The Story Behind Montmartre’s Grape Harvest Festival

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The Story Behind Montmartre’s Grape Harvest Festival
Found amid the hilly Paris neighborhood surrounding Sacré-Coeur is the Clos Montmartre, the city’s last working vineyard. Tucked into a green space behind the splendid Musée de Montmartre, the small, neat vineyard at the corner of rue des Saules and rue Saint Vincent is an incongruous sight. Among the beautiful, bourgeois houses of Clignancourt, the Clos Montmartre is just over the north shoulder of the famed cabaret Lapin Agile. The Wine Harvest of the Clos Montmartre (C) The Wine Harvest of the Clos Montmartre Montmartre had its wine-growing heyday in the late 18th century. Vines initially introduced to the Paris region by the Romans stretched from Ménilmontant to the slopes of the Butte Montmartre in the mid-1800s. But, by the turn of 20th century – and in no small part due to the 1870 Siege of Paris – there was barely a grape vine to be found. Costumed attendees, Fête des vendanges in Montmartre, 1939. Credit: wikipedia commons Clos Montmartre is not a historically ancient feature of the neighborhood, but one with a very interesting history, nonetheless. Back in 1921 a group of artists and illustrators, including Francisque Poulbot and Adolphe Willette, founded a friendly association who declared themselves the “Republique de Montmartre.” They were a kind of safety committee that fought against the ravages of vandals and sought to help the disadvantaged children of the 18th arrondissement. They also devoted themselves to preserving the hill’s artistic reputation and drew other artists, writers and musicians to the group. Together they asked the city of Paris to grant them a patch of land in order to stymie real estate developers from buying up huge chunks of their beloved Montmartre. The city of Paris created the vineyard in 1933 and today the plot is still under the city’s direction. An exciting addition for the residents of the day, the vineyard was largely celebrated before its first bottle was uncorked! Montmartre vineyard. Credit: Basili / Wikipedia The vineyard is a small and defiant one, taking up a meager .15ha on the wrong side of a steep slope, whose north face gets little benefit from the sun. Twenty-seven varieties of wine arise from the Montmartre vineyard – including Gamay, Pinot Noir, and the occasional Sauvignon and Riesling. The wine of course can’t compete with those from the caves of Bordeaux or Burgundy but that’s not the point. The Montmartre wines are up close and personal – a locavore’s dream.

Lead photo credit : Festive activities at the wine harvest. Credit: Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre/ Facebook

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Garna Muller
    2021-09-30 08:37:38
    Garna Muller
    Thank you for this wonderful article on the harvest festival of Montmartre. I would like to send it to a friend in Ramona California who has a similar vineyard. I am hoping he will be in Paris next year and we will be able to participate in this special celebration.