The wine-lover's dream – in the suburbs of Paris

The hills around the French capital were once famed for their vintages. Now one small vineyard which has survived the urban sprawl is in need of an expert to run it

Wanted: urban wine producer to run small, hilltop vineyard with beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower. No house or château but the successful applicant can easily commute to work by Metro and bus.

The town of Suresnes, in the heart of one of the densest urban conurbations in the world, is searching for a municipal vigneron or wine grower. His or her task will be to prepare the town's two-and-a-half acres of vines – a remnant of the immense vineyards which once surrounded Paris – for official recognition and regional label status next year.

The pretty vineyard, planted mostly with chardonnay grapes, stands just to the south of the tower blocks of the La Défense office district, on the western boundary of the city of Paris. If you look down at the steeply sloping rows of vines, you might be in Burgundy or Champagne. If you lift your eyes, you have an extraordinary panorama of the French capital, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré-Coeur.

The vineyard, at the crest of Mont-Valérien, just across the river Seine from the Bois de Boulogne, has been rescued from oblivion by the Suresnes town hall and local volunteers over the past 30 years. It is now the largest of the 134 fragmentary vineyards in the greater Paris area and the only one with full legal status and permission to market its wine.

With the retirement of the previous chief wine grower, the town hall is trying to recruit a wine professional willing to move home from the hinterland of La France Profonde to the Paris suburbs. The brief is to continue the improvement in the local label – Coteaux de Suresnes, Clos de Pas Saint Maurice – in time for its promised promotion next year to "geographically protected" status.

"We are already the only commune in the Ile de France which makes wine according to all the official rules and regulations," said Jean-Louis Testud, the assistant mayor responsible for the vineyard.

There is no reason, he says, why the local wine – which sells for €8 (£7) to €10 a bottle – could not come to be recognised once again as something special. "In the 15th century, the surgeon in charge of Hôtel-Dieu [the ancient hospital beside Notre Dame cathedral] used to recommend all his patients to drink Suresnes wine." Paris was once the biggest single wine-producing area in the world. Until the 18th century, all south-east facing slopes for many miles around the French capital were planted with vines. The largest single vineyard in Europe – and therefore the world – was not in Burgundy or Bordeaux or Languedoc but in the Ile de France, the region around Paris.

Hilly areas which have since been swallowed up by Paris proper – such as the working-class district of Belleville, birthplace of Edith Piaf, and the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the Left Bank, were once vineyards. So was the steep hill of Montmartre in northern Paris, which still has a tiny, urban vineyard.

Suresnes wine was always relatively prized. Most of the other Paris vineyards were mass producers of cheap red and white table wine, which was consumed freely in place of the poisonous local water. It has been estimated that, in the 18th century, every inhabitant of Paris, man, woman and child, drank 250 litres of wine a year. Even in the 17th and 18th centuries, the nobility and haute bourgeoisie tended to shun Paris wines and drink champagne or burgundy (but not bordeaux, which was sold mostly to the British and the Dutch).

Some of the Paris area vineyards thrived up to the early 19th century, but by the beginning of the 20th century they had almost all disappeared. Some were ruined by competition from railway-transported wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and the French deep South. Others were destroyed by the phylloxera parasite infestation in the second half of the century and never replanted. Little by little, the once-proud Ile de France vineyards were obliterated by the sprawl of factories and suburban towns.

In 1926, the then mayor of Suresnes, Henri Sellier, an architect of "garden cities", bought a little land to preserve the town's connection with wine. In the 1960s, an assistant mayor, Etienne Lafourcade, the grandson of a Bordeaux wine maker, renewed the municipal vines. In the last 30 years – and especially in the last 10 – the Suresnes vineyard has been modernised and extended and replanted with popular grape varieties. There is now a small, up-to-date winery among the rows of vines. Four-fifths of the grapes are chardonnay; the rest are sauvignon. The vineyard produces 6,000 bottles of white wine a year. Until now this has been sold only at the town hall or local markets. From next year, it will be available on the internet.

There is an association of local volunteers who pick the grapes in September and October. The chief wine-maker is a well-known French food and wine critic, Périco Lagasse, who preaches – and practises – a return to more traditional, less mass-produced oenological methods.

Is Suresnes wine any good? Mr Lagasse certainly thinks so. In the town's official blog, he describes the 2008 vintage of Coteaux de Suresnes as "fruity, with tints of citrus, honeysuckle and fresh almonds, a touch of mineral and delicate aromas of ripe plums, Suresnes 2008 is the perfect accompaniment to a good sole meunière or a feisty whiting..."

An independent wine-tasting blog, Vin-sur-Vin, is not quite so convinced, but is reasonably flattering all the same. "You would not expect the complexity and depth of a (fine) Burgundy chardonnay... but, all the same, we have tasted – and recently – bottles of chablis which are far inferior to this Suresnes." The blog awarded the wine 13 out of 20: plenty of encouragement, but also plenty of room for improvement, for the town's commuting wine producer.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
News
peopleEnglishman managed the quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Flat out: Michael Flatley will return to the stage in his show Lord Of The Dance
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape