If you read our recently published Guide to French Wine, you'll know that it's at the heart of almost every wine style in the world and whether it be related to appellations or grape varieties, famous French wines are still the measuring stick for winemakers everywhere. France is routinely in the top two spaces for wine production overall, and produces more quality wine than any other country in the world. Sound good? Well, it's time to explore that further. So, we're heading to the epicentre of it all, to the capital. To Paris!
Paris isn't a city that needs much introduction. The capital city of France is a thriving cultural hot-spot, bedecked with gorgeous architecture, museums, restaurants, live music scenes, fashion... there's very little that Paris isn't well known for! Whilst it's still a favourite spot for a romantic get-away, when we visit Paris, our main excitement is the opportunity to visit one of the dozens of high quality wine bars, shops and wine-friendly restaurants in the city. Better yet, for the adventurous, two of France's most acclaimed wine regions lie close enough to make it there and back within a day trip, whether you want to visit the winding, fragmented Loire Valley, or indulge yourself in Champagne. It's always hard to fit our favourite recommendations in to these guides, but this week, it may be our hardest challenge yet! So, if you want to drink French wine in Paris but you're not sure where to start; this guide is for you!
There's an enormous amount to see and do in Paris itself, but a period of time in the city may have you yearning for a trip into the countryside. Fortunately, that means a wine trip is on the cards! There aren't any famous vineyards directly outside the city, but if you don't mind an adventurous day-trip, or perhaps a short 2-3 days away, there are two incredible wine regions within 1-2 hours of Paris by car or train. I am, of course, talking about The Loire Valley, as famous for its incredible Chateaux as its wine, and of course, Champagne!
The Region – Touraine
Visiting the Loire Valley is quite the experience. Not only is it a long, windy route full of delicious, cool-climate wines of all styles but it's aesthetically stunning, complete with beautiful chateaux, castles and breath-taking scenery. Touraine is part of the Middle Loire, known as 'The Garden of France' and one of France's most famous wine-regions, although they keep the majority of what's produced here within the country! Whether it's broad, pungent Chenin Blanc, crisp and crunchy Cabernet Franc, refreshing sparkling wine in the form of Cremant de Loire or every style of rosé wine imaginable, it's made here in Touraine.
The Winery – Chateau du Nitray
Visiting Chateau du Nitray is like taking a step back in time, with it's gorgeous architecture and buildings dating back to the 16th century. A lot of people visit The Loire Valley purely to admire these old, grand chateau, but why not also enjoy some top quality wine whilst you're there? Chateau du Nitray has been producing high quality wine for decades and now has a broad portfolio of both red, white and rosé wines. It's a difficult choice but if there's one option we'd recommend....
The Wine – Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is the Queen of Touraine, thriving on the chalky, tuffeau soils famous in the region. At Chateau Nitray, they produce this wine from 45 year old vines, producing low yields of concentrated, refreshing white wine. Off-dry but with plenty of verve and life thanks to the strong core of acidity, this is a great example of why people are so in love with Chenin Blanc from The Loire Valley. Lovely aromas of stone fruits, orange marmalade and mineral characters with a touch of sweetness and seemingly endless flavour. Make sure you grab a bottle whilst you're there!
For more information and to contact Chateau Nitray for a visit, be sure to contact them via their website.
Tours and Tastings
Whilst you're in the Loire, make sure to visit Le Tasting Room for a wonderful experience of tasting, exploring and possibly even going on a tour to the vineyards! Home-cooked food and delicious wine, all explained under the expert tutelage of Cathy and Nigel? Sign us up!
The Region – Champagne
Ah, Champagne. The region that made sparkling wine famous and one that continues to be imitated around the world. This is the closest wine region to Paris and it comes as no surprise that huge quantities are drank in the capital, and not necessarily just for celebrating! However, to really get a feel for what Champagne is all about, nothing beats walking its fresh, green lands, speaking to the growers and perhaps taking in the visual splendour of ones of the great Champagne Houses.
