Paris' Vendanges de Montmartre: Go Celebrate Wine & Autumn's Arrival

Harking back to a time when the Paris region produced wine in respectable quantities, the annual Vendanges de Montmartre (Montmartre Harvest) is today a mostly symbolic event-- but that doesn't make it any less fun. Initiated in 1934, when the region's importance as a wine-maker had already largely dwindled but the desire to maintain the traditional harvest remained, the Vendanges takes place every year in the heights of the hilly Montmartre neighborhood, where you can still see a small vineyard producing a modest 1,500 bottles of Pinot Noir and Gamay. The tiny plot, located at 14-18 rue des Saules (Metro Lamarck-Caulaincourt), reminds us of the area's once bucolic nature-- the village of Montmartre was formerly covered in vineyards.

It may not be a harvest prized by hardcore wine fans, given that the vintages are nothing extraordinary, but the Vendanges de Montmartre nonetheless provide great opportunities for locals and visitors to take part in a centuries-old tradition of tasting, reveling, sampling local foods and enjoying street music, dancing and other performances. Take some time out on an October trip to Paris for this iconic event.

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Vendanges de Montmartre: Overview and Info for 2016

The 2006 edition of the Vendanges de Montmartre in Paris.
2006 Cyril Lg/Creative Commons License.

The 2016 edition of the Vendanges de Montmartre takes places from Wednesday, October 5th through Sunday, October 9th. This year, the theme is "Liberty", with homages planned to celebrate French and world icons of human rights, and the stated values of the French Republic: liberty, equality, and fraternity. 

Locations: The harvest festival takes place all around the 18th arrondissement, with information available for tourists at the Montmartre Tourist Office, 21 Place du Tertre, Metro Anvers/ Tel: +33 (1)1 53 41 18 18).

See a complete list and map of event locations for this year's Vendanges here.
Metro: You can get off at Metro stations Jules Joffrin, Lamarck Caulaincourt, Pigalle or Abbesses (Line 12), as well as Blanche and Anvers (line 2).

Fireworks and Music in Montmartre

On Sunday, October 9th from 8:00 pm, free fireworks and music will take over Montmartre for the occasion of the Vendanges and the celebration of liberty. Head over to the Sacre Coeur to see the show.

How to Enjoy the Vendanges de Montmartre

As with many other festivals in Paris, I recommend walking around and taking in the scenery and ambiance. Get off at the metro stop of your choice, perhaps visit the Tourist Office for an information book, and amble around the stands, sampling the wine, local delicacies and taking in a few performances.

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History of the Vendanges de Montmartre

The "Clos Montmartre" vineyard in Montmartre was planted in 1933 in Paris.
2009 The Girls NY/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

The present-day incarnation of the wine harvest (Vendanges) in Montmartre only dates to 1934, when locals celebrated the first vintages procured from a tiny plot (pictured) planted on a hillside and capable of producing about 1,500 bottles a year.

The idea to replant a vineyard in the area was the brainchild of a group of artists in the community who lamented the urbanization of Montmartre following its annexation into Paris (it had previously been an independent village.) Winemaking had been a tradition here since the Gallo-Roman era, when a temple dedicated to Bacchus (also known as Dionysus), the god of wine, once stood in the area. Later on, Benedictine monks cultivated the plants, but the French Revolution led to the destruction of the abbey. Pests killed off what remained of the vines in the early 20th century, and the artists who decided to plant the new plot narrowly saved it from builders who wanted to put new properties on it.

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