In the 17th Century, Ile-de-France’s vineyards were, at 42,000 ha, the largest in France. They disappeared for several reasons: the phylloxera pest, urbanization and the arrival of wines from the south with the railways.
“The Paris climate and terrain are just as good as Bordeaux or Champagne. There was no comparison in terms of number of customers and their wealth. So it’s crystal clear that the vineyards of Goutte-d'Or, Auteuil or Meudon, which we now make fun of, were at least worthy rivals to the best vineyards outside of the capital. These wines were adulterated as a rise in the standard of living lead to new inns opening. While the fight for survival was getting harder, they tried to solve the problem of harvest variation by seeking out increasingly crude plant material. On the eve of the Revolution, Paris was still surrounded by vines but the wine no longer resembled, according to Philippe-Auguste, what used to be favourably compared to Cypriot wine.”
(Raymond Dumay – La mort du vin (death of wine) – La Table Ronde – La petite vermillon)
There are 152 plots of vines in existence or the planning stage, privately or publicly owned. The largest vineyard is in Suresnes with 1 ha (see photo). The varieties you’ll come across are mainly the following: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Beurot, Sémillon, Gamay…
Set up in October 2000, the Vignerons Franciliens Réunis (Ile-de-France growers) association units all interested parties to promote and defend the vineyards and wines of the Ile-de-France.
They publish a vineyard map of the area, also available on their website.
Legally speaking, these aren’t real vineyards at the moment. What they produce can’t be sold so we’re talking about experimental vineyards. While they’re obviously of educational interest or for biodiversity, the association also aims to increase the vines’ and wines’ quality level. At the end of the day, their value for tourism speaks for itself.
The highly regarded – and a pioneer in this field - Oenodyssée (Wine Odyssey), set up by Ghislain Pagès, organises tourist activities and corporate events with a vine backdrop: walking tours, cooking lessons, Versailles vineyard visits by helicopter...
Things of interest for the wine tourist
Vineyards in Montmartre
The musée du Vin (wine museum)
The Paris wine harvest at Jacques Melac’s restaurant
The Fête des vendanges de Montmartre (Montmartre harvest festival)
‘Rue Blanche’ fire brigade picking grapes (from Château-Blanche)
Vineyards in the Ile-de-France
And, of course, the many restaurants with excellent cellars, as well as wine bars and enthusiastic wine shop owners.
By Gilles Ragache: ‘Vignobles D'Ile de France: Deux siècles de viticulture (XIXe et XXe siècles)’ – ‘Vineyards in the Ile-de-France: two centuries of grape growing (19th and 20th)
Presses du Village