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Paris wine producers go for Sideways effect

Wine producers in the Île de France region are aiming to attract tourists to their newly-revived vineyards.

Vignerons Franciliens Réunis (VFR), which is campaigning for official recognition for the region’s wines, has produced a map of vineyards that can be visited in and around Paris.

VFR’s President, Christian de la Guéronnière, told decanter.com, ‘One reason for France’s wine crisis is a lack of communication. We’re way behind on wine tourism.’

De la Guéronnière cited US film Sideways, whose anti-hero is a Pinot Noir fan, and has revolutionised consumption of the varietal in the country.

‘Look at the effect Sideways has had on US consumers. The Paris-Île de France region has 11m inhabitants and attracts an estimated 45m tourists every year. I believe many of them would welcome a chance to visit a vineyard.’

At the end of the 18th century the area around Paris was France’s largest wine-growing region, with 42,000ha of vines. By 1915, as a result of urbanisation, railways bringing cheap wine from the south, and the pylloxera epidemic, not a single vine remained.

But since the mid 1990s the region’s vineyards have experienced a renaissance. There are now 152 parcels of vines, both inside and outside the city, producing white, red, rosé and sparkling wines. The total area under vine remains small, at around 11ha, but it is growing fast.

There is no inherent reason why the region should not produce good wine. Pierre Facon, who makes méthode champenoise and still wines on south-east facing slopes at Neuilly-Plaisance east of Paris, points out that the local microclimate is actually slightly warmer than the appellation of Champagne, whose boundaries are a mere 50 km away to the east.

The region’s producers (with the exception of Suresnes, which has a special dispensation) are not legally allowed to sell their wines. Even the celebrated wines of Montmartre, whose annual 1800 bottles cost around €45 a bottle, are not strictly speaking sold, but exchanged for a ‘donation’ to the district’s Mairie, which uses the money to support charitable causes in the district.

VFR want to change this. ‘People ask us every day to sell them our wines, and we’re not allowed to’, says de la Guéronnière. ‘We don’t want to sell to supermarkets or wine shops, but we’d like to be able to sell to interested individuals’.

Written by Rupert Joy

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