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Jan 11, 2002 09:49 AM

Wines in Paris

  • j

My wife and I are traveling to Paris in about three weeks, and while there we'll be eating at a couple of 2-3 star restaurants. My question is--not being a wine connoisseur, I'd appreciate the names of some $50-$75 bottles of wine (both white and red) that some people enjoy. Obviously I'll rely on the sommelier to guide me a bit and help me match wines with specific foods, but I thought having a small base of recommendations to work with for some moderately-priced wines would be a good piece of knowledge to have. Sorry if this question is so basic, but I'd appreciate the input so as not to appear completely moronic while in Paris! Thanks.

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  1. m
    michael (mea culpa)

    Seems like a good question to me. The thing is there are so many wines in France that never make it to the US (or only in small quantities) and 2-3 star places frequently have amazing cellars that this gets to be an academic exercise rather than a real aid. That said, the sommelier should be a big help (if he is, tip him). If you go to a restaurant like Taillevent (recommended), they will take care of you (that's part of what makes it a 3 star). You will undoubtedly hear fans of Chateau Margaux and other fine Bordeau bottles (red). Hard to beat. I could say I like Chateauneuf du Pape by Chateau de Beaucastel (both the red and white) but this has become increasingly popular and does not represent the value of a few years ago. If you live in a major metropolitan area, I would suggest that you find a good wine shop and put your questions to one of the staff. That way you can buy some here and see what you like before you go (after all you've got 3 weeks). Cheers.

    4 Replies
    1. re: michael (mea culpa)


      Thanks for the quick response. We are, in fact, going to Taillevent (along with Gagnaire and Guy Savoy). I guess I just wanted some knowledge under my belt before diving in...and going to our local wine guy is a good idea. Thanks again.

      1. re: Joe
        michael (mea culpa)

        Congratulations on your restaurant choices. If you want to get more into it, there are various wine tasting "courses" in book form. The late lamented Windows on the World put out a good one. The thing about the cellars in good Paris restaurants is that they often have the second and third growths of the grand cru wines from years past which are often excellent values and terrific wines that are hard to get stateside.

        1. re: Joe

          I agree with the previous posters on the fact that you'll just drive yourself nuts because of the sheer variety and size of the wine cellars...unless you can find a way to download a sample wine list (as I did from Veritas and a few other places) as a sneak preview, though I'm not sure if the French restaurants are that "wired".

          Just put yourself in the hands of the sommelier. My partner is a huge wine connoisseur and fancies himself pretty good at choosing, but he'll nearly always defer to the full-time sommelier.

          The real treat of relying on a sommelier in one of those fine places is that he (almost 99% sure it will be a 'he') should be able to recommend something based on what you choose to eat.

          A great way to deal with this is to say you want to have a glass with each course, or with every other course. A fine French restaurant will have enough traffic that they can afford to open the good bottles and offer them by the glass too. This way you are nearly guaranteed to have something suitable for each course, and also get to try a bunch of different ones.

          You may spend closer to the $75 end of your range, but between two of you you'll never have to compromise due to the other person's food choice...or match your *food* to the *wine* instead of the other way around...

          By the general $50-75 should buy you something *spectacular* in France.

        2. re: michael (mea culpa)
          Joel Goldberg

          Strong suggestion that you think about shying away from areas with Chateau or vineyard classifications of wines despite your first impulse otherwise because of the "comfort factor" -- i.e. Bordeaux and Burgundy.

          There are some brilliant red wines from the Rhone (north and south) that sell for a small fraction of the top growths from either of the above -- and except for a dozen big names or tiny bottlings, most of the rest should fit into your budget. One price point down, some excellent Languedoc bottlings are just now rising above the "noise level".

          On the white front, think about Loire and Alsace and you'll be way ahead of the crowd. Again, extraordinary bottles can be had at prices you're unlikely to match from other regions. IMO these whites from cooler regions tend to have more acidity and actually be more food-friendly than many big white Burgs.

          And to repeat what's already been said -- your main wine resource is the sommelier in a good restaurant. It's perfectly OK to say, "What would you recommend from the Loire (at about $40) to go with this fish?"

