Tucked amid the city’s urban sprawl, dozens of secluded vineyards dot the French capital and produce some of France’s most exclusive wines.
When I first met Irene Henriques, it was the hottest-recorded week in French history. She was standing at the foot of her vineyard wearing long trousers and a thick khaki workman’s coat. When I asked how she wasn’t melting, she laughed and replied in her soft-spoken voice, “After 30 years of wine-growing, you get used to it.”
Gesturing towards the rolling, bucolic hill behind us, Henriques begged, “It’s beautiful, no?” I had to agree. The land that she and her team have spent decades cultivating looks like a Rococo painting come to life; an Arcadian vision of the French countryside. Climbing wisteria and lilacs line the surrounding iron fence, while apple and pear trees provide much-needed shade. Henriques’ most important crops, the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Muscat grapes, crown the hill, gorging themselves on sunlight.
France has strict vine-planting regulations, and until recently, only certain regions – including Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Champagne – could bottle and sell wine commercially. But in 2016, an EU-mandated liberalisation of the French wine sector extended the right to sell wine commercially throughout most of France. Yet, wines produced within the French capital can still not be sold to commercial markets because of the perceived threat urban pollution may have on the grapes.
But the goal of Parisian vineyards was never to make money. So rather than going from wine cellars to wine sellers, the bottles have always been auctioned off to benefit the city during harvest time. Also, because the vines are owned and operated by the City of Paris, you can’t just go for a tasting or a tour, as you can in other French regions. Continue reading “Paris’ hidden vineyards”