The Vines of Belleville

The past wine history of Lutèce dates back to the Carolingians. The ‘clos’ or enclosed vineyards maintained by the monks covered the “plateau de Savies”, currently Belleville (20th arrondissement). They produced a wine of great quality. In the 14th century, innkeepers and tavern-keepers settled in the village and installed trade with an abundant amount of wine, but a mediocre type of wine perpetuated until the Revolution. All of Paris came to loosen up, dance, and drink ‘guinguet’, a young sparkling wine which eventually gave its name to the guinguettes, or wine taverns. Little by little, the vineyard disappeared and now all that remains is a small 500 m² plot, planted in 1992.

In the Middle Ages, numerous religious communities acquired plots of land on the hill. They cleared fields, planted grape vines, and tapped numerous springs. Taverns and guinguettes competed for places there from the fourteenth to eighteenth century.

In the mid-eighteenth century, the celebrated publican Ramponneau's tavern "Au Tambour Royal" served a young, slightly effervescent wine made from the Belleville grapes called Piquette. Over time this use has changed and the name now refers to a drink made from pomace and water, and is figuratively used to refer to a bad wine.

The opening of a gypsum quarry in the nineteenth century attracted a population of seasonal workers (often stonemasons), who worked on Baron Haussmann's construction projects during the winter and returned home in the summer to tend their fields. The area was deemed insalubrious, which didn't improve with the closing of the quarry.

In the 19th century, the cottages which at the time stood on both sides of the steps leading up to the present-day park gave the hill an appearance similar to that of Montmartre. They belonged to Julien Lacroix, one of the most important landowners of the hill of Belleville, and a street which runs alongside the park now bears his name. At this time, a grand party was organized each year on the hill for Mardi Gras. On the last day of the carnival, Mardi Gras, all of Paris came en masse to witness the "descente de la Courtille", one of the three major Mardi Gras processions named after the cheap restaurants that lined the rue de Belleville. Among them, "Le coq Hardi" (The Hardy Rooster) and "La carotte filandreuse" (The Coriaceous Carrot), were well known for the drinking binges of their patrons.

At the end of the 20th century, the cottages disappeared, giving way to more modern buildings and the Parc de Belleville. A vineyard growing Pinot Meunier vines from Champagne and Chardonnay vines from Burgundy still lies at the top of the park as a reminder of the area's viticultural history.
(Notes from a text translated from the Mairie de Paris website and Wikipedia)