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Leap Year Wine & Paris Vines

Updated: Apr 18

And remember to leap to the Red Wheelbarrow bookshop today for your signed copy of ‘The Hidden Vineyards of Paris’!

Only once every four years…

Some maintain that 29 February is a day that doesn’t legally exist. It is a day unlike any other, rife with legend, odd traditions and some unusual practices. For example, on leap day women can propose to men and should be served tea / coffee / red wine on demand throughout the day, without having to wash up any of the cups. Those fortunate to be born on a leap day (leaplings) are 4 times younger than the rest of us (they wish).

In the annals of history, there exists a peculiar and somewhat overlooked chapter dedicated to the role of wine during Leap Years. It is a tale woven into the tapestry of time, where grapevines and calendars intertwine in a dance that occurs only once every four years.

In the ancient vineyards of Gaul, circa 45 B.C., the ever-discerning Romans noticed a curious phenomenon during Leap Years. As the calendar added an extra day to the year, the grapevines seemed to respond with an exuberance unmatched in ordinary years. Winemakers, mystified by this annual bonus bestowed upon their vineyards, began to attribute it to the magical influence of Leap Year.

As the centuries rolled on, the tradition persisted. In medieval monasteries, monks with a penchant for both prayer and winemaking marvelled at the robustness of their vintages during Leap Years. Legends began to circulate, suggesting that Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, favoured this extra day and blessed the vineyards with an abundance of grapes.

Fast forward to the Renaissance, where the courts of kings and queens became stages for grand feasts during Leap Years. Nobility, ever keen on revelry, would commission barrels of the finest wines to celebrate the fleeting 29th day of February. The court jesters would entertain, and the courtiers would raise their goblets to a year that dared to defy the ordinary.

In the 18th century, as global trade expanded, so did the influence of Leap Year on the wine industry. Merchants, recognising the unique marketing opportunity, labeled their bottles with special Leap Year insignias. The allure of a vintage from a year that emerged only once in four was a temptation too enticing for connoisseurs to resist.

The 20th century brought about a more commercialised celebration of Leap Year, and with it, a boom in the sale of sparkling wines. Champagne houses capitalised on the festive atmosphere, branding their bubbly as the quintessential elixir for toasting to the rare and extraordinary Leap Year moments.

Today, in the 21st century, the connection between wine and Leap Year endures. Wineries around the world host special events, release limited edition Leap Year blends, and enthusiasts eagerly await this quirk in the calendar to uncork something extraordinary.

For me, that something is the story of ‘The Hidden Vineyards of Paris’, which I will be ‘uncorking’ at The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop this evening between 6:30-9pm. Leap to it and join us!

So, as the Earth completes its orbit around the sun, spare a thought for the humble grapevine. For every four years, it gets an extra day to bask in the sun, producing the elixir that has, throughout history, accompanied humanity’s celebration of that once-in-four-years Leap. So, let’s celebrate and raise a toast to a great year for ‘the hidden vineyards of Paris’!


Wine Walks!

For more information, click on the underlined links:

Paris’ most famous wine producing vineyard

An insider’s journey to the oldest wine neighbourhood in the city

The Marais seen through a wineglass

Discover the vinous spirit of medieval Paris

A comprehensive overview of medieval Paris

Short on time? This one’s for you.

Drink responsibly, drink sustainably, in moderation

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