I thought my list of 153 Paris wine bars was up to date. But then I heard about a brand-new place. Just when I’d revised my list, I heard about another new place.
It was much easier 25 years ago. Most of Paris’s wine bars (bistros à vins) had been around since the ’50s. The best offered small-production wines, primarily from Beaujolais and the Loire. They looked like cafés and stayed open from morning until customers went home for dinner.
Then, in 2000, Cyril Bordarier opened the tiny Le Verre Volé, which became the prototype for the new caves à manger (wine shops that serve food). Bordarier slept in, stayed up late and sold mostly natural wines nobody had heard of—organic or biodynamic, often made from obscure native grapes. He also served a few pedigreed snacks. More young, passionate bistrotiers followed his lead and, as at all good French wine bars, debates broke out. Supporters spoke of natural wine’s freshness, its pure expression of the grape. Detractors grumbled that the wines didn’t age well. Everyone drank and ate increasingly imaginative dishes.
Now, in the latest generation of wine bars, it’s hard to find anything but natural wines. The places, however, are diverse: Alfred is almost a full-fledged restaurant, with an ambitious menu, while Cavestève is a redefined wine shop. Yet they all bring great wine discoveries and terrific food to the table. I just have to be ready to update my list.
Paris Wine Bars:
- Best Paris Wine Bars: Alfred
- Best Paris Wine Bars: Cavestève
- Best Paris Wine Bars: Racines
- Best Paris Wine Bars: Les Fines Gueules
- Paris Old-School and New Wine Bars
Jane Sigal, an F&W contributing editor, also writes for the New York Times. She’s working on a book about Paris wine bars.