Paris for Wine (and Food) Lovers

An evening at the Autour d’ un Verre Copyright 2007 Brice Dunwoodie
This article appeared in the October 2007 edition of Connections Magazine (Ireland) People used to say that you can’t get a bad meal in Paris. Sadly, this is no longer true (perhaps it never was!) and the same goes for wine. Still, there’s no reason to be glum as Paris continually reinvents itself as the world’s culinary capital. Currently, the increasing vitality of the wine trade in an already wine obsessed city has reaped dividends in great new places to eat and drink wine. To take advantage of this vitality, an excellent strategy for finding a good meal is to “follow the wine.” papilles.jpgPerhaps the best example of the new wine shop/ bistro hybridsthat have popped up all over Paris is Les Papilles. It’s in a cheery yellow storefront on an anonymous street just east of the Luxembourg Gardens and a little south of the tourists swarming around the Latin Quarter. The concept is presented in simple and elegant way: tables are butted up next to a wall of carefully selected wines that serves as a full-scale interactive carte du vin. The 600+ selection is arranged by region and is a great mix of up and coming, fashionable and classic winemakers, including Catherine & Pierre Breton, Thierry Puzelat, Château Le Puy, Domaine Matassa, Gramenon, etc. There’s even a bottle of 2001 Petrus (€900) sitting there like a little devil on your shoulder asking “why not?” Yes, we all know “why not” which is made easier given the amazing amount of very good choices under €30. There’s only one set menu per day which may sound a bit limiting but you’ll soon appreciate its uncomplicated genius when selecting a wine and – of course – when the food arrives. We were there on a crowded Saturday lunch but everything went very smoothly and surprisingly took very little time selecting a refreshing 2004 Vacoupin Premier Cru Chablis by Louis Robin (€26) whose bracing acidity perfectly complimented the starter of gazpacho. Served in a tureen, it’s ladled over an elegant stack of smoked bacon, herbs and spices in the center of each bowl. The main course was a Potée or stew of braised pork and vegetables served in an elegant copper pan, family style for the table. Flavoured like a Moroccan tagine, the pork was succulently tender and the fresh vegetables had just the perfect degree of crunchiness as a complimentary texture. To wind things up there was an exquisite cheese plate followed by a velvety strawberry panacotta. The entire meal was served by owner and Chef Bertrand Bluy, whose friendly but imposing figure makes sense when you see the rugby posters that tastefully decorate the back and cellar level of the restaurant. He’s a huge rugby fan and formerly the pastry chef at 3 star Taillevent, which also helps to explain the amazing dessert and ultra high standard overall. The menu is €28.50 plus wine, which is the shop price plus €6.00 per bottle corkage. papilles2.jpgOn the other side of the river is the rustic charm of Autour d’un Verre. Located just a half block south of the Folies Bergère, it’s a welcome surprise and veritable oasis of rural living in urban Paris, almost as if you walked into a French farmer’s kitchen. The natural appeal extends to the menu – everything is carefully sourced and organic, especially the wines. Hyper-organic would be a more accurate description. The wines served are all made from hand harvested organic grapes produced entirely naturally, with wild yeasts and no chemical treatments or filtration. Since much is left to nature, the wines vary greatly from year to year and the few small producers who have the patience or zeal to make them are often considered real wine “fundamentalists.” Fundamentalism doesn’t exactly sound appealing, but the wines are incredibly pure and delicious. Because of the small quantities made and their fragileness, they don’t get exported outside of France so they’re a real treat and surprisingly inexpensive. Not being familiar with a single wine on the large blackboard wine list, we asked for a recommendation. Out came a carafe and bottle of Gilles Azzoni Le Raisin et l’Ange Homage a Robert Vin de Table (€18.00), a garnet coloured wine, hazy from the lack of filtration. Even just a few years ago, it would have been difficult to serve such a wine as those not completely clear were summarily rejected as spoiled. Thankfully such narrow minded taboos have lifted: the Azzoni, an unusual blend of Grenache and Merlot from the Rhône, was wonderfully aromatic, spicy and soft, with just a slight tickle of carbonation. It’s alive! Equally delicious and unusual was a glass of Maupertuis La Guillaume Vin de Table (€18.00), a whisper-light and spicy Gamay. But let’s not forget about the food – after all, this is a Bistro! As may be expected given the wine list it’s all organic, locally sourced, simply prepared, fresh and delicious. A giant plate of perfectly seasoned heirloom tomatoes was a highlight but won’t be in season for the fall. Instead expect starters of lentils and morteau sausage, paté de champagne, red cabbage with bacon, and chicken soup; main dishes of rascasse (hog-fish) or cod with yellow carrots, beef Bourgogne with mashed potatoes, hand cut sausage, cuisse de canard confit (duck thigh); and desserts of fondant au chocolat, rhubarb pie and apple crumble. Lunch is €13.00 and dinner is €17.00 for starter and a main plate making it perhaps the best gastronomic bargain in Paris. It may come as a surprise that such a thoroughly French place is run by an American chef, Kevin Blackwell, who owns the restaurant with his Swedish wife Mari. petrissans.jpgIf you’re a traditionalist and sad to see all of the classic old bistros going corporate, Les Caves Pétrissans is perfect for you. Marie-Christine & Jean-Marie Allemoz are the fourth generation to run this combination wine shop and bistro that was founded in 1895. We even met the fifth generation, Jean-Charles Allemoz running the bar. This charming place just North of the Arc de Triomphe is by far the oldest of all the wine shop/ restaurants that are suddenly all the rage. Marie-Christine welcomed us in like one of the family even though we didn’t receive the kisses reserved for the endless stream of locals that streamed in and out during lunch. And given the quality of the cooking and great and reasonably priced wine list, it’s easy to see how this place is popular. The menu is traditional as the environs with classic standards such as steak tartare and lapin à la moutarde (rabbit in mustard sauce.) My chicken terrine with a white tarragon sauce was very tasty even if the presentation was unavoidably bland. Cerises à l'eau de vie (cherries in eau de vie) proved to be a delicious but potent dessert, with the cherries retaining their firmness and the liquor they had been soaking in served in a separate glass. The three course menu is €32.00. With our lunch we enjoyed a bottle of 2004 Merlin Moulin a Vent (€40.00) which was one of a dozen or so wines also offered by the glass. In retrospect, it’s probably a better idea to delve into the 800+ shop list where any wine can be served with your the meal for €16.00 corkage. It may seem steep but a rare 2003 Clos Rougeard Brézé could be had for €48.00 including corkage, a far cry less than the €85.00 we shelled out for it last year at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Not wanting to leave empty handed, we purchased another rare treat: the 2005 Domaine Prieuré-Roch Bourgogne Rouge Grand Ordinare for €18.00. Prieuré-Roch is owned by Henri Frédéric Roch who is co-director of world famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti . The wine is 100% Gamay and treated as seriously as their Cote de Nuits Pinot Noirs that cost €200.00 and up. If the vitality of the Parisian wine scene is starting to take a toll on your waistline you may want to forgo the Metro and taxis and try one of the tan coloured Vélib’ rental bikes that have recently taken the city by storm. They’re easy and inexpensive to rent from electronic kiosks placed all over the city making it easy to get to even the most out of the way wine bars. Just remember to be careful after a verre du vin. Bon voyage!

