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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road