French Perfection

The term commune is used in France to denote a wine village, as in Burgundy’s commune of Chambolle-Musigny or Bordeaux’s commune of Margaux. But a commune in France isn’t necessarily related to wine. In fact, communes are the lowest level of administrative division in France, and as such, the equivalent of incorporated cities in the U.S. Communes have revolutionary beginnings. Following the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July, 1789 and the start of the French Revolution, the first commune—Paris—was created. The idea was to do away with the burdens of class and tradition and create a perfect society—one where everyone was equal, and reason, not tradition, ruled. Indeed, the word “commune” comes from the medieval Latin word “communia” meaning “a small gathering of people sharing a common life.” The actual size of a commune, however, can vary from millions, as with Paris, to a dozen or more. There are currently close to 38,000 communes throughout France—and their structure remains largely the same today as when they were set up more than two centuries ago.

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