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 inevitable and truthful reply is: I’ve been here over five years, and if I was forced tomorrow to leave the city for good…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 potential adventures. Why? The reason you can never squeeze out all the juice is because the city keeps making more of it…and in this case, literally.
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.
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.
Though I had spun endless yarns over the years about Montmartre’s wine, 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 very 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 finally came across a rather nondescript awning, one you could easily walk right by, with two volunteers quietly offering up tastings of the elusive elixir.
Success! The Clos Montmartre. A rosé. True Parisian wine.
In the interest of marital serenity I opted out of coming home with a 50€ bottle, instead purchasing a tasting glass’ worth. 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.
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 private guided tour of Montmartre, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.