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Why a pop-up winery at the Eiffel Tower may be a game changer

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As winemakers seek to expand their appeal through sometimes unconventional means, a new pop-up in France’s most iconic monument might be a sign of things to come.

Until at least March, possibly into June, French winemaker Winerie Parisienne is hosting a pop-up winery inside the Eiffel Tower. It’s a functioning winery, if on a small scale, with two fermenting tanks, eight barrels and a placard explaining the winemaking process. The project opened in October, and Winerie Parisienne said it’s the first of its kind.

The hurdles of installing a pop-up winery in the famous monument, which sees more than 7 million visitors a year according to its website, were many, from logistics to security. The winery brought enough grapes and equipment to the Eiffel Tower to make 2,000 bottles of wine there.

“It was a huge challenge, not only technical but it also involved lots of authorizations and security,” said Francois Witasse, president director general of Tonnellerie Demptos, the Bordeaux cooperage that supplied the barrels for the pop-up.

“On the technical side, the challenge was not only getting the barrels and other equipment transported, but also getting the grapes moved at a good temperature,” Witasse said. “It was done very early in the morning by the lifts of the tower, before the public had access.”

While some may see the project as nothing more than a marketing gimmick, there’s no denying it reveals a tipping point in wine’s intrigue for the masses. What would the late Julia Child think? The chef always wanted wine, alongside artisan food, to go mainstream.

“This is just an effort to educate the public, light their curiosity and create a product with a great story behind it,” Witasse said.

The project clearly has a global outreach. In front of the tanks, the step-by-step process of winemaking is written in French, English, Spanish and Chinese.

It makes you wonder what’s next. A pop-up winery at the Great Wall? The Taj Mahal? The Colosseum?

“It’s like if we were going to put a pop-up winery on the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Coby Jamieson, sales manager at Demptos Napa, the Napa Valley arm of the Tonnellerie Demptos cooperage.

Jamieson said everyone in her company is keeping a close eye on the Paris project.

Visitors to the Eiffel Tower can see the pop-up, but they can’t try the wine being made there now. Those wines won’t be available until after they’ve finished aging and are bottled (they’ll sell for $50 to $60 a bottle), after the pop-up closes. But visitors can taste the winery’s past vintages of merlot, sauvignon blanc and rosé in the eatery Bulle Parisenne, just 15 yards from the tanks.

Julia Goncalves from Brazil was in the Bulle Parisenne last month, sipping the winery’s rosé with a plate of charcuterie.

“The project was a surprise,” she said about the pop-up’s tanks and barrels. “I didn’t expect them. It’s interesting.”

The barrels come from the Demptos Research Center, which works out of the University of Bordeaux. These barrels are a combination of the company’s Paradox, Essencia and Réserve barrels.

The Paradox barrels eliminate toffee aromas, while the Essencia enhances the complex floral and fruity characters in the wine. Meanwhile, the Réserve benefit slow extraction of red wines and enhance their aromatics.

With less than a year of aging for the whites and the reds, it appears the winemaker’s goal with the Eiffel Tower wines is to make approachable, fruit-forward wines.

Winerie Parisienne, according to Witasse, is a pioneer of the revival of the wine industry in Paris, which stagnated in the 1970s. In 2017, the winery planted its vineyard on the Plaine de Versailles, 20 minutes outside Paris.

“The large winegrowing regions have become well-known thanks to history: Napoleon’s passion for champagne, for example, or the great Wine Fair of 1855 for Bordeaux wines,” said Adrien Pelissie, co-founder of Winerie Parisienne. “What better historic symbol than the Eiffel Tower to promote Parisian wine?”

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