Winter wine weekend: Paris

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  • Friday 17 December 2010

Everyone talks about Paris in the spring but the winter can be just as romantic. With a crisp nip in the air and the Champs Elysées lit up like the road to a fairytale castle it’s an enchanting place to be - and a brilliant hunting ground for the kind of French wines that seldom leave the country.

Les Papilles Paris

The ‘palaces’ as Paris’s grandest hotels are called of course have magnificent lists (with prices to match) but I’d always rather head for a cosy bistro at this time of year.

My favourite, I think, is the Bistro Paul Bert in rue Paul Bert (01 43 72 24 01) Yes, it’s become absurdly popular but with its retro decor, good old-fashioned food and brilliantly priced list it still remains the ultimate experience for any Francophile. Go too to Les Papilles (01 43 25 20 79) a charming little wine-shop-cum-restaurant just up the road from the Jardin du Luxembourg where you can choose your own bottle off the shelves to enjoy with the simple no-choice set menu.

Paris was one of the early adopters of the natural wine movement so it’s a great place to explore some of the new producers who have come on the scene.

I’ve had mixed reports recently about one of the more established joints, Racines, whose founder has moved on so head for the trendy Le Verre Volé at 67 rue de Lancry (01 48 03 17 34) or Le Baratin (01 43 49 39 70), a tiny jewel of a place with fabulous bistro food and an amazing list of wines by the glass.

Paris also has two outstanding places to explore the art of food and wine matching: Il Vino d’Enrico Bernado (01 44 11 72 00), the eponymous restaurant of the world’s former best sommelier where you choose the wine and they create a menu around it and Senderens (01 42 65 22 90) where each dish is accompanied by a matching wine. That may now be commonplace but Alain Senderens was one of the first to do it and still does it better than anyone else.

The city is also a great place to shop for wine (an argument for taking the Eurostar rather than the plane. Assuming you don’t get stuck in le tunnel.) A few paces from Senderens you’ll find Lavinia - a hypermarket-sized wine store for wine lovers. There’s also the newly opened ‘Bordeauxthèque’ at Lafayette Gourmet on Boulevard Haussmann, a spectacular space containing 1900 bins. The French, as always, do things with style.

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