Having a glass of wine in France is like having water in the US (unless you’re in California). In fact, you’ll rarely be offered water when dining in Paris. On this Bastille Day, I thought it was fitting to finally finish my last post on Paris and write about the French tradition of wine consumption, which long pre-dates its independence on July 14, 1789.
According to sources, the French have been drinking wine since the 6th century – B.C.! And since we know that wine pairs so well with food, with such a long history, it’s no wonder that the world has looked to France for both culinary inspiration and viniculture. But tradition doesn’t mean there isn’t room for innovation.
As with the changing food scene in Paris that I noted last year, there are also some recent developments on the wine front, besides Frenchie Bar a Vins. It used to be that you would stop at any brasserie if you wanted a glass of wine in the afternoon. Sure you would have wine with lunch and dinner, but if you wanted a glass of wine after dinner, you didn’t have a ton of options devoted to just that. But now more and more places are popping up in every neighborhood that are making wine an even bigger focus.
With the popularity of the Corsair and other vacuum based equipment, a glass can be opened without requiring the whole bottle to be poured. This has allowed for better bottles, and for wines to be tested over time. It also has meant that bars (and restaurants) can pour more and more types of wine.
When O-Chateau opened in the 1st arrondissement in 2004, it enjoyed a quick and steady following. Now 40 wines are on tap and more by the bottle.
It also does wine tastings, food pairings has a large bar area. It seems to cater largely to non-Parisians (it was, of course, full of Americans when I was there), but that appears to be the case around the city.
At Wine Touch, a spot I stumbled on while waiting for friends to buy over-priced pistachios from around the world at La Pistacherie on Rue Rambuteau in the 3rd, there’s also a vast selection of wine on tap. Here, they are also focused on wine tasting, but it’s a much smaller space and an environment that seems a little less geared toward corporate events. In fact, the website is only in French, but they speak English.
For an entirely different experience, stop by En Vrac in the 18th arrondissement. Here in addition to tasting more unique offerings, you can make your own wine and rent a tank to store it. For that reason, it has become a local darling. Started by Thierry Poincin in 2011, it utilizes small producers and focuses on artisanal products. I was particularly intrigued by this place also because “VRAC” on the label in my local wine shop means that the wine comes from a collective of growers who produce red, white and rose table wines. At around $11/bottle, it’s a great wine for the price so don’t hesitate to buy a bottle if you want good quality and a nice price point. It’s nice to see a collective at work.
Paris By Mouth provides a comprehensive list of wine bars by neighborhood, so you might want to check there if you are searching for where to go in a specific area. But, as is always the case, when in Paris, sometimes the best finds are those you happen upon.
And to all my French friends – Bonne Fete Nationale!