Even though I've been in Paris for over four years now and have been living in the 18th arrondissement for the last two, just a stone's throw from Montmartre, this weekend marked my first visit to the annual Fête des vendanges de Montmartre. Celebrated since 1934 at the beginning of October, this wonderful neighborhood festival marks the arrival of the wine harvest from the small vineyards at the top of Montmartre, the area surrounding the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur which marks Paris's most bohemian and artsy area.
A lot of people don't know that there are vineyards in Paris...but indeed there are! Owned by the city of Paris and covering a surface of 1556 square meters, the vineyards of Montmartre contain mostly Gamay Beaujolais and Pinot Noir grapes and have an annual harvest of just over 500 liters, or about 1000 bottles of wine...not very much at all! These bottles are almost all auctioned off for charity during the Fête des vendanges, which is organized by the mairie (city hall) of my beloved 18th arrondissement. This year the festivities took place from October 6-10 and included (as usual) concerts, exhibits, a singles' dance (haha!), debates and workshops on several topics, a big fireworks display and of course... tons of stands to sample wines, cheeses and all kinds of other artisinal products from all over France as well as other countries such as Brazil, Slovenia, Madagascar and Canada.
As usual, we were in the mood to eat and drink, so we focused our time at the fête checking out all of the stands making up the "Parcours des goûts", set up all around the Sacre Coeur. There were wines from all over the country, cheeses from Normandy and the Haute Savoie, charcuterie and piment d'esplette from the Basque region, galettes and cider from Brittany, tapenades from Provence, eau-de-vie (fruit brandy) from Aquitaine, foie gras from just about everywhere in France, macarons, champagne...all in all, a real gastronomic orgy for the eyes, nose and of course stomach!
In addition, there were stands with boulangers (bakers) explaining the process of making different types of breads, an atelier de cuisine (cooking workshop) with chefs offering cooking lessons, games requiring guests to guess the names of spices by their smell (you can imagine that I liked this one!)...
Of course, no fête is complete without some street musicians as well...
We ended the day, very appropriately, by sharing a glass of the famous Montmartre wine. Though it was far from being the best wine in the world, it was the perfect way to wrap up a lovely autumn day at the Fête des vendanges. If you happen to be in Paris at the beginning of October, you can't miss it!
For more information on this year's Fête des vendanges: check out this excellent article by Radio France Internationale (RFI).