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An 18th century image of the Halle aux Vins in Paris

This image is from a document describing the establishment of a credit office at the Halle aux Vins in Paris.  When wine was brought into the Halle aux Vins the merchants were required to pay cash up front for the entry fees.  These fees could be substantial and exceed the amount of cash merchants had on hand.  These merchants would then be forced to immediately sell their wine at a low price in order to obtain enough cash.  The establishment of the credit office allowed merchants to take out a fixed loan to pay the entry fees.  They could then take their time to seek the best price for their wine after which they could pay off the loan.

Image from Arrest du Conseil d'Etat du Roy. 1724. [1]

Image from Arrest du Conseil d’Etat du Roy. 1724. [1]

The image itself shows five vines by the windmill in the left hand side.  Barrels of wine are being brought in by boat and cart.  In the bottom foreground are what appear to be the wine gaugers calculating the volume of wine in each barrel.  In the right foreground is what appears to be the credit office with the double-arched entrance to the side.


[1] Arrêt du conseil d’Etat en faveur de la caisse de crédit des vins établie à Paris dans la halle aux vins. France. Conseil d’Etat. 1724. Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique.  URL: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b86085957
[2] Lefebvre de la Bellande, Jean-Louis. Traite general des droits d’aides. 1760. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=foeO5ez6AtsC&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

“bottles exploded, sending showers of glass into the air”: The 1944 German bombing of the Halle aux Vins after the Liberation of Paris

Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port) recently posted about the destruction of 1927 vintage Port during the World War 2 bombings of waterfront warehouses in London.  He wrote that the vintage port “was destroyed and was seen running down the streets in ruby rivers.”  There was similar destruction of wine in France as a result of the Liberation of Paris.  Though the Germans surrendered Paris on August 25, 1944, not all was immediately quiet.  Late in the evening of August 26, 1944, the German Luftwaffe bombed Paris.  Hundreds of people were killed and injured as well as nearly 2,000 buildings were partially and totally destroyed.  Amongst the damaged buildings was the Halle aux Vins.[1]

Dans un chai de la Halle aux Vins, il no reste plus que les cercles des barriques calcinees. [5]

Dans un chai de la Halle aux Vins, il no reste plus que les cercles des barriques calcinees. [5]

The Halle aux Vins was first built as the central wine market for Paris in the 17th century.[2]  It was a complex of warehouses built to handle the millions of hectoliters worth of wine consumed in the city.  It occupied some six or seven city blocks in order to store millions of bottles and nearly a million barrels of wine.[6]  On any given day nearly 400,000 gallons of wine entered and left the warehouses.  On the evening of the bombing it contained the stocks of 100 leading wine merchants.  The Halle aux Vins was targeted because previous German efforts were unsuccessful in capturing the massive stores of wine.

Les Bombes au Phosphore Et a Retardement. [5]

Les Bombes au Phosphore Et a Retardement. [5]

The intention must have been for the complete destruction of the complex for the incendiary bombs created a fire so massive that the burning Halle aux Vins illuminated all of central Paris.[3]  Firefighters came to the scene but their efforts were complicated by shots from snipers.[4]  The heat from the fire caused Champagne corks to pop and bottles of Cognac to “burst like bombs”.  Wooden cases still smoldered the following day.  There were piles of melted glass which “had been stores of savory wines” and heaps of deformed metal hoops which marked all that were left of wooden casks.  Not all wine was destroyed for one wholesaler saved two casks of Bordeaux.

He hooked up a rubber hose and served the wine in quaint, shallow silver cups to the firemen and anyone else who seemed thirsty.  The same wine, in Paris cafes, would cost about six dollars a bottle.  It was being poured like water, and more was hitting the ground than the cups. [1]


[1] Wine Stocks Destroyed, By GENE CURRIVAN By Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file); Aug 28, 1944;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer pg. 5
[2] Hogshead Wine: A Brief History of the Halle aux Vins in Paris.
[3] Overy, R. J. Why the Allies Won. W. W. Norton & Co. 1997.
[4] “Paris Snipers Are Mopped Up” Date: Monday, August 28, 1944 Paper: Register-Republic (Rockford, IL) Page: 2 .
[5] Le bombardement de Paris par les Allemands. Musee de la Resistance En Ligne. URL: http://www.museedelaresistanceenligne.org/expo.php?expo=84&theme=156#media4477
[6] THE TRUE CITY OF BACCHUS ON THE SEINE: In the Depot Beside the River … By TOM MARVEL New York Times (1923-Current file); Jan 8, 1933; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. SM17

A Brief History of the Halle aux Vins in Paris

December 7, 2011 3 comments

Porte Saint-Bernard, Michel-Etienne Turgot, Paris, 1734, Image from Wikipedia

The Office of City Ordinance recorded the request to establish a wine market in April 1664.  Located near the Abbaye Saint Victor and Saint Bernard at the Quai Saint Bernard and Rue des Fosses, it allowed for the transport of wine via the Seine and covered halls so that merchants could sell their wines.

