Paris: History

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Wine was grown around Paris in the 4th century, and its fame as a wine-growing area dates from long after the Roman empire. Clovis, king of the Franks 481–511, made Paris the capital of his kingdom and from the 8th century onwards Frisian, Saxon, and English merchants sailed up the river Seine to Paris to buy wine. Under the Merovingians and the Carolingians, Paris was an important centre of trade, and much of the wine sold there would have been produced locally.

A document from the beginning of the 9th century shows that viticulture was a major part of the local economy. The Roll of Irminon, named after the abbot of St-Germain-des-Prés who instigated this survey of his monastery’s lands, is the only document of its kind dating back to the time of charlemagne. Vineyards at Rambouillet, Dreux, Fontainebleau, Sceaux, and Versailles were cultivated not only by monks but also by laymen, and it is clear from the amounts produced that there must have been a surplus to sell on the open market. Documents from the Abbey of St-Denis, near Paris, show that St-Germain-des-Prés was not unique in this respect. In the 9th century, St-Denis had vineyards in the abbey precincts and possessed wine-growing estates in the Île-de-France, as the Paris basin was known; many smaller monasteries in the area also produced wine for sale (see monks and monasteries).