          -- Joel

        3. m
          michael (mea culpa)

          As is so often the case, Magnolia has great advice. Just to give you an idea of the kind of "small appellations" that are available, I've pasted in this Patricia Wells review of a Paris bistro. If you can find any of the wines mentioned at your local wine merchant, you've got a good one. Eat well. We expect a detailed report on your return.

          L’Auvergne Gourmande, one of the newest and finest little places to open in Paris in awhile

          PARIS – One huge polished wood table for 12, a cozy round table that will just seat five, and a few tables tumbling out onto the sidewalk. That is all you get at L’Auvergne Gourmande, one of the newest and finest little places to open in Paris in awhile. But the little bit turns out to be a lot. No surprise here, for this is the annex of the generally reliable Left Bank restaurant La Fontaine de Mars. In their newest, pocket-sized endeavor the Boudon family has invested all its knowledge of gastronomically abundant Auvergne region of France, rich culinary history, impeccable farm products, nad some pretty decent wines and cheeses. And, best of all, they have brought back the daily plat du jour, almost a dinosaur in today’s Parisian cuisine. So Monday it is duck a l’orange, Tuesday lamb chops, Wednesday beef tongue, Thursday stuffed chicken, Friday salt cod with the garlic mayonnaise known as aioli, and Saturday suckling pig. How’s that for hardy?

          But this little table d’hotes -- where everyone sits together on bistro-style stools and makes quick friends of total strangers -- has a fine modern take as well. Their grande salade de legumes is just that, a giant mound of greens with every kind of fresh vegetable imaginable, nicely cooked, nicely dressed, and topped with a crunchy tuile, or cookie, made of the sturdy Auvergnat cow’s milk cheese, Cantal. Other starters might range from their homemade foie gras and a green salad or a fresh pea soup with little chips of smoky bacon.

          This is the sort of place where you can eat a lot or a little, depending upon your appetite. If it is just an Auvergnat cheese platter and a sip of fruity Saint Pourcain from the Gamay grape that your are after, it’s yours. Or, go the whole shebang with a thick and meaty cote de boeuf from this rich cattle country, teamed up with a rich potato purée. I myself feasted on and wonderful breast of guinea hen, or pintade, with a deliciously puckery vinegar sauce served with a counterpoint of sweet sautéed apples.

          Hope that patron Jacques is in charge on the day of your visit: His animation is charming and infectious. The wine selection, by the glass and the bottle, is vast, inspiring, and educational. You will find mostly little-know wines from the Auvergne (St. Pourcain is the best known), and small appellations from the Cotes Roannaise, Gailllac, vine de plays de l’Ardeche, and a Coteaux du Tricastan. In short, Paris needs more places like this: energetic, inventive and fun, with some good food to boot.

          1 Reply
          1. re: michael (mea culpa)

            Glad to be of help!
            As (very good) luck would have it, I am going to Paris next weekend - a last-minute Boondoggle - and I may just go to L’Auvergne Gourmande...made my mouth water.

          2. I would feel very comfortable going with the recommendations of the sommelier in any quality restaurant you plan to visit. If you wish to do some background research, you can go to Tab to the "Wine Search" page and you can produce a list of rated wines from any region in France you desire (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cotes-du-Rhone, etc.) and in any price range you think is appropriate. If nothing else, it will give you a working list of quality wines and wine producers you can use as a crib sheet. In Paris, you might want to visit Willi's Wine Bar (13 rue de Petite-Champs), which has an excellent assortment of wines by the glass. English is widely spoken there, so you can ask questions and get recommendations. The food they serve is quite good as well. They also operate a more casual wine-bar/bistro called Juveniles (rue de Richelieu)that serves good food at modest prices.

            2 Replies
            1. re: DavidT
              michael (mea culpa)

              In Paris, you might want to visit Willi's Wine Bar (13 rue de Petite-Champs), which has an excellent assortment of wines by the glass. >>
              Willi's is good. I believe it originated in London. If you're lucky, you might be able to pick up one of their posters for a souvenir. There's a group (I hesitate to use the word "chain") of wine bars in Paris called L'ecluse which I would strongly recommend if you happen to run across one. Nice for a lite snack of say carpaccio and red wine, etc.

