Girls' Guide to Paris: Wine bars in Paris
Organic, natural and biodynamic wines are a raging trend in many Parisian wine bars. Test your palate at these top wine bars in Paris as recommended by the Girls' Guide to Paris.
Natural wine bars are all the rage in Paris and have been for the past several years. While there have always been French wine bars, this current craze featuring natural wines may have started with the opening of Racines by Pierre Jancou in the Passage des Panoramas in 2007, or Le Verre Volé in the Canal St. Martin area in the year 2000. Both specialise in vins naturels, or natural wines, which can be organic, natural (made with few additives) or biodynamic.
These places introduced this 'new' old way of making wine, and by 2005 it had become a full-on trend. Now you can see wine bars, natural or otherwise, popping up on every corner. One could take a trip to Paris and go to a different wine bar every night, but there are several traits you can expect most wine bars to have in common, like a plethora of interesting natural wines and some tasty appetizers to go with your glass, such as a charcuterie plate or a homemade terrine. Decor and personality wise, they tend to be more bohemian funky than classic French, thus making them trendy and 'downtown', and friendly to the see-and-be-seen crowd.
Natural wine, biodynamic wine and organic wine are different, and we could spend days writing about the differences. To start with, basically, a biodynamic method uses the 1920s theories of Rudolf Steiner, who, funnily enough, never grew grapes and wasn't much of a gardener, but he suggested guidelines for planting, such as following the phases of the moon, being cognizant of the energy of nature, putting cow horns in the earth and a bunch of other seemingly strange things. Winemakers had been using this technique for years without gathering too much attention, until finally the wine world started tasting some of these biodynamic wines, some of which tasted quite good.
Makers of organic wines focus on growing the grapes in an organic way, and many do not add any stabilisers to their wines. While some organic wines are great, in my opinion, most are not.
In a separate and less defined category, growers of natural wine are primarily trying to do as little as possible when they actually make the wine after the growing process; for example, they don't add any chemical yeasts during the fermentation process. I'm no expert, but it has been great fun learning about these various types of wine and tasting a lot of different natural wines. Some are truly horrible, and some are really unique and wonderful. But these various techniques and the consensus that we shouldn't be adding a lot of unnatural chemicals to our food and wine are what's driving this new movement of natural wine bars.
To taste a natural or biodynamic wine is an interesting experience. The best I've had was at Saturne, whose wine is curated by the former sommelier at Racines. The chef Sven Chartier serves a prix fixe, or no-choice multicourse, menu, which means you get whatever he feels like making that evening. I recall having a mushroom dish there shortly after they opened that was so fresh, gorgeous and woodsy, I felt as if I was in the forest. As for the wine, he didn't ask us what we wanted – he just gave us what he thought we should have. Perhaps it was partly because I was dining with my food writer friend Barbra Austin, but I didn't mind being 'manhandled' because the wine was divine. Completely different from any other normal French red wine, this natural wine tasted grapier, fresher and more alive.
While Pierre Jancou put this concept on the map with Racines, he has since sold it and opened another place, called Vivant, which received great press. I however had a horrible experience there with another blogger so its not on the top of my list.
Here is a list of notable wine bars in Paris that Girls' Guide recommends:
- At Les Papilles in the 5thArrondissement, you can pick out a bottle right from the shelf and enjoy a three-course prix fixe meal that won't break the bank.
- Le Comptoir du Relais has the tiny L'Avant Comptoir in the 6th for French tapas before dinner.
- Jadis in the 15th has the wine bar Aux Verres de Contact in the 5th.
- Frenchie, the impossible-to-get-into hot spot, runs Frenchie Bar à Vins in the 2nd, which some prefer to the actual restaurant.
- Le Garde Robe in the 1st remains a perennial favourite, and it's across from Spring Boutique, so you can go to both in one night.
- Verjus in the 1st is a new addition to the mix, located near the Palais Royal. It has a small wine bar on the ground floor and a restaurant above with an American chef. His pairings are particularly unusual and impressive.
- Jeu de Quilles has an ever-changing menu in its tiny resto and wine bar in the 14th.
- Au Passage in the 11th, with talent from Spring and Le Verre Volé, has small plates and is open until 2am.
- Le Baron Rouge in the 12th serves fresh oysters on Sundays, driven straight to the wine bar from the Arcachon area.
- La Crémerie has been in the 6th for years and was originally opened by none other than Pierre Jancou. It remains basically a wine store that serves the occasional dish of charcuterie, but a more charming place cannot be found.
The list runs the gamut, but to be clear, a trip to Paris without going to a wine bar or two would be a mistake indeed.
Doni Belau / Expatica
Doni Belau is the founder of Girls' Guide to Paris, an all encompassing online guide to Paris written by over 15 writers livling in the city. Check out their Do-it-yourself walking tours, travel club, and radio show.
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