Office of the City May 12, 1664 Order
Seeing ours minutes of April 17 and 18 containing the requisition of the Sieur de Charamande and others interested in establishing a wine market for peddlers, we made the descent on two sites acquired by the above-named out St. Bernard is to build the said hall, the plan presented to us, all the report as a result of the permission granted by His Majesty to the said Sieur de Charamande and others to build a few halls in the most convenient of said city to withdraw under cover of the wine market vendors have this effect gained two yards outside the gate of St. Bernard, the abbot, prior and monks of the convent of St. Victor and the lady of La Fayette, etc.. Have ordered that boats and other works to make that wine market will be built and how it is worn and audit report.

The popularity of the market continued to grow such that in 1808 Napoleon signed articles that allowed for the planning for a new market and warehouse for wine.

The palace of St. Cloud March 30, 1808
Napoleon, etc.
Article 1.
It will be formed in our good city of Paris a market and a warehouse for wines and spirits in the land located on the Quai Saint-Bernard.
2nd Art. Wines and spirits brought to the warehouse will retain the ease of re-export out of town without paying the award.
3rd Art. This export can take place by the river, or both barriers Bercy and Gare. In this case the transport will follow the docks and out in two hours.
4th Art. The wines for the provisioning of Paris pays the necessary fees at the time of grant from the warehouse
5th Art. The warehouse will be willing to place under cover as that uncovered up to 150.000 barrels of wine.
6th Art. Our Minister of the Interior will issue, by June 1, the overview of expenditures that may require the purchase of land, construction and specifications to be done, etc.
Signed: Napoleon

In February 1811 cost estimates and construction plans are submitted.

At the Tuileries Palace February 24, 1811
Napoleon, etc.
Article 32e. In accordance with our order of March 30, 1808, the warehouse will be built in the wine lands located on the Quai Saint-Bernard Street, between the Seine and des Fosses-Saint-Bernard.
33rd Art. Our Minister of the Interior we submit by May 1, the estimate and construction plan to do, and that their estimate of the land to buy.
34th Art. The buildings that are close the warehouse will be completed in 1812, two-thirds of the stable will be trained in 1814 and the remaining third in 1816.
35th Art. The provisions of this Decree of 30 March 1808 will be maintained.
Signed: Napoleon

Then in July 1811 the plans are approved and construction is scheduled.

Trianon July 14, 1811
Napoleon, etc.
Article 1. The general provisions of the proposed wine market, given in the plan attached hereto, are approved.
2nd Art. Detailed plans and cost estimates will be completed before August 1 of the present year.
3rd Art. The first stone of this building will be laid on August 15.
Signed: Napoleon.

Once complete, the Halle aux Vins was immense and could contain some 500,000 casks of wine.  Spread over 14 hectares there were two large covered markets which were accompanied by stone buildings containing over one hundred offices and cellars.  These buildings were organized amongst boulevards with the names of: Rue de Champagne, Rue de Bourgogne, Rue de Bordeaux, Rue de Languedoc, and Rue de la Cote d’Or.  The boulevards were 60 feet wide and lines with rows of oak and chestnut trees.  Close to the iron entrance gate were the Government offices.  These offices had names such as: Conservation, Inspection, Controles et Comptes Generaux, Declaration de sortir pour Paris, and Recette de l’Octroi.  There were also a few dozen small wooden offices for various wine merchants.  The low stone buildings that lined the boulevards had an arched entranceway for each merchant.  Within these were large, dark sheds and extensive underground cellars for both wine and spirits.

Halle aux Vins, Paul Cezanne, 1872, Private Collection, Image from WikiPaintings

From 1800 to 1865 the consumption of wine in Paris rose from 1 million hectoliters to 3.55 million.  The storage at the Halle aux Vins became insufficient and the location was incompatible with the transportation of wine via railway.  In 1865 the government decided to build another massive complex of wine warehouses at Bercy.  Initially both sites handled equal amounts of wine. With the expansion of Bercy in 1910 it begin to handle the majority of the wine trade, while the Halle aux Vin continued to function as a center for fine wine and spirits.

Paris 5e. Arrt., Les Arrondissements de Paris Illustres, 1946, Image from cparama

Halle aux Vins, Image by Retroviseur (flickr)

By the 1940s the Faculty of Paris had run out of space at the Sorbonne.  To accommodate the expansion the Jussieu campus was initially planned to be developed at the wine warehouses of Bercy but through the opposition of the wine merchants it was built at the Halle aux Vins.

Construction of the Faculty of Sciences at the Halle aux Vins, 1965, Image by alainmichot93 (flickr)