Oct 15th, 2016, 07:00 PM

The Secret Vendange de Montmartre

By Lily Radziemski
A Parisian could never turn down the chance to drink wine. (Photo Credit: Rebecca Simor)
No words could gather 200,000 people together quite like "wine and cheese".

Wherever there is wine, people will find it. Thomas Fuller—a 17th century English writer and historian—once said, "wine hath drowned more men than the sea." However, it’s probable that even Fuller couldn’t have predicted the magnitude of Paris’s renowned Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre, in which upwards of 200,000 people gather in the small streets of Montmartre and risk draining Paris of its holy water.

It’s commonplace for wine lovers to flock all over France to taste their favorite grapes. However, hidden in the shadows behind Sacre-Coeur there is a little, inconspicuous vineyard that commands a steep hillside overlooking northern Paris.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

The Clos Montmartre was established in the year 944. It quickly became iconic of the character and beauty of Montmartre; Henri Toulouse-Lautrec would frequently paint the vineyard. However, in 1928, the vines were struck by disease and the vineyard took a hiatus; but in typical French fashion, it didn’t take long before the vines were commissioned to be replanted when their land was threatened by a real-estate project. Francisque Poulbot—the creator of La République de Montmartre—lead the project to revive the classic vineyard in 1934, and the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre was born to celebrate this revival.  

Fast-forward to present day, and the festival has developed into an iconic event. Spanning over the course of four days—this year was October 5 to 9—hundreds of thousands of thirsty people flock to the numerous events, parties, and wine tastings that the fête has to offer, beginning near the funiculaire.

Throughout the week, Montmartre hosted the "visites des vignes," which provided tours of the famous vines that are usually closed-off to the public. Wandering through the vineyard under the backdrop of Sacre-Coeur, city life is left behind as the illusion of being in French wine country comes to life.

During the weekend, the streets are lined with stands of independent wine sellers from all over the country. It quickly becomes apparent that this event is well-thought out when the classic smell of fromageries drift through the air, and stands selling hundreds of types of cheese and saucisson are revealed. The French holy trinity is officially thriving.

Image Credit: Facebook/Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre

Similar to Nuit Blanche, the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre has dense crowds working against the romanticism that its concept conveys. The magic of walking down the twisty roads of Montmartre on a crisp fall day—glass of delicious rosé in hand—can quite literally be shattered when the crowd jostles you just the wrong way. However, if the event was only about the wine itself, everyone would have just stayed in one of Paris’s thousands of cafes.

The Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre is not only an expression of French culture, but of the roots that founded it. In this world that we live in, where France is being violently attacked for the values that make it so magical, events like the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre show French resilience and strengthen the power of culture. Everyone loves a culturally relevant excuse to drink wine, but this festival also represents that encore, on a des fleurs.