Say cheers to wine made in the city

Paris not only has vineyards which act as green spaces, but the authorities also let Parisians help harvest the grapes to promote outdoor activities

PARIS • The grape-pickers at the Clos des Morillons do look like thousands of others at work in vineyards across France at this time of year.

But no, you have not had one drink too many when you spot, behind them, a high-rise housing estate and note that the noisy Paris ring road is just a short walk away.

Around 20 people, armed with pruning shears, snipped, picked and carried in the Parc Georges-Brassens in the south of the French capital on Tuesday, after responding to a call from city authorities for volunteers.

The vineyard, which produced the equivalent of about 250 bottles of wine last year, is one of four in the French capital offering local residents the chance to take part in the great French tradition of grape-harvesting, but without leaving the city.

"I had no idea you could do the harvest inside Paris," 31-year-old Patrice Alokpo said as joggers ran past the roughly 20 vines that were shorn of their grapes in a couple of hours.

"It's really great seeing some nature in the city."

Opening up the vineyards to the public fits a strategy from Paris authorities keen to promote green spaces and outdoor activities in a traffic-clogged city that is among the most densely populated in Europe.

About 10 per cent of the French capital is reserved for parks or gardens, official figures show, compared with around a third in London.

The park lies in a discreet residential corner of Paris that abuts the Perichaux housing estate, with its slab-like concrete apartment blocks, as well as the eight-lane ring road.

Other vineyards in the City of Light are in the Bercy area to the east, the north-east Belleville quarter and the world-famous Montmartre hill in the north, where the vines are a tourist attraction.

"Our vines are less well-known, but they are very prestigious," said Ms Marie Toubiana, who is charge of green spaces in the 15th district of Paris, which hosts the park named after French crooner Georges Brassens.

She points to prizes for the red, which is organic and made from pinot noir grapes, in 2010 and 2011 in the annual wine competition for the greater Paris region.

Ms Sylviane Leplatre, chief wine maker for the city of Paris, would not be drawn on the capital's best vintage as she oversaw the first quality check on grapes emptied out in front of her on a table.

"You're spoilt for choice," she said, explaining that there were whites, reds and roses that are made available for sale to the public in only limited quantities.

The Paris city hall stores much of the production and uses it for official functions.

"Here we have a wine that is very fruity, light and matured in barrels, which gives it velvety tannins," she said, adding that this year's harvest looked very promising after a wet spring and a long, hot summer.

French wine production is set to leap by 25 per cent this year, government experts have predicted, in welcome news for vineyards after a disastrous cold snap last year that hit output across the country.

The quality of the grapes is also said to be high, leading to hopes that this will be a truly vintage year to match 2009.

Grape pickers are already out in the Champagne region, as well as some areas of Burgundy, in an early harvest that is increasingly becoming the norm because of global warming.

Last year's production from the Clos des Morillons will be auctioned off for charity on Sept 29, while the 2018 grapes head for the presses and a year of maturation.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 09, 2018, with the headline 'Say cheers to wine made in the city'. Print Edition | Subscribe