Paris used to be surrounded by vineyards and market gardens, but almost all of them were swallowed up by the huge growth of the city in the 19th century.
That means that today, if you want to see the great vintages, you’ll need to head out of town. But while a guided trip is always an option, it’s not too difficult to get to some of the best Paris wineries on your own.
Top Paris wineries by region
The home of Champagne
The vineyards of the Champagne region are the closest, right at the edge of the great limestone basin that forms the Île-de-France district with Paris at its center. The countryside is remarkably beautiful, with rocky ridges and forests contrasting the lines of vines on the slopes below. Its calcareous soils and undulating slopes, together with its northern, cool climate, create the distinctive terroir of Champagne.
But it’s what happens in the wineries themselves that’s really important. First up is the aging in oak barrels, which gives Champagne a subtle woody flavor. Next comes the blending, and finally (once it’s been bottled) is the “riddling,” or turning the bottles around daily to enable the lees to settle in the bottlenecks, making Champagne crystal clear.
Not sure where to start your Champagne adventure? There are more than 250 kilometers of cellar tunnels dug out of the soft stone beneath the city of Reims, so that’s your best bet. It’s just 45 minutes by train from Gare de l’Est.
Pommery is one of the biggest houses in Reims, with massive cellars (some of them dating from the time of the Romans, who started the wine tradition here!). This is the must-do visit, and easily the most impressive.
You can also visit some of the other great names in Champagne, among them Mumm, Veuve Cliquot, Lanson or Taittinger. Taittinger’s cellars date from the 13th century, and it’s one of the few Champagne houses still in family ownership. Its vintage Comtes de Champagne is one of the most highly rated Champagnes, and a truly exceptional wine.
Before you go: Check with the Reims Tourist Office to see which cellars are open when you visit.
Reims isn’t the end-all-be-all of the world’s most iconic sparkling wine. Alternatively, you could take the slower train (an hour and a half) to Epernay, the second capital of Champagne.
At Mercier, a little train makes its way through the massive cellars for a quirky experience. However, the star attraction here is the huge barrel that competed with the Eiffel Tower for visitors’ attention at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900. It holds the equivalent of 250,000 bottles of Champagne!
Perrier-Jouet and Moët & Chandon also offer tours, but don’t be afraid to check out smaller producers like Michel Gonet or Venoge in Epernay. Both are housed in lovely 19th century mansions on the leafy Avenue de Champagne, with a laid-back feel that the big touristic cellars can’t match.
Walk the Avenue itself and you’ll find a half dozen more Champagne houses. Keep an eye out for the wine producers’ association headquarters, complete with a Champagne glass-themed pavement in its courtyard!
Like Champagne, Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) is not just an apellation d’origine controlée, but also inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list, together with the city of Dijon as a wine heritage site.
Dijon is about an hour and a half by train from the Gare de Lyon in Paris, and its wine heritage is on display everywhere, from the great winemakers’ mansions in the old city to the many wine bars and cellars. You can even see the 13th century wine presses set up by the Dukes of Burgundy in the little suburb of Chenove.
The vineyards are so close to the city that you could simply rent a bike and take to the road. Or, if you prefer a more organized approach, take one of the many tours offered by the local tourism office.
Urban Paris wineries
Ever thought about discovering vineyards actually inside the city? Though most of the old Paris vineyards have been built over, a few still remain. And in recent years, some new vineyards have been planted, reestablishing links with the city’s winemaking history.
There’s a tiny vineyard in Félix Desruelles Square in Saint Germain-des-Pres, with just 10 vines and a rather lovely decorated fountain. It’s one of those charming little sights that make Paris such a rewarding city for a stroll.
More well known and much bigger is the Clos Montmartre, planted in 1932 on the slopes below Sacré Coeur basilica. Its nearly 2000 vines are mainly Pinot and Garnay, with a few other varieties (Merlot, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon blanc). This vineyard even has an annual harvest feast, the Vendanges de Montmartre, in early October.
You could also visit Clos de Bercy, which produces 250 liters of wine a year. These vines are relatively new, but the winery buildings have been around for ages.
Additionally, the tiny vineyard in the Parc de Belleville doesn’t make much wine, but the extensive views over Paris make it a good choice for a stroll to clear your lungs and get away from the traffic and noise of the city.
Micro-Wineries in Paris
Paris now also has two urban micro-wineries which offer a fascinating and very different take on wine and the city.
Les Vignerons Parisiens
Les Vignerons Parisiens buys its grapes from vineyards further south, all of which are organic and many of which operate on biodynamic principles, and which harvest by hand. The wine is produced with the same handmade techniques and organic ethos, adjusting the winemaking process to the particular needs of each wine or grape. There’s no “right way” of doing it here, as there is in most traditional wineries.
See the magic happen up close on their 45-minute tour, and see why wine critics such as Jancis Robertson consistently give this place high marks.
Winerie Parisienne was started in 2015 and occupies an old printing works. Like Les Vignerons, it’s committed to organic and biodynamic principles. It aims particularly for freshness of taste, and runs an experimental series of small-production wines.
In fact, if you want to assemble your own cuvée, you can take a workshop, benefit from the winery’s expertise, and go away with your own special bottle! Or you can just visit the winery, learn about the processes used, and taste some of its production.
Winerie Parisienne has even gotten involved in planting a 10-hectare vineyard near Versailles—the first serious new planting in greater Paris for over a century. The first bottles of wine from Versailles grapes should be available in 2020, so keep an eye out!
Ready to get a crash course in all things French wine? Our Paris by Night: Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting Experience is calling your name. You’ll enjoy a night out on the town in the trendy 11th, sipping six fabulous French wines paired perfectly with a variety of local dishes. Come hungry!