Paris’ hidden vineyards

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”

The invention of France

Two hours north east of Paris is a famous battlefield. The defeated French leader was called Napoleon, but the battle was not Waterloo. It was Sedan, and lining up against the French, the Prussians. The defeated French leader was Napoleon’s nephew, le petit Napoleon, otherwise known as the emperor Napoleon III. This battle, in 1870, set up the dynamic that led to two world wars. | Audio

In the final Invention of France, Misha Glenny explores a crucial year for all western Europe. France was invaded, Paris bombarded, and Alsace occupied. January 18th 1871, a humiliating event – the proclamation of a new German empire, announced not in Germany but in the Palace of Versailles. Europe would never be the same.

With contributions from Thomas Kielinger, Jonathan Fenby, ambassador Sylvie Bermann, Andrew Hussey, Jeremy Black and Agnew Poirier. Plus contrubutions from Emile Zola’s novel, Le Debacle.

The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde. LISTEN to the BCC program

Falconetti as Joan of Arc

Je t’aime: The Story of French Song

The problem with many music documentaries is that they suffer from over-familiarity. In a bid to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, they end up spreading themselves too thinly on an area already well covered. Viewers tune in and, largely speaking, have their knowledge reaffirmed while they hang around on the off-chance that there may be some newly uncovered archive footage to make their investment worthwhile. There are notable exceptions to this, of course, and generally they crop close on their subject, or as in the case of Je t’aime: The Story of French Song, focus on an area that has been long neglected – indeed by many outside France it has simply been dismissed. […]

Source: Je t’aime: The Story of French Song, BBC Four | The Arts Desk