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Oct 5, 2011 08:57 AM

What to buy in France?

Hi all,

I'm headed to Paris for a week in December, and one of the things I'd like to buy as a souvenir are some nice wines and liquors. Doesn't necessarily have to be something that I can't buy here - for example, I might stock up on Cointreau or good vermouth/aperitifs on the cheap.

I'm going to buy some padded wine bags for my checked luggage. I also have a direct flight back to the States, so I can buy a couple of bottles in the duty-free shops and carry it on. I'm aware that the duty-free exemption for alcohol is 1 liter and am fine with paying duties on the extra booze, which is only 3%.

So, if you were buying up to, say, 6 bottles of wine/liquor/liqueur in France, what would you get?

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  1. For me it would start with hard to find Chartreuse variants, boutique champagne producers and smaller cognac houses.

    1. Amer Picon, Giffard Abricot du Roussillon

      2 Replies
      1. re: barleywino

        Oooh, I didn't know about Amer Picon. That looks delicious. I'm definitely into bitter/herbal flavors - I usually drink G&Ts with bitters or Negronis at home.

      2. Even if you're in the capital, you can see if there are any interesting regional liqueurs. I'd second the suggestion for cognac or armagnac. Also, smaller makers of pastis.

        1. I would look for a good Marc de Bourgogne, and maybe some white alcohol eaux-de-vie (Framboise, Mirabelle, &c). Marc de Gewurtztraminer is quite distinctive and not often seen here in the USA. I would also recommend looking for a bottle of Vielle Prune -- an aged plum eau-de-vie from central France, not often imported here.

          If you are looking for liqueurs, I will second the recommendation for the rarer Chartreuse variants (and the highly sought after Elixir Vegetal, for which you will go to a pharmacy rather than a wine shop). Amer Picon, yes, and if you like bitter aperitifs, get yourself some Suze.

          3 Replies
          1. re: johncb

            I second the Vielle Prune (it's made in Souillac, which is in the Dordogen -- very definitely in the southwest)

            I'd also recommend a couple of unique liqueurs from Provence -- Farigoule, made from thyme flowers, and Genepi, which is related to both absinthe and Chartreuse.

            Both are very unusual, but quite tasty, and certainly not something you're likely to find in the states (neither are *overly* easy to find in France, although neither should be *hard* to find, either)

            1. re: sunshine842

              Genepi, I believe, is actually more alpine than provencal. I never have any trouble finding several different Genepis when I am in the Isere department (including a Genepi from the Peres Chartreuse). Is Farigoule regional? Where should I look for it? The Chartreuse monks make (BTW) cassis and other fruit liqueurs, a gentian bitter aperitif like Suze, as well as the more expected Chartreuse varities (and as I never tire of saying, the elixir vegetal).

              1. re: johncb

                Genepi is indeed produced in the Savoie -- however, there's no AOC, and Distilleries et Domaines de Provence produces a very nice one in the southern Alps.

                Here's their page:

                and the page for Farigoule:

                I've found it in a few small, independent wine merchants here in the Ile de France, so in Paris proper shouldn't be an enormous search -- these are the same folks who make Absente absinth-ish liqueurs.

          2. Maybe a Poire William? The real deal with the pear in the bottle...

            6 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Uh, yeah . . . the "real" stuff doesn't have the pear in the bottle. Most of those are Korte Palinka (poire william from Hungary), and those are decidedly inferior.

              Now, while there is certainly a difference between the Vielle Prune (aged plum brandy) and a "regular" mirabelle, as johncb has stated above, AND there is a difference between an aged poire and an unaged bottling, I've never found a poire from Producer X *with* the pear in the bottle that was as good as the same producer's poire *without* the pear . . . let alone better!


              In the FWIW Dept., actually my favorite Poire comes from Switzerland -- Etter. I prefer it to the Alsatian bottlings. You want a pear in the bottle? Personally, I prefer the pear on the right. Look here:


              1. re: zin1953

                Perhaps I shouldn't have swum beyond the shallows into the riptide of 'Spirits' and 'France' in the CH whirlwind sea, where neophites are conveniently drowned to clear the lanes for those bursting with knowledge.

                Simply, a friend brought me a Poire William, from France, with a whole pear in a serially numbered, decanter-like crystal bottle, in a fancy wooden box, and it was from France, and I liked it. And I liked her.

                1. re: Veggo

                  there is two once fancy one with the pear and one without - i was checking that out earlier because that is called for in a golden negroni i had at Rules in London and a cake recipe i have (it is VERY expensive to get here in the states because of the shipping)

                  I have no idea the difference between the two other than the one with the pear is way more expensive and fancy

                  Also there is orange vermouth by cinz (something) that you cannot get in the states that is very good i would get a bottle of that as well

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Bottles in Baccarat, or crystal from another manufacturer, are a different story . . .

                2. re: Veggo

                  Anyone have any thoughts on the Clear Creek pear eau-de-vie? Not from France and off topic, but I'm curious about things that I can find pretty easily.

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    It's quite good, as is the one from St. George.