Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harvest Festival in Montmartre

Last month, I was lucky to be in Paris just in time for the harvest festival in Montmartre. The Montmartre hill used to be a small village completely covered with vineyards. A temple dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine, was built there by the Romans. But in the early 20th century, the vines were completely devastated by the phylloxera epidemic, as well as urban development. Fortunately, in the early 30s, a group of artists petitioned the government in order to resurrect and replant a 1,556 square meter parcel of land called Clos Montmartre.

Clos Montmartre

The Clos Montmartre vineyard is planted with 27 different varietals (primarily Gamay and Pinot Noir), and produces around 1500 half-liter bottles each year. It's the only remaining vineyard within the city limits of Paris. After harvest, the wines are sold at auctions, the proceeds going to local charities. Those who have tasted the wines say they are decent enough, although the bottles, with labels designed by local artists, have now become collectors' items.

Sadly, the Clos de Montmartre vineyard is not open to the public. There were a couple of special visits organized by the City Hall during the harvest festival but they were all sold out by the time I inquired about them. Moreover, there was no tasting of Montmartre wine during the Festival.

Nonetheless, the small streets around the white dome tower of the Basilique du Sacré Coeur were lively, with stalls selling regional food and wine everywhere, and street performers attracting crowds in front of the Basilique.

A stall selling produce from Chablis

Have a plate of oysters with a small tasting of Muscadet

We had a nice time talking to Marie-France and Philippe Bec, owner of Domaine de Bayelle, a small wine estate located in the medieval village of Caux in Languedoc. We tasted their 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Pézenas Cuvée Luména, a blend of Grenache and Syrah from Pézenas, a sub-appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc. The wine had a dark garnet color and an appealing nose of forest berries and dried herbs. The palate was round, medium-bodied, not overly complex but tasty. The Becs recommend to drink the wine with a Ragoût d'Escoubille, a hearty Languedoc dish made primarily of pork, sausages, wild mushroom, and olives.

Marie-France and Philippe Bec from Domaine de Bayelle

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