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A Sunday vine-spotting in Paris

That wasn't very sunny for July, but a fun day nevertheless

GEOFFREY FINCH

JUL 11, 2024


Sundays in France have traditionally been reserved for family, with everyone gathering around the table to feast on grandma’s ‘poulet de dimanche’ or a large cut of cow. Those whose families are distant, create family with friends and there, the field is much broader in terms of fun things to do.


This past Sunday, the 7th of the 7th, a band of intrepid urban explorers gathered to cycle around the west side of the city, to vine-spot. This I am certain is not a normal Sunday activity and I don’t think I’d be out of line in suggesting it is something I have, in perhaps a slightly self-interested way, invented myself.


Our band of intrepid urban explorers.


Vine-spotting is really about finding spiritual connection with the city’s past as we rediscover the vine’s hold on the cityscape. It’s also about getting out there and seeing areas of the city you’ve perhaps never visited before. And at the same time, spending the day in a leisurely, idle kind of way that reminds us of what an extraordinary place Paris is, while perhaps actually finding a few new vines. 


After five hours of nosing our ways into hidden squares, parks, gardens, no-man’s-land green-spaces and private courtyards in the very quiet, sedate and markedly un-peopled residential areas of the 8th, the 17th and the 16th arrondissements of Paris, we found only one vine. And that, in an inaccessible gated courtyard, and so identified and photographed from a certain distance.


84 Rue Lauriston,75016


During our first rest stop, which took place in the Parc Monceau in the 8th, where we ate well-filled sandwiches, fresh kiwis and apricots while sipping perfectly chilled sparkling rosé, we each guessed how many rogue, isolated, random, or otherwise forgotten vines we would find on our quest. Not willing to allow whoever it was who chose ‘one’ as the number to win, we carried on to the 15th arrondissement, hoping to prove them wrong. And we did, although just barely.


Jardin des Cevennes, 3 rue Cauchy, 75015 Paris


The vine featured above and below is in the Jardin des Cevennes on the rue Cauchy, a small park very close the Parc André Citroën , which has no vines.



It wasn’t a very good showing for the effort put in, but it might also have been a case of bad luck and the constraints of time (some of the bikes had to be returned before 6pm). The 8th, 16th and 17th arrondissements are generously endowed with green spaces (there are 13 in the 8th, 37 in the 16th and 37 in the 17th) and as we only covered a very small part of those arrondissements, chances are we just missed those areas where vines may be found. To be continued…


The vine bountiful 14th


A couple of days later, cycling from the 5th to Montrouge for a lunch engagement with the fascinating Jeanne Yerre (consultante cépages et vins), we found 5 new vines in under an hour. The first, featured below is on the rue des Feuillantines in the 5th, next to the restaurant ‘Vinsobres’. Although it is potted, it is very well established and judging by the girth of the trunk, at least 20 years old.


Venerable old vine on the corner of rue des Feuillantines and rue Saint-Jacques next to the restaurant ‘Vinsobres’


Going against the traffic on the rue Raymond Losserand in quest of vines someone had told me were to be found on the rue du Chateau, we stumbled upon a small park that initially showed no sign of vines. But if you venture further, all the way to the left side of the park after entering, there’s a tangle of greenery in which a vine plays a significant role.


Jardin du Moulin des Trois Cornets by 7 rue Raymond Losserand, 75014


The rue du Chateau, or at least the part we explored, showed no sign of vines, but we did come upon this unruly specimen planted in a box next to the Biocoop on the Place du Catalogne.


Vigorous planted vine by the Biocoop on the Place de Catalogne


As there were promising and alluring side streets full of greenery, we rode into all we could find and happily came upon the Jardin Francoise Héritier off the rue du Moulin des Lapins.


Vine against the stone wall of the Jardin Francoise Héritier


Here there were two vigorous, well-established vines, both to be found in the area of the communal vegetable garden.


Vine climbing a trellis in the Jardin Francoise Héritier


It is safe to say that some areas of the city have a greater bond with Paris’ viticultural heritage than others, as the number and ease with which we found these few in the 14th will testify. Certainly the areas of the city that have traditionally been associated with viticulture stand out, but it is nevertheless a surprise to discover just how many vines are still to be found within the city’s 20 arrondissements.


We will continue this whimsical labour in the weeks to come as it is an ongoing, perhaps endless, project. In the meanwhile, we maintain our offer of a free wine walk for anyone who finds a rogue, isolated, random, or otherwise forgotten vine anywhere within Paris.


Thank you for letting me into your world and for reading the Paris Wine Walks Substack. Your support is invaluable as are your comments, suggestions, critiques, dreams, thoughts and remembrances. A little encouragement goes a long way, so please consider a paid subscription, which need cost no more than (a cheap) glass of wine per week. Or, book a wine walk!


My book, ‘The Hidden Vineyards of Paris’ (reviewed in Jancis Robinson’s wine blog, the Wine Economist, National Geographic Traveler UK, UK Telegraph) is available at ‘The Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop’ at 11 rue de Medicis, 75006 Paris. If you haven’t yet discovered this gem of a bookshop, now’s your chance. Open every day!


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