Until fairly recently, Paris was surrounded by little villages planted with vines, and vintners producing local (if mostly unremarkable) reds and whites for the capital’s everyday enjoyment. Even though Paris isn’t much of a wine-growing center these days– save a couple of remaining vines that mostly serve decorative and nostalgic purposes- it’s still an ideal place to taste and sample some wonderful vintages from all over the country. Whether you’re a wine lover, a timid amateur, or somewhere in between, here are some of the best places to taste, learn about, and simply enjoy wines throughout the capital. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s traditional “wine season”, either: in Paris, you can find great tastings, exhibits and courses year-round. Read on.
The corner bar à vin has long had a place in Parisian culture, but in recent years it’s gone from humble hangout to hipster haven, a preferred format of the bourgeois-bohemians and foodies in the city. If this already sounds obnoxious, not to worry– many of the places on our list of the best wine bars in Paris are fairly laid-back places, where you can enjoy not only a fantastic vintage or red by the glass, but also sample delicious traditional cheese and charcuterie plates or other small, tapas-style dishes.
This overlooked little collection offers a truly fascinating glimpse into the history of winemaking. Some 200 artefacts tell the story of vintnering, and you can also enjoy tasting different varieties of wine in the cellar, nestled within the museum’s limestone premises, some of which date to the medieval period.
Vendanges de Montmartre: The City’s Cheerful Wine Harvest
Have you frequently dreamed of attending an old-fashioned bacchanalia? In October, the hilly reaches of the Montmartre neighborhood are the site of an annual vintnering event known as the “Vendanges” (harvest), which not only allows you to taste some of those aforementioned last local wines, but are also the occasion for free concerts, fireworks, and other cultural goings-on. If you’re visiting Paris in the autumn, I highly recommend trying to take part in this festive, budget-friendly event.
There are many companies offering fun and educational wine tastings to tourists and visitors, and some are better (and more reasonably priced) than others. I’ve left it to the experts over at Paris by Mouth for their verdict on the best among these, but our own intrepid Contributor Colette Davidson also recently attended a tasting at a newly opened company, and reports back (see below). Why not spend an afternoon chilling out in one of these cozy caves and learning about the difference between mineral or oaky notes?
Read our review of Wine Tasting in Paris, a beginners-friendly outfit
Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Tasting Season
Along with the annual Vendanges de Montmartre event, autumn is also time to taste the young, fresh, naive red known as Beaujolais nouveau. Many bars and restaurants around town serve the current year’s version, sometimes straight from the barrel along with cheese and other dishes, making for a festive night out. Half the fun? Tasting the latest incarnation of the Beaujolais and reaching a verdict: is it good this year, or lousy? It’s anyone’s guess. Word of warning, however: it may be a light wine, but it can get to your head faster than you can say “Encore un verre, s’il vous plait!” (Another glass, please!)
There are lots of fantastic wine shops around Paris– one of my favorites being Le Verre Volé near Gare de l’Est and the Canal St Martin (also figuring on our favorite wine bars list above). In addition, the “Nicolas” chain is ubiquitous and stocks perfectly good wines, as do most supermarkets, like Monoprix, around the city. However, if you want to pick up a few bottles to bring home in your suitcase while shopping for other gourmet goodies, I recommend trying upmarket food shops like The Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché, or, on the right bank, Lafayette Gourmet. Most of these places have helpful and knowledgable staff members on hand who will be able to advise you on wines to suit your budget and palate.