              1. re: DavidT

                In reading the current (Jan/Feb) issue of SAVEUR, I see that JUVENILES wine bar/bistro (47 rue de Richelieu, Paris) is #17 of their 100 favorite things in the world of food. As noted elsewhere on this site, CHOWHOUND came in at #86.

              2. Asking the sommelier is great advice but you should even give him some help but telling him what you are interested in, something classic from Bordeaux or Bourgogne or if you are adventurous something more unusual that might be next to impossible to find at home light white Hermitage, Arbois, Banyuls. Also, if you know you do not like something, tell them in advance. This gives them a better chance to help you. At Taillievent if you have any goose liver, ask for a glass of Sauternes. When I was there earlier this year the house sweet white was a 1971 Chateau Pieda from Barsac. Unbeatable at 80 francs a glass and definately not something you get at home. Guy Savoy also has a very unique sweet Condrieau. Have fun.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mdibiaso

                  Haven't written in a while - I was asking for advice back in August on Paris Restaurants. We got back on Septmeber 10th from France, so I was distracted and demoralized for a while due to the following days events - writing about food didn't sem so important anymore....Anyway, our gastronomic highlight was Guy Savoy - could have died that night and been OK with it - the food,service and presentation were amazing. My wife and I drank four half bottles of very good Bordeaux/Burgundy Whites/Reds along with a 10 course tasting meal. Nothing off the beaten path with the food/wine ordering, but spectacular nevertheless. We walked home that night from Guy Savoy to Bastille (2+ hours!!) down the Champs Elysses, Rue De Rivioli and along the Seine. It was my wife's first night in Paris and she will never forget it. Worst food was at L'Avant Gout - actually it was tied for last with Air France's in-flight meal.....we are going back to Paris for Valentine's Day and I wanted to pick your brain about Lucas Carton again - I believe you mentioned in the past that they have a good prix fixe menu for dinner (or am i imagining?) - would like to eat well but not repeat the $850 bill at Guy Savoy. Any ideas/suggestions? I always respect and appreciate your gastronomic insights.......

                  1. re: KPS

                    Info on Lucas Carton. It is not cheap but you should be able to get out under 850$ (I have eaten at lot and drank a lot for around 300$ on my own). So you should be able to get out for around 600$ without feeling like you missed anything, especially if you skip the Vanilla Lobster which is good but not the best. Lucas Carton is not a good place for tasting menus. One because each course is very big in itself, even if you order half portions, and two since there is not real preset tasting menu with 6-8 courses. I would get the following 4 course meal. First the Langoustine in vermacelli. Second, the Canard (Duck) Aspicius in two servings. Then the mixed wine and cheese pairing (3 wines and 3 cheeses). Then the dessert you find most interesting. This will give you a LOT of food, you will get to taste 7 different wines (not including a nice glass of champagne to start), and I do not think you can go wrong. And you should be able to come in around 600 dollars if my membrance of the prices and exchange rates are correct. Ask for a table served by Jerome the sommellier when you reserve and say a Marc DiBiaso recommended you and that you are interested in wine and food matchings. He should remember me and spend a lot of time at your table talking about the wines and make the evening more enjoyable.

                    1. re: mdibiaso

                      Thank you for the information on Lucas Carton - I think the tasting menu posting I was thinking of was for either Carre des Feuillants (?) or Les Ambassadeurs.....we are staying in Bastille again this time and are of a mind to just hang out in the Bastille/Republique area this time as opposed to running all over Paris. However, a trip to the Madeline area and Lucas Carton may have to be done. At the moment, we have reservations at Le Repaire de Cartouche and Les Amognes.....

                      1. re: KPS

                        I think L'ambrosie is close to Bastille and I found it very good and very romantic when I was there. The main course, sweetbreads with a a cruncy orange crust was one of the 3 best main courses I have ever had. But the wine is expensive and there is not much in terms of half bottles or by the glass.