This article appeared in the October 2007 edition of Connections Magazine (Ireland)
An evening at the Autour d’ un Verre Copyright 2007 Brice Dunwoodie
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.”
Perhaps 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.
On 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.
If 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:
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
And don't forget the Map of Paris Wine Shops and Bars
from Dr. Vino.