Wine Shop/Restaurant Hybrids:

Les Papilles A rising star – delicious and a very good value. One menu served per day with an excellent (and reasonably priced) wine selection. 30, rue Gay-Lussac, Paris 5er Tel: 01 43 25 20 79 Metro stop: Luxembourg Lunch: noon to 14:00 Dinner: 19:00 to 22:30. Closed Sundays. Les Caves Petrissans A charming traditional classic. Forget the corporate-run bistros and go there. 30 bis, ave Niel, Paris 17th Tel: 01 42 27 83 84 Metro stop: Péreire Lunch: 12:15 to 14:15 Dinner: 19:30 to 22:15 Shop: 10:00 to 22:15 Closed Saturday and Sunday. Lavinia Sleek and very big. A must stop for any wine lover. Any of the 6,000 bottles can be drunk at the very good tasting bar or restaurant without a corkage fee. 3-5 blvd de la Madeleine, 75001 Paris 1st Tel: 01 42 97 20 27 Lunch: 12:00 to 15:30 Wine Bar: 12:00 to 20:00 Closed Sunday juveniles.jpg Juveniles Owned by Scottish born Tim Johnson since 1987, Juveniles is one of the most pleasant places to eat in central Paris and very popular with wine lovers. Their wine list focuses on the Rhone, Languedoc and Australia. We enjoyed a seriously good 2006 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel with a yummy late night supper. 47, rue de Richelieu Paris 1st Tel: 01 42 97 46 49 Metro stop: Pyramides Lunch: Noon to 15:00 (no Lunch on Monday) Dinner: 18:00 to 23:30. Closed Sunday Taillevent Often considered the best restaurant in Paris , this three starred and very expensive classic also has an adjacent wine shop. The selection is huge, very good and surprisingly reasonably priced. 15 rue Lamennais, Paris 8 Tel: 01 44 95 15 01 Metro stop: George V Lunch: 12:15 to 14:15 (no Lunch on Monday) Dinner: 17:15 to 20:15. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Wine shop open 10:00 to 19:30 daily. Closed Sunday and Monday La Cave Des Abbesses If you’re travelling in a group of 20, the nicely selected cheese plate may still be too big. A tres cool wine shop/bistro/wine bar in the thick of Montmatre, it’s a bit gritty and perfect if you like to pair wines with Gauloises. 43 Rue des Abbesses Paris 18 Tel: 01 42 52 81 54 Metro stop: Abbesses Open Monday to Friday 17:00 to 21:30; Saturday and Sunday 12:00 to 21:30. Closed Mondays. Legrand Filles et Fils This traditional family run establishment is probably the greatest wine merchant in Paris. They have a tasting bar in back with an excellent selection of wine by the glass as well as a limited menu. 1 Rue de la Banque, Paris 2 Tel 01 42 60 07 12 Monday : 11:00 to 19:00 Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 to 19:30 Saturday 10:00 to 19:00

