We Parisians are often reluctant to jump across the city limits, it's like if the earth was flat and outside Paris, the suburb was an unchartered territory where one could easily lose one's way. But the Caves Fillot, just outside Paris near Porte de Gentilly deserves that we fight this trend and make the detour. Created in 1894, this family wine shop, with its portfolio of 1800 different wines and spirits, has a long history dating back from the time when wine merchants were all based just outside Paris because of the "Octroi" and other taxes which were levied on all the wine crossing the city limit. Nowadays, the French State taxes gas: 75% of the price tag at the pump in France (1,35 Euro a liter or 7 US Dollars a gallon) is tax. In Paris the unleaded (S98 and S98) is even closer to 1,5 Euro according to this french-pump-prices monitoring-website, the diesel (Gas+ and Gas) being a bit cheaper. Alas for the state's greed, there was no sizeable gas market in the 18th and 19th century of course, but wine was the real fuel then, with workers downing 1 to 4 liters a day of it. So it doesn't come as a surprise that the tax on the incoming wine has been as high as 100%...
Caves Fillot was then a wholesaler, the bottle being an unknown luxury, and it sold wine casks not only to the Paris cafés and restaurants, but to individual customers as well, as even ordinary people used to buy wine by the cask for their everyday needs. The wine came from the wine regions on rail tankers, then on horse-drawn carts to the shop, and delivered on demand inside Paris, the tax being paid only when crossing Paris city limits.
The historic interest was secondary for my regular visiting of the shop, though: Jacques Fillot happens to regularly invite vintners to offer a free tasting of their wines and B. and I came on several of these occasions. That's how we took notice of the very rich selection of shop's portfolio, secure values from Burgundy or Bordeaux and up-and-comming estates from all over France as well. Just for example, that's here that I discovered Chateau Tayac, a Cotes de Bourg that is worth many famous Bordeaux.
The Caves Fillot still has the surface of a wholesale merchant, closer to the one of a factory than of a wine shop: some 1400 square meters, including the courtyard and the cask workshop. Yes, there is even a cask repair facility in the courtyard and even though it's not in use any more, it is still in place with the tools, spare parts and everything. Some of the surface in the back of the shop is used to hosts private seminars or wine tastings and I understand that the scenery fits for such events.
Asked how the Caves Fillot went from the wholesale wine business of the early 20th century to the modern wine retail shop, Jacques Fillot explains that it was done progressively when he began to work here in 1978: back then, they were still selling exclusively to cafés and restaurants, and he added in the 80s' the sale to individual customers of both bottles and bulk wine, thus widening the customer base at a time when wine consumption had already begun to drop. The trend was already less on quantity and more on quality and to follow up with the new needs of the wine buyer, he adapted his business by keeping the quality policy for the selection of his portfolio. That's what serious wine dealers should do (the ones who want to survive do it): only sell wines that they personally tasted and liked, and discontinue the wines whose quality subsided in the following years.
The shop has also a large selection of spirits, including little-known french Aperitifs and once-forbidden Absinthes, like the Absente (Absinthe) at 24,9 Euro, the Anis de Pontarlier (23,95 Euro), the Gentiane de Lure (13,5 Euro), Lillet (13,9 Euro), Versinthe (another Absinthe-18,6 Euro), or Genepi Rinquinquin (11,9 Euro) among others.