Saint Germain des Prés


Paris' smallest vineyard

The Square Laurent Prache boasts Paris’ smallest vineyard. With only ten vines of Gamay from the Beaujolais village of Julienas, it can hardly be called a vineyard. But the modesty of the vineyard is more than compensated by the enthusiasm of its supporters.


Among the sponsors of 2007 of the “St Julienas des Prés” enclosure is notably John Simenon, the son of Georges Simenon, the famous French author who wrote the detective series with the commissioner Maigret. Yves Cambeborde, the French chef who inspired ‘bistronomy’ is also a supporter.


Julienas is one of the ten Beaujolais crus. Its fruity and lively wine comes from a black gamay with white juice, still hand picked. It has good body and when grown naturally and vinified properly, can be kept from 5 to 8 years.


Vineyards in the Middle Ages

The large Abbeys of Saint Germain des Prés, Saint Denis and Notre Dame de Paris possessed extensive vineyards situated on the Mont Valérien, the hills of Montmorency, Cormeilles en Parisis, Argenteuil, Vauréal, Andrésy as well as other communes.


The vines of the plots of Issy, Vaugirard, Meudon, Chatillon and Fontenay were under the jurisdiction of Saint Germain des Prés right up until the Revolution.


Brief history of St Germain des Prés

A small village nestled around the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was consecrated in 558 by the bishop of Paris. In the Middle Ages, it was outside the city. The town of Saint-Germain was established in the twelfth century and had about 600 inhabitants. It was still outside the city walls built by Philippe-Auguste.


Its territory spread along the left bank of the Seine in what is now the sixth and seventh arrondissements. Until the 12th century, the parish church was Saint-Pierre, on the site of the present Ukrainian Catholic church. The abbey continued to grow and flourish, extending its influence and building stone buildings. The name of the rue du Four (in the sixth arrondissement) corresponds to an oven of the abbey. About 1180, Saint-Sulpice became the first parish church.


The neighbourhood has been a haunt of intellectuals since the 17th century. The Encylopedists gathered at the Café Landelle on the rue de Buci or at Le Procope, which still exists. Likewise, the future revolutionaries Jean-Paul Marat, Georges Danton, and Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, lived in the neighbourhood. The buildings of the abbey were destroyed in the Revolution, when they served as an armoury.


From 1921 until the end of the '50s, Le Divan bookstore, owned by Henri Martineau, also issued a journal of the same name, at the corner of the rue Bonaparte and the rue de l'Abbaye.


After the Second World War, the neighbourhood became the centre of intellectuals and philosophers, actors and musicians. Existentialism co-existed with jazz in the cellars on the rue de Rennes. Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Gréco, Jean-Luc Godard, Boris Vian, and François Truffaut were all at home there. But there were also poets such as Jacques Prévert and artists such as Giovanni Giacometti. As a residential address St Germain is no longer quite as fashionable as the area further south towards the Jardin du Luxembourg, partly due to Saint Germain's increased popularity among tourists.


(Notes taken from Paris Pays du Vin by Etienne Lafourcade and from Wikipedia)