Clos Montmartre is the wine made from what is billed as “the city’s last working vineyard”.
Although grapes had always been grown here, residential sprawl and then phylloxera destroyed the remnants of its vineyards in the early 20th century. Lusted over by property developers, the one remaining plot was revived in 1933 by a group of local artists led by Francis Poulbot, a famous illustrator. These artists petitioned the government to grant them the land so they could replant the vines. Knowing that French law states that nothing can be built on a vineyard, they saved this small patch of nature from the builder’s shovel
|The Montmartre wine specialists, in full regalia|
|The Bretons with binious|
Each year there are harvest godparents. The firsr godmother in 1934 was the legendary Mistinguett. This year the godparents were model-cum-actress Mélanie Thierry and singer Raphaël, who form an unwed couple with a child in real life (see below).
|Les P'tits Poulbots|
It all ended Sunday night with a ball from 5 to 8 pm at the same place as the previous night’s fireworks. The music was international, reflecting this year’s planetary theme. There were biguines from the French West Indies, cumblas from Colombia, boleros and rumbas from Cuba... everything down to the Good old Parisian Apache dance.
Of course there were booths scattered around the area, handing out samples so you could taste the specialties that make France delicious. Wine, of course, but also pâtes, cheeses, chocolates and other goodies such as cotton candy, which the French call barbe à papa - Daddy’s beard. There were also balloon sellers and even a balloon sculptor making those balloon giraffes and dachshunds children so love. A wall 200 meters long covered with murals by local artists. A public ball, including Bollywood dancers when the French dancers get tired. And of course speeches, starting with the one in the vineyards already stripped of their grapes.
The Vendanges is the Big Moment for Montmartre, event-wise. A bit kitsch, for sure. But we’ve learned to grin and bear it, and even embrace it. And then we rejoice when all the additional tourists, Parisian and foreign, go home and leave us to our Butte.
But the children enjoy it, especially the balloon-and-candy side of it. And it’s only once a year.
To hear an NPR piece on the Clos Montmartre: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=162948456&m=162955102