The Winery – Paul Etienne Saint-Germain
This is a special little spot in Champagne, created by Jean-Michel and his wife Agnes, after decades of working in the Champagne industry themselves. They decided to manage their family vineyards instead of selling the grapes on, and this charming estate is now one of Champagne's best kept secrets, despite the fact that it's located on the most expensive street in the region! The reception is warm and welcoming, the estate is a charming old mansion full of character, and this is a great place to learn all about Champagne; preferably whilst sipping on a glass, or unwinding on their beautiful patio after a visit. We'll be back!
The Wine – Sublime
The flagship wine of Paul Etienne is their delicious 'sublime', a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all from Grand Cru villages around Champagne. Delicate, refreshing and concentrated; full of citrus, stone fruits and lovely buttery, toasted flavours. So soft and caressing, we think perhaps the wine should be called 'Elegance', as that's really the first word that springs to mind! Grab a bottle or two and thank us later!
For more information and to contact Maison Paul Etienne for a visit, be sure to get in touch via their website.
Tours and Tastings
If you have more time to spend in Champagne, you should definitely consider spending some time with Vine Escape, a brilliant tour company based in Epernay. If you want a crash course in what Champagne is really all about before going on a visit to a couple of hidden gems in the region, make sure to check out their website and availability; it's a wonderful way to discover Champagne!
We don't know if we've ever been to a city with quite the number of individual wine shops, wine bars and excellent little cafes that Paris has! It means that we're absolutely spoilt for choice, which is no bad thing, but it does mean we have to narrow it down to some of our favourites. Whether you're looking to jump head-first into the blooming natural wine scene that Paris has become famous for, or looking for something a little more traditional, check out these places for a great glass of wine, something delicious to eat and plenty of bottles you'll want to smuggle home with you!
68 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001
O Chateau is one of our top destinations everytime we visit Paris, and with good reason. They're a wine bar, restaurant and shop all rolled into one, with a broad selection of high quality wines, the vast majority of which hail from France. Better yet, they're constantly organising special tastings, courses and even day-trips down the River Seine, all paired with wine! Set in a gorgeous 17th century building, this is everything we want in a wine destination and if you visit Paris, you absolutely must go and say hello. You'll thank us later! O Chateau
Be sure to also check out O Chateau's sister-project, Les Caves du Louvre, for a completely different experience! Set in the 18th century cellars of Louis XV, this is a high-tech, interactive wine experience set in the most remarkable surroundings. Not to be missed!
Le Siffleur des Ballons
34 Rue de Cîteaux, 75012
Want to check out the natural wine scene of Paris at its best? Head to Le Siffleur des Ballons in the Aligre neighbourhood and prepare to settle in for the evening. This charming little bistro is organised into a long bar, perfect for solo dinners, and a smattering of small tables; only the rear room is suitable for large groups, so keep it intimate! Despite their excellent natural wine list and tasty bites, the real stand-out here is the enthusiastic, warm service that might make you wonder whether you're really in Paris. If you're looking for something more substantial to eat, fear not, for owner Thierry Bruneau also owns the lovely restaurant across the road! Should you fall in love with anything you'd drank, be sure to ask how much it is per bottle to take-away! Le Siffleur des Ballons
Legrand Filles et Fils
1 Rue de la Banque, 75002
Legrand Filles et Fils is the iconic wine-shop of Paris, based in Galerie Vivienne and serving wine to the local community since 1880. Their selection of French wine is enormous, carefully selected and very fairly priced, making this one of our must-visits every time we find ourselves in Paris. Since 2002, they've also added on a chic new wine bar, which allows them to serve a small portion of the wines that they sell, along with some tasty snacks and nibbles. It's worth mentioning that, although there are busier, more popular bars in the city, very few invest in beautiful glasses and decanters in the way that Legrand Caves have, making every sip a joy! If you have to visit one shop whilst you're here, make it this one! Legrand Filles et Fils
La Derniere Goutte
6 Rue Bourbon le Chateau, 75006
Now, here's a hidden gem worth talking about. La Derniere Goutte is one of Paris's most charming wine shops and has been ran by Juan Sanchez for over 20 years. The focus is very much on terroir-driven wines from small producers, with organic and biodynamic viticulture a common pattern, and despite drinking a lot of French wine, we always find ourselves making new discoveries everytime we visit! Saturday afternoons are the best, as Juan hosts wine tastings with local wine-makers, and you can easily lose an entire day sipping away in this cozy store. If you're a fan of French wine, particularly grower Champagne or wines from the Rhone Valley, make sure to pay them a visit! La Derniere Goutte
So, with your wine related plans already detailed above, let's have a look at some other tips for your trip to Paris. As a capital city, Paris is a busy, bustling city and it's easy to get confused, particularly if you don't speak any French! It's well worth doing some research ahead of time, as with any city you've not visited before, but here are our top 10 tips for travel to Paris with confidence:
French Wine -If you're going to visit Paris for a wine trip, you're going to be tasting and trying an awful lot of French wine! If you're not familiar with French wine, make sure you read our handy little guide before you go; it'll make all the difference if you can understand the basics!
