All posts by Thor Iverson

Les Caves de Prague

Parisian wine shops tend to exhibit tunnel vision, often to the point of obsession: either they sell natural/organic/biodynamic wine, or they sell “traditional” wine, and rarely do the twain meet. One sees many of the same wines over, and over, and over again.

Not here. There’s plenty to satisfy any palate or ideology, and what’s more a lot of the labels aren’t the common names littering most modern restaurant lists. Add in a casual vibe, a ton of tables for casual in-store imbibing (with a wonderfully minuscule droit de bouchon), a rather surprising menu of tapas and the usual wine bar comestibles, and there’s finally something new under the Parisian sun.

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vin qui parle | parisbymouth.com

Le Vin Qui Parle

An attractive and likable cave in the Latin Quarter, but slick design can’t quite mask a partial dearth of bottles of particular interest. There are famous names here and there, but much of the stock is more puzzling than eyebrow-raising. The staff is generous (in that there are more of them than one expects in a place of this size) and friendly, but they’re clearly working from a supply chain unlike that feeding much of their more adventurous competition. The already-knowledgable can certainly find many things to drink here…but then, the already knowledgable are very likely shopping elsewhere. Still, a pleasant shopping experience goes a long way.

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L’Etiquette

A shop full of natural, biodynamic, and organic wine doesn’t seem the likeliest candidate for a heavily touristed corner of the Île Saint-Louis. But while it’s possible that a fair number of visitors are baffled by the racks of unfamiliar wines, and at least a few of the rest are just popping in to ask for directions to Berthillon, uncannily affable proprietor and raconteur Hervé Lethielleux is a laid-back advocate for wines that often benefit from a little advocacy.

The selection’s pretty evenly weighted between acknowledged stars and semi-obscurities, and there’s an extant yet reasonable location-based premium, but what’s not to love about a store like this in such a prime location?

Tastings every Saturday, all day, though at any given time there’s usually something open.

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Les Caves du Marais

Piled wooden cases bearing the name of many a famous winemaker form the narrow passage to this equally tiny shop. Inside, you’ll find those bottles from those famed names, plus plenty more not quite in evidence, to find which you’ll want to strike up a conversation with the extremely knowledgable proprietor Jean-Jacques Bailly. It’s a classicist’s selection, and you won’t find the cartoonish ephemera of the natural wine scene here, but neither is it doctrinaire. And there’s this, too: Les Caves du Marais is the sort of place people imagine when thinking of the prototypical and increasingly legendary caviste, yet in actual fact such places rarely exist except to sell either natural wine or indifferent commercial banalities anymore. Shopping here is like finding something you always imagined existed.

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cave grande epicerie | parisbymouth.com

Cave at La Grande Epicerie de Paris

This grande dame of comestible retail has expanded rapidly and somewhat chaotically over the last few years. As a consequence, the once well-controlled wine shop has moved to the basement, leaving confusion in its wake.

As ever, there are a lot of well-known labels, in all price ranges (though carrying a not-insignificant markup; one doesn’t shop at Le Grand Epicerie looking for bargains). There’s a rare wine room, flashily-displayed champagne (sadly, largely devoid of its once-extensive grower-producers and now heavily weighted towards big négociants), a Bacchanalian surplus of magnums, and a fair selection of foreign wine and spirits that can be hard to come by elsewhere.

But that’s assuming one can find anything. Wines are wrapped around columns, shoveled under the occasionally-staffed registers, and laid to rest in coolers where one has to squint at tags to know what lies behind. For all its treasures, this is not a store that encourages unfocused browsing.

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Legrand et Fils wine bar in Paris | parisbymouth.com

Caves Legrand

A jewel box merchant in the beautiful Galerie Vivienne, Legrand specializes in the great and worthy of vinous France. Many of the shelves are taken up by wines that would be special occasion bottles for most drinkers, and safe bets for tradition-minded lovers of traditional wines. There are some surprises here and there, but this is not a funky natural wine dive. Prices aren’t exactly the lowest in the city, and the ambient temp runs a bit warm, but the space is majestic.

The store (with tables that spread out into the hallway) doubles as a wine bar/light bites restaurant, offering wine by the glass or off the shelf for a reasonable uncorking fee, and it’s worth noting that of all the many places in Paris that offer the same, Legrand has some of the nicest stemware.

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Des Mets Des Vins

Everyone needs a hook, and at this trio of shops it’s announced loud and clear in the name: wines are shelved by their (alleged) categorical culinary accompaniments. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach, but for casual browsing, the unfamiliarity makes it feel a little haphazard. Thankfully, passionate proprietors, whose enthusiasm (and laser-like ability to find things amongst the ontological chaos) is truly infectious, render this issue moot. The selection’s not just the usual natural/organic/biodynamic range, but includes some big names and a fair number of less-familiar, more personal choices. There’s food, too. It’s in the name, after all.  >> Read More