Montmartre celebrated its annual Fete des vendanges last weekend, in celebration of the wine harvest season. Few visitors or even locals know that Montmartre has been a grape-growing region since the Roman times. Even now, there survives a vineyard, le Clos Montmartre, that produces a small amount (1003 bottles in 2010) of wine. Every October, the wine produced from the vineyard is sold during the festival, with proceeds of the sale going to local charities. I guess the fact that the prime piece of land just off the Basilique de Sacre Coeur had not been redeveloped into residential buildings is as good a reason as any to celebrate!
Every year, the wine and food festival attracts a massive turnout (an estimated half a million people visited last year) for this gigantic block party, that features not only Montmartre wine but also the food and wine from all regions throughout France. The theme this year is “l’année des Outre-Mer” or the year of the overseas departments, including among others, the French Caribbeans and French Polynesia. Thus, not only did the posters and wine labels feature the same picture of the beguiling island girl, one can also find, amongst the stalls promoting champagne from Champagne and sausages from Auvergne, those that sell rum from Martinique and bananas from Guadeloupe.
One can get full just by nibbling the cheese and sausage samples offered by the enthusiastic vendors, though of course, there are plenty of opportunities to spend many too.
One could buy a wheel of tomme de savoie or a string of sausages,
sip some spiced vin chaud,
slurp down a dozen freshly shucked oysters,
or eat a few slices of freshly seared foie gras to ward of the cold.
Besides eating one’s way through the parcours du gout (aka the busy marketplace), there are many other activities…
…such as cooking demonstrations, a concert, a “let’s not get married” ceremony and fireworks.
We also caught an old-school parade on Saturday afternoon, replete with people in odd outfits, loud music and some entertaining props (free-flowing wine, fruits, a mobile mackerel grill and a peeing mechanical cow among other things).
Despite the intermittent rain and frigid weather, we enjoyed our day in Montmartre thoroughly. Truely, the fete des vendanges is a colorful and raucous fiesta that should not be missed if one is in Paris the first week of October.
Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre