There are two things that are absolutely certain when we visit Paris. Firstly that despite all my protestations, denial and good intentions I will buy yarn. I don’t need more, my stash is overflowing with pillows of colourful skeins, and yet I will be powerless to resist when faced with bundles of new potential in the stunning yarn stores of Paris (more on this later).
The second absolute is that there will be wine. I mean, it would be rude not to partake in what the city of light has to offer on that score. Now, although we didn’t actually make it to any of the new wine bars that are on my ever-growing list of “must visits” in the city, we did frequent some old favourites and branch out with the wine we enjoyed whilst dining and as a result I came home not only armed with a list of tasting notes, but also with four bottles of wine to enjoy in the upcoming weeks.
I won’t bore you with ever sip I took (at an average of three wines a day over six days I did a lot of sipping and a far too much glugging!), but I did want to share three highlights from the trip, including a complete wildcard that blew me away.
First up is a spicy little number we had at what is fast becoming one of my favourite restaurants not only in Paris, but possibly the world, Les Papilles. Tucked away on an otherwise unremarkable main street in the south of the Luxumbourg area of Paris, this is a wine bar restaurant that never fails to impress. They do a set menu that changes daily. Four courses, usually a soup, main, cheese and dessert, and for the wine you can either take the recommendation of the burly rugby-obsessed owner, or pick your own choice off the shelves that surround you. They are arranged by region, priced to buy and take away with a €9 corkage fee if you’re enjoying it with your meal. On previous visits we’ve bowed to suggestion as it was lunchtime and we really wanted to get it right. This time, with four of us dining in the evening we knew we’d get through more than one, so picked our own to start and took a suggestion to finish.
My pick was Les Laquets 2010, Domaine Cosse Maisonneuve. A Cahors wine, and therefore a Malbec, with a bit of ageing under it’s belt which I was hoping would have rounded out the tannins just a touch. I wasn’t disappointed, this was a stonkingly good wine, especially with the rich and creamy cauliflower soup starter, and the braised beef cheek that followed. It is a rich deep wine as you’d expect from a Malbec, with high tannins that had indeed been softened ever-so-slightly thanks to the vintage. It was spicy with dark fruit, a slight tobacco note and a long finish. It was cold that night and this wine couldn’t have been more suited to a hearty meal with good company. Definitely my favourite of the reds enjoyed on the trip.
Next up is a sparkling wine that we picked up from our favourite wine merchant. We’ve become regulars at his little spot on Ile St Louis. L’Etiquette is a tiny cave a vin that specialises in natural biodynamic wines from independent producers. It’s proprietor Hervé is generous with his tastings, dismissive of any wine not on his shelves and has the wonderful catch phrase of labelling wines as “top of the pops!” Each time we visit we leave laden with just one more bottle and this trip was no exception. With a birthday celebration that evening we slipped a bottle of sparkling into our selection.
Le Naturel Vouvray, non-vintage from Sebastien Brunet. A delightful natural Chenin Blanc from the Loire, this really surprised us. It has a gentle sparkle and a soft mouthfeel, a little heavier than Prosecco, almost creamy, yet without the yeasty biscuit notes you get from Champagne. There was a hint of sweetness, but only a touch which made this slightly pear-droppy wine a real winner. Into the bag it went, then the fridge and then it was gone before it really touched the sides and I’m wishing we’d stashed a second bottle in our case.
Finally I want to talk about my wildcard entry to this trips degustation. A sweet white Bordeaux. Whilst finishing off dinner at Josephine Chez Dumonet we asked the waiter to recommend a dessert wine for the table and he brought over one that none of us had heard of. Chateau Le Guyonnets, Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont white Bordeaux blend. I was blown away. I’ve never been much of a fan of sweet wine, but I think that’s because I’d never really indulged properly or taken the time to get to know them. My parents-in-law like a good Sauternes, but I’ve never been fussed and am more likely to move straight to the Calvados. Not anymore! This was a fabulous wine, rich mouthfeel yet somehow light, full of complexity, and not cloyingly sweet. It had the perfect balance and everyone at the table agreed that it was the ideal end to the meal. If you can get your hands on some (I haven’t managed to yet), firstly let me know, then snatch it up before I beat you to it!
So there you go, my three stand-out wines from the trip. We also had some nice Cotes Du Rhone, and some lovely Crozes-Hermitage, but these three were my top picks and if you get the chance to try them I heartily recommend it.