Point 7, The Montmartre Vineyard
The Montmartre vineyard, which is now run by the city authorities, perpetuates another centuries old Paris area tradition: winemaking. Winemaking was historically associated with the Abbesses of Montmartre.
Vineyards, here and elsewhere in the Parisian region, helped the development of makeshift restaurants and cabarets; the ‘Guingettes’. Remember Montmartre was outside the Paris city limits until 1860 so wine was cheaper here than in Paris. All wine entering Paris had to pay a tariff at the Paris city wall which, in the case of Montmartre, was were Boulevard de Clichy runs today.
Vines not buildings
By the 1930s all other wine cultivation had been uprooted and cleared, a victim of property speculation as the area became gentrified. A committee of dedicated locals was led by the caricaturist Francisque Poulbot. He is best known for his designs and cartoons of the Montmartre street kids known as ‘Poulbots’. The committee campaigned, occupied the area, and managed to persuade the local authorities to stop the speculators in their tracks and save the vines.
The result is what you see on front of you now, an interesting, picturesque and well-tended parcel of vines in the heart of the city. The grapes are collected by hand then pressed and stored in the cellar of the local town hall.
Every year in October the Mayor of the 18th arrondissement organises the popular Montmartre Wine Festival with the approximately 1500 bottles that the vineyard produces being sold at auction for charity.
The story of a year in the life of the Montmartre vineyard from vine to bottle was patiently observed by the documentary film maker Stephen Macmillan who is my brother. A taster of his film the Clos Montmartre is available here.