by Eric Gaudet
wine is considered as a normal part of the daily diet in France,
an old tradition is regaining ground since the last 25 years
in Paris: wine bars. This goes back to the old days with the
'bougnats', and old slang nickname to designate the Auvergnats,
inhabitants of Auvergne, a province in the center of France,
whose people used to emigrate to the city and open 'Vins et
Charbons' bars/shops to sell wines and coals. Wine bars, also
called bistros, are now more sophisticated and some are really
worth stopping by. They are now places where to celebrate the
culture of the authentic, the love for typical country products,
the joie de vivre and conviviality. Any wine lover staying
in Paris should look for these bistros where wine is at least
as important as cuisine, which is here to go with the wine.
can find them in all the districts of Paris, whenever you want
to have a drink, eat a snack or enjoy a real meal. They are
run by passionate people, usually husband and wife with strong
characters, whose greatest pleasure is to share their passion
with their customers who become rapidly friends. If you are
not sure of which kind of wine you want to drink, ask the owner,
let him advise you. You will often discover a wine you would
not have known of - suprising your palate with unknown flavors.
If you are offered a blind-tasting, go for it, don't be ashamed
not to be able to identify it, as it is a friendly trick from
the owner to challenge his best customers with his latest unusual
discovery. In these wine bars, the atmosphere is quite warm,
as most of the patrons are frequenters and know each other.
The chats go often between tables and by the end of the meal,
you will not be surprised to know all the people seating next
to you and to share a bottle with them!
wine bars take their part in the city life, as they often organize
special events to which you might be lucky enough to participate,
like the tasting of a less known appellation, the promotional
week of a region, the celebration of the harvest, or the election
of the wine bar of the year. When acknow-ledged for their dedication
to wine, the bistros are presented by their peers with a trophy.
Another occasion for a big party which may last till the morning.
The most popular one is organized each year in March by the
association Tradition du Vin, which gathers 15 wine bars and
the trophy is appropriately named the 'Golden Bottle'. (They
intend to launch a branch in California later on this year to
share these pleasures with America!)
bars, usually offer a large selection of light wines, which
are often called 'thirst wines', and are the most commonly served
by the glass at the counter. Among them, all the generic Beaujolais,
Beauolais Villages and some Valley wines. Besides these wines,
you will be served most of the Beaujolais crus and many other
appellations from the Loire Valley,
whites or reds, Cotes du Rhone, or Bordeaux red wines, like
Cotes de Blaye. To a lesser extent, you will also get wines
from Alsace, Provence, Roussillon or Auvergne, depending on
the origins or the tastes of the owner. Grands crus are not
neglected either and you will be able to drink some of them
with a famous pedigree at affordable prices. Anyway, the prices
in these bistros are generally moderate and you can try most
of the wines by the glass. In many cases, the wines come directly
from the producers. They are carefully selected by the owner
himself who goes each year and visit the producers to taste
their wines and prepare the supplies for the year to come.
food in wine bars is generally simple and robust - not really
meant for people on a diet! You will always have the choice
of a superb assortment of charcuterie (ham, sausages, pates)
and real country cheese and some classical dishes andouillette
(chitterlings sausage), tripes, herring fil- lets, sirloin steak,
or a choice of various salads with ham, eggs, duck, chicken.
each bistro has its specials which are typical of the region
from which the owner comes. Staying in Paris, you can then make
a gastronomic trip around France and enjoy region specialties.
You may also want to try the specials of the day, which depend
on the mood of the chef and on what he found on the days market.
You will often find these dishes written on the 'ardoise' (blackboard)
with a piece of chalk. Don't hesitate to take them as you will
be surprised by the quality of this daily bistro cuisine with
all kind of traditional dishes, including foie gras, sole fillet,
monkfish fillet in red wine, cassoulet, choucroute, leg or rack
of lamb, beef stew, head of veal with Cribiche sauce, leg or
slivers of duckling, stuffed cabbage. If you are not hungry
enough for a full meal you can have a tartine (slice of country
bread) with home made pate, raw ham, or Roquefort cheese.
you like sweets, the traditional desserts are always present:
various home made pies, caramelized custard cream, chocolate
mousse, pear Belle Helene
finish, you might be tempted by a 'digestif' (spirit). As for
the rest, you will find some local specialties brought over
to Paris from a local distiller, a friend of the owner. You
will try plum from Souillac, mirabelle plum, pear or raspberry
from Alsace, or of course Armagnac or Cognac.
a far different style some abars of hotels can also be very
nice places to consider when feeling like a snack and/or a glass
of wine. The atmosphere and service are far more formal but
the experienc is worth it.
should be aware that these establishments are not always open
for dinner nor during the weekends. If you know in advance where
you want to go, it might be preferable to make reservations.
Otherwise, try to arrive early, as these bistros are quite popular
and can be often crowded. We wish you a good wine tasting experience
of Paris Wine Bars (click