THE HISTORY OF WINE IN PARIS? A QUESTION OF FRAUDS, TAXES, RELIGION, SPECULATION AND WHAT WE CALL IN FRENCH “PIQUETTE”, WHICH MEANS A VERY BAD WINE.
Vineyards in Paris have an old history: there was a time when Burgundy, Bordeaux region, and more surprisingly Paris were the three main areas for the production of wine in France. The reason is very simple: from the end of the Middle Age, people used to drink a lot, whatever the quality. The only condition was that vineyards should be situated closed to their consumers. This is why there were several vineyards in Montmartre, amongst which Le Clos Montmartre, that we can still see at the foot of the Sacré Coeur basilica (http://www.clos-montmartre.com/). They are the oldest ones in Paris. At that time, wine was considered mainly as a matter of Church. That was the great period.
Because shortly afterwards, from the end of the 16th century, it was decided to limit the number of taverns inside Paris. Many “guinguettes” as we called them, in other words popular drinking establishments, but also cabarets began to flourish at la Butte Montmartre, which was not part of Paris yet. Diseases, property speculation and frauds lead to make wine with a poor quality but in bigger quantities. They added for example water from the Seine, beet juice or even chalks to soften the taste.
The municipality of Vaugirard also counted vineyards on its sloping ground, which have been removed at the end of the Bourbon Restoration and resettled a few years ago in the Parc Georges Brassens known as Clos des Morillons.
Nowadays, it is thus still possible to see vines in Paris. The biggest ones are outside Paris, in Issy-les-Moulineaux for instance but there are still some of them in the heart of the city. We can name for example the private ones in Bagatelle (16th district), which is the only private vineyard in Paris, and where it is possible to visit the winery, where the techniques of vinification are explained to you. Oenology lessons are also offered. (http://www.lavignedeparisbagatelle.fr/)
We cannot compete with the 103.782 acres of vines that Ile-de-France counted in 18th century. But however, Parisians seem to still really appreciate wine, since we have about ten vines in Paris, and many other places to taste this heritage we are so proud of…