Great Wine-centric places to eat:

Autour d’ un Verre Organic, delicious and inexpensive. A must stop for any wine lover curious about natural wines. 21, rue de Trévise, Paris 9 Tel: 01 48 24 43 74 Metro Stop: Cadet Lunch: 12:30 to 15:00 Dinner: 20:00 to 22:30 (except Monday). Closed Sunday. Le Severo A carnivore’s delight. Perhaps the best steak frites in Paris, all made with carefully selected and aged Limosin beef – perfect with a one of the big juicy Borgueils from their extensive list. 8 rue des Plantes Paris 14 PARIS 14 Tel: 01 45 40 40 91 Metro stop: Mouton Duvernet Lunch: noon to 14:30 Dinner: 19:30 to 22:30. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Le Bis Du Severo The more casual sibling of Le Severo, with the same menu as well as some fish dishes. 16 rue des Plantes 14 Tel: 01 40 44 73 09 Lunch: noon to 14:15 Dinner: 19:00 to 22:30. Closed Sunday and Monday. Willi's Wine Bar Founded by Englishman Mark Williamson in 1980, Willi’s has been a favorite hangout for wine lovers ever since. The food is very good as well. 13 Rue des Petits Champs, Paris 1 tel : 01 42 61 05 09 Lunch: 12:00 to 14:30 Dinner: 19:00 to 23:00 Bar: 12:00 to Midnight Closed Sunday Bistro Mélac Jacques Mélac, the energetic proprietor with handlebar mustache, runs this famous wine bar started by his father in the 1930’s. 42 Rue Léon-Frot, Paris 11 Tel: 33 1 43 70 59 27 Open: 9:00 to midnight Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. No reservations. autour4.jpg And don't forget the Map of Paris Wine Shops and Bars from Dr. Vino.

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  • […] wine that could make anyone a convert to natural winemaking. We had this wine this fall at the Autour d’un Verre in Paris. It’s an unusual blend of Grenache and Merlot that pretty much goes against everything […]

    De Long Wine Moment » Blog Archive » 2007 Wrap Up on
  • wow this is the best i have seen and now i think i am going to paris impressive

    anita on
  • I and my friends were actually looking at the nice tactics found on your web blog then suddenly I had an awful suspicion I never thanked the website owner for those techniques. All the boys were definitely for that reason stimulated to learn all of them and have now truly been taking advantage of them. Thank you for actually being so accommodating as well as for opting for such very good things most people are really eager to discover. Our sincere regret for not saying thanks to you sooner.

    Pearly Nasalroad on
  • Les Papilles: a very unpleasent experience.
    Extremely bad service; one of the worst I’ve ever seen in Paris and in the world for such a restaurant. In addition to the owner of the restaurant being totally arrogant and without the least sense of customer service, another customer threw up in front of me and all over me; the owner of the restaurant was just next to me and didn’t even thing about handing me a paper towel or something, and didn’t really paid any attention to the sick customer. We had a confirmed reservation at 9:30pm, arrived at 9:28 and at 9:55 the owner said it was better that we left because he wasn’t going to have any table available! A pity because the food did look good. Never would go back to this place.

    juan Pablo Torres on

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