A French beekeeper makes mead in the Paris catacombs
By Emma Jacobs
PRI’s The World
Deep below Paris is a web of crypts and tunnels, former quarries that were excavated to build some of Paris’s most famous buildings hundreds of years ago. They’re collectively known as the catacombs.
And somewhere in that network — the exact location will remain a secret — is where Audric de Campeau’s mead is aging.
“We are 20 meters under Paris,” says de Campeau, below the metro, “and absolutely nothing comes to trouble us and my barrels. So it’s the perfect place to grow mead.”
Mead, sometimes known as honey wine, is a mix of water and honey that, like wine, must be fermented in a cool, quiet place that is humid and perfectly still. Down in the catacombs, the humidity hovers around 90 percent and the walls and ceiling are damp to the touch.
Mead is the perfect combination of de Campeau’s two passions: Beekeeping and winemaking — which he began experimenting with as a teenager.
“My parents had a house in Champagne,” he explains. “They’re not winemakers, but it was a dream as I was thinking, maybe, if I do one or two bottles would be fun.”
His tiny vineyard grew over the years. De Campeau went on to study philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris but returned to Champagne every weekend to tend his vines and growing garden.
“Then, naturally, I thought about bees. So I asked my parents [for permission] to install my first bee hive,” he says, which posed a problem, “because my father was absolutely allergic to bee venom.”