Manners - Paris has something of a reputation for being quite unforgiving to visitors, and a large part of this is down to social etiquette. Even if you don't speak French, it's important to learn a few basic phrases to help ease your way around the city. The basics of 'Bonjour', 'Au revoir' 'Merci' and 's’il vous plaît' go a long way and if you need to speak English, make sure you ask if the person you're speaking to does as well, before launching into your question.
Walking Shoes – Paris is a city that usually requires a fair bit of walking to get around, even when you're taking public transport from area to area. Whilst it's always a good idea to pack some brogues and/or high heels for those fancier nights out, for a day to day basis, make sure to pack some comfortable shoes!
Main Attractions – There are several guides telling you to avoid the major tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and so on. Our advice? Go and see them! Just make sure to buy your tickets online first if possible and try to visit during off-peak hours to limit the amount of traffic you have to navigate to enjoy the experience. There's a reason these sites are as popular as they are and it would be a shame to miss them.
Sunday Closures – Do be aware that, like a lot of European cities, shopping and generally getting around in Paris is much slower on a Sunday. Having said that, many of the attractions, museums and restaurants are still open so not all is lost; it's a lovely day to see some of the sights in the morning, whilst it's a little quieter! If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, be sure to check and make sure they're open if you want to go on a Sunday!
Weather Forecast – Paris isn't the worlds warmest and driest city, and occasionally the rain can be quite fierce. Make sure to keep one careful eye on the weather forecast and if you're travelling anywhere outside of the height of summer, pack a coat just in case!
Lunch – Despite the tales of French lunches lasting all the way until dinner, the reality of dining for lunch in Paris is that most restaurants have a strict schedule, with includes closing from around 2:30 onwards, until dinner service. If you're looking for more of a laid back affair or a later lunch, either call ahead and check with the restaurant or look out for a sign saying 'service continu', signalling that there is no break in service.
Scams/Pickpocketing – Petty crime is a sad reality in any major city, and Paris is unfortunately no different. Particularly when in crowded spaces or on public transport, be sure to keep your belongings close to you, and ensure that your bags are properly closed. As a general rule, anyone approaching you to sign any documents or make unnecessary physical contact – just move on.
Public Transport – Public transport is the best way to get around Paris; taxis are woefully expensive and the city is simply too vast to see entirely by foot. Whether travelling by metro or bus, a single journey costs €1.90 and a book of 10 tickets is only €14.50. If you're in Paris for a few days or more, it might be worth your while downloading the RATP App; don't worry, it works offline! By the way, make sure you keep your ticket for the whole journey on the metro, as you might have to present it at the other end of your journey.
Tipping Culture – Like much of Europe, tipping at restaurants and bars isn't an obligation in Paris. However, do remember that, like most in the hospitality industry, waiters and waitresses aren't paid a huge amount and quality service makes all the difference to the overall experience. If you had a great meal, do leave something but don't feel obliged, and definitely don't tip bad service! 10% of the bill is usually about right.
We really do adore Paris and hopefully you can see why when you go and visit yourself! There are few better places in the world to spend a few days, eating, drinking and generally losing yourself in the city. We hope that this guide has been helpful and we're confident that it'll improve your wine experience of Paris completely! As always, don't forget that if you want to bring wine home with you, taking it home via a Lazenne Wine Check is a better option than shipping it, so make sure you bring yours with you! Until the next time, À votre santé!
For more on our specially designed wine luggage and more detailed information on how to travel with alcohol, check out the links below: