by Tony Cross
Article published on the 2008-10-06 Latest update 2008-11-07 14:04 TU
Buying a bottle of Le Clos Montmartre is more likely to salve your conscience than please your palate. It doesn't get many mentions in wine-guides, being better known for its unusual provenance than its fine bouquet.
Montmartre's vines date back to a relatively recent 1929. So the fête is a bit of a phony tradition, like the provincial wine-bibbers' fraternities whose members join the annual parade in pseudo-medieval robes designed to hide the fact that their orders were established in the 19th and 20th centuries.
But suspend disbelief and you can have fun, whether it's watching the marching bands and men on stilts, munching snacks bought from stalls along the route, or joining the crowd on the butte, the hill with a glorious view of Paris that has been home to painters, poets and revolutionaries.
The vendanges are more a revival than a complete new invention. Local patriots say that there was a temple to Bacchus on the hill in Roman times. Bacchic traditions continued through the Middle Ages in dozens of bars and cabarets and there were vines until the mid-19th century, when Montmartre finally became part of Paris.
This year the fête celebrates another relatively recent tradition - cinema. Pathé had a studio here and the district features in countless films, from Jean Renoir's French Cancan to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie. There are projections, talks and tours, although they probably are only of interest if you speak French.
Spanish actress Victoria Abril and French director Claude Lelouch are the public faces of the festival this year.
The festival runs over the weekend of 10-12 October in Montmartre.