Whining about wine!
I am not a wine drinker, and neither is my husband. Now that I have some great suggestions for where to eat, I would love to know what to drink. We can always have water, I know, but you know what they say . . . "when in Rome". In this case, Paris seems to be all about the wine. My wine tastes are more of the dessert wine variety. I like wine that is very sweet. Will I be drinking water the whole time or is there a wine out there that will go with dinner? Will a sommelier snicker at my requests?? Should we just stick to un carafe d'eau?
How about apple juice or apple cider? I enjoy those with almost any kind of food, and they make some delicious apple cider in Normandy.
Just a few suggestions to follow. Remember the French drank sweet wines with oysters as recently as 1910. l still do and love it, For sweet whites get a muscat beaumes de venise, or sweeter get a bonnezaux or quarts du chaume or other Loire chenin blanc. For a sweet red get a Dr. Parce banyuls, a grenache bomb that l still drink with a good steak. Do not be pressured by sommeliers, you know what you like, if it works, good for you.
There is always a Kir, just order it heavy on the Cassis; usually an aperitif, no reason you can't also have it with a meal. If you want to try it at home, make sure you only buy a French Cassis; the local stuff is god awful.
The Rhine makes a lot of wines with some residual sweetness, moreso on the German side, but Alsace produces its share. Deluca has some good suggestions. And there are of course the wines that come from noble rot (pourriture noble, or Botrytis), like sauternes. Be sure to have some foie gras with a vin botrytisé while you're here.
You might also give some of the lighter wines a try; you may or may not like them, but there's only one way to find out. If you have an inexpensive lunch at a bistro, a carafe of beaujolais-villages is likely going to be a little chilled, light in flavor, fruity (not jammy) and light in alcohol, compared to what you get in the US. And a very cheap gamble.
As for sommeliers snickering at you: if you're open about your lack of knowledge (I mean, you don't come from a wine-dirinking region), open minded, not a pretentious ass, and don't assume that they're pretentions asses, you shouldn't have a problem. If they snicker nonetheless, then you found a lousy place, which can happen anywhere.
Do enjoy your trip. And besides the wine, try the ciders and belgian beers and a pastis and the apéritif wines, too; except for the latter, Paris isn't the best possible place to get them, but this is the capital of the francophone world, profitez-en !
Yes, Belgium is a better place to get Belgian beers, but there a bunch available in Paris at very good prices. There is an tiny beer store for strange French beers right near Reamur-Sebastipol metro stop. You can usually get Chimay, Duval, Orval, and Rochefort in even the small supermarkets dotted all over town. As TMSO said, from alsace if you can find a Vendages Tardives ( Late Harvest ) of Pinot Gris in 1/2 or full, you should try it, for me the perfect fois gras match, and wonderful on its own.
The Duval 333 ml bottle that sells for about $3-4 in states, sells for @ 1.3 euros in Galleries Lafayette. Wine prices are usually less expensive, but not by too much than in the states. What your advantage is is getting unusual bottles and products not exported. For interesting, the Chimay grand reserve magnum that sell for 75 pounds in Harrods, sells for $74 in my suburb of Philadelphia, and l bought in Troyes, a champagne town, last year for 17 euros.
There are quite a few places to buy some good beers. I drink a lot of beer, most of them Belgian and can find a lot of them in Paris. The four beer stores that I know of are :
- La Cave à Bulles, rue Quincampoix in the 3rd, probably the shop Delucacheesemonger was referring to. Its main focus is on French & organic beers. The shopowner is passionate and will not hesitate to talk about his products for quite a long time. At least it was the case when it opened mid-2006. He also have some Belgian beers, but it's not the best place to buy them. There are very nice French beers, though.
- La Soif du Malt, rue Saint-Maur in the 19th. It's a bit out of the way for most tourists, and it might not look as a very exciting shop, as it's quite small and spartian, but the selection is nice, and mostly Belgium-oriented.
- The Bootlegger, rue de l'Ouest in the 14th. The one I frequent the most, but maybe because it's more practical for me to get there... I also feel it's the shop that offers the most diversity. Belgium is king there, but there are also a lot of French, German and (to a lesser extent) English and Canadian beers. Great!
- Bières cultes, rue Damrémont, 18th. It's the newest one. They opened a new shop a week ago or so in the 17th, but I don't know where exactly. It's also mainly focused on Belgian beers, but other countries (like France) are represented too. I only went once, though, so I can't say much more about it.
As far as prices go, you should be able to find very good beers in the 1EUR/3EUR range for 33mL bottles, and the 75mL ones should cost around 3EUR to 5EUR. Beers that are aged in barrels (lambic, gueuze...) can be a lot more expensive, up to 12EUR for a 75mL bottle, but they have to be tried, especially the ones from the Cantillon brewery.
Most bars don't have good beers, and the ones that do are mostly student-packed places. I like them, but it may not be what a tourist is looking for when coming to Paris.