Vineyards and Wines of Paris and the Ile-de-France Region
Information on the wines and vines of the region, with a look at the history of wine growing in and around Paris and the recent resurgence in the industry. Find out where to visit and what to try...
Of all the wine regions in France this is probably not one which comes instantly to mind. Nevertheless, wine has been produced in Paris and the Ile-de-France for a long time. There are over 30 types of wines from the area including most famously Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
In recent times the area has seen something of a revival in its wine growing activities and its reputation. So much so that local growers have formed their own association to promote the area and their labels, the VFR (Les Vignerons Franciliens).
- The VFR website a map to pinpoint the vineyards and gives contact details: Click here (in French)
History of Paris Wine
Since the Middle Ages each little town or village in the Paris region had its own vineyard. So famous was one of the wines that an area in the 18th arrondissement was named after it – la Goutte d'Or (golden drop).
Historically the vines in and around the French capital were cultivated and harvested by the wealthy middle classes (the so-called bourgeoisie). Production was controlled and subject to taxation. These producers had the exclusive right to market wines in the only official marketplace of the region.
The less well-off had to find another way to enjoy wine and so they set up meeting places on the outskirts of Paris called guinguettes. Here they were able to drink, although it was often wine of lower quality.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the vineyards in the Ile-de-France were the most important in the country covering 42,000 hectares (almost 104,000 acres) of land.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, local growers found they were making less money from their trade. Wines from other areas began to increase in popularity and this combined with outbreaks of disease meant that gradually they began to sell or abandon their vines. Added to this the increasing urbanisation of Paris and the demand for land meant that production in the area almost died out completely.
Since the 1930s there has been a revival of winemaking in the Paris region. It is now possible to visit many of the current vineyards including those on the slopes of Montmartre, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Suresnes, and Rueil-Malmaison.
Approximately 11 hectares of land in Ile-de-France (Paris included) are now planted with grape vines which, while not much compared to previous figures, is a revival nonetheless.
- Paris has a museum dedicated to the subject of wine, the Musée du Vin Paris (in English).
Local Vineyards and Wines
Current figures claim that there are 152 plots of vines in existence or the planning stage, privately or publicly owned. The largest vineyard is in Suresnes with 1 hectare under cultivation. The main grape varieties are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Beurot, Sémillon and Gamay.
But because of the absence of vine-planting rights, which means that wine produced here cannot be sold in commercial markets, none of these plots can really call themselves vineyards.
This hasn't stopped the owners from exploiting the tourist market however. The vineyards are very popular from a historical and teaching perspective given the area's long association with viticulture.
This vineyard is located in the hilltop area of Montmartre. Replanted in 1933 it contains 1,900 vines of twenty-eight different grape varieties including Gamay and Pinot Noir. Figures give current production at 1,700 bottles per year. As previously stated, the wine produced here is not sold commercially but it is used at the 18th arrondissement's Town Hall.
On the edge of the Seine is the Suresnes vineyard. Replanted in 1965, there is now one hectare under cultivation with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Sémillon.
A white wine from Issy-les-Moulineaux (Le Clos des Moulineaux 1995) received first prize in a 1996 contest of wines from Ile-de-France. The vineyard here was revived in the late 1980s and is a small plot of land with 265 vines – mostly Chardonnay but with some Pinot Beurot, or blush grapes.
Every year local students take part in the harvest as part of their ecology course. Their illustrations decorate each of the bottles which are sold in aid of the local educational funds.
Wine enthusiasts can find links and details of local events on the Wine Tourism France site.
- The VFR website lists vineyards open to visitors and tastings: Click here