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How did it taste? All I can say is that it fully lived up to the reputation I’ve heard about all these years…

…which is that it’s pretty awful. :-)

Weak, watered down and generally quite unremarkable. Turns out if you want a good wine-producing vineyard, a band of ragtag artists is a bad choice of gardener, bless their hearts.

But no matter. The truth is when you’ve got a charming legend, heaps of local pride, and another line scratched off the bucket list, it’s a drink I’d pay for again and again. And chances are I’ll be right in the same place a year from now, toasting to another year of Paris discoveries. ♦

For a guided tour of Montmartre, contact me by scrolling up & clicking “Tour Paris With the French Frye”.

 

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18 comments

  • I am very, very envious looking at these pictures and hearing your description. I did see the vineyards on a trip to Paris a year or two ago, but never tasted the wine. Then again, I do live close to a wine-growing region and still never make it to a Fete des Vendanges. But 50 euros for a bottle does seem excessive, even with such a small production…

  • Thank you Corey, not only for the review of the wine but for the photos and narration through some of my favorites streets in the city. Oh, I still get the excited chills looking at those great pics….I miss it soooooooo!

  • You took me on a great visit to the fete (even my French virtual keyboard doesn’t include that squiggle over the e). Loved the build up and reveal about the secret wine. I tried to do a comment on your climb of Sacre Coeur, but a slip of the finger somehow deleted it and I grew discouraged. Let me carefully submit this before lightning strikes twice.

  • Thank you for this post. We have loved the festival and attended for the past two years, but sadly were unable to make it this year which has been our lament. Although I have not tried this wine, I love the sentiment too! Merci!

  • What an extraordinary post! Your writing is so descriptive that I can almost taste the watered-down, mediocre wine. :) And your photos? Wow! Especially that first/last one, of the glass. You could sell that sucker. Beautifully done, Corey!

  • Great post! Next best to being there. LOL on the local wine, yet that hot chocolate must be awesome at $10/cup. I sell a Parisian Hot Chocolate with handmade marshmallows at my local farmer’s market and send sippers smiling with delight!
    When I come to Paris, I am definitely having you as my guide…;-)

    PS: Please forget the word “got” in your writing. “you’ve got” is incorrect grammar, as you are saying “you have got” ; “you have” is perfect. Yes, I know all of the US breaks this rule, yet whenever I can I try to remind good writers to be great!

    • Thanks a bunch Jeni! Yes I’d be happy to give you a look at the local side of Paris through my eyes! Feel free to use the handy dandy form on the “Tour Paris with the French Frye” page. I’d be sure to give you guys a good deal. 😊 Have fun planning your trip!

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