The sign on the bar says it all : Bistro - Cave : here is a place to drink a glass and buy a bottle to go when you liked it. "A la Vierge de la Réunion" is a nice wine bar, restaurant AND caviste located in the up-and-coming blue-collar and immigrant district of the lower-eastern 20th arrondissement of Paris. The bar is located at rue de la Réunion and rue des Vignolles a short distance from the leafy Pére-Lachaise cemetery, where anonymous or enlightened individuals like Molière or Jim Morisson (and a few others) lay to rest.
Mourad Hallouche discovered wine in his teenage years in Algeria. Being a native of the wine region of Tlemcen there, wine was a beverage of choice for young Algerians (things may have changed since...). When he came to France, he kept learning and tasting different wines. The turning point in his wine culture was his frienship with François Morel , a wine writer and discoverer. Mourad discovered that wine could be beautiful and alive. We all at some point had our turning point in our own wine culture, and for many people it has been indeed the natural/artisan wine thing that turned much of our routine perceptions on wines upside down. He didn't wait this discovery to explore the different wine styles, but it gave a new dimension and passion to his wine culture.
The wines-by-the-glass list :
7 whites and 6 reds, only good stuff sold by the glass (14cl - beginning at 2,9 Euro), by the pot (46cl - beginning at 10 Euro) and of course also by the bottle, beginning at 14 Euro). This latter one is Marc Tempe's Alliance and it is quite a good deal for an apéritif. A few names from the glass list : Jérome Vic (Languedoc), Jean Foillard (Morgon), Jean Baptiste Senat (Minervois-Languedoc), Philippe Peulet (Côte Roannaise), Marcel Richaud (Côtes du Rhone), Marc Deschamps (Pouilly Fumé), Domaine de Villalin (Quincy), Domaine Combier (Saint Véran)....
You must know that in addition to be a great cook, Leila is a writer : food for the soul is also part of her life.
A very good selection indeed. More than one hundred different wines on the shelves, either to go or to drink here, with a 7-Euro cork fee, which makes a very good value restaurant bottle as many of the wines are very affordable. Here are a few prices from the Carte des Vins (meaning the cork fee is already included). Mourad says the vignerons are often surprised by the prices, as most restaurants make more money on wines :
Foillard Morgon 2006 at 19 Euro, two Chermette wines at 21 Euro, Monthelie Prunier-Bonheur "les Crays" 2002 (25 Euro), Volnay Vaudoisey-Creusefond 2005 (26 Euro), Vacqueyras Christian Vache Domaine de la Monardière 2005 (22 Euro), Chateau Vieux Lescours 2005 (19 Euro), Lalande de Pomerol Chateau d'Haurange 2004 (21 Euro), St Estèphe Chateau de Come 2004 (21 Euro), Cote Roannaise Domaine de Perrière, Granits 2006 (17 Euro), Domaine Breton, Bourgueil les Perrières 2005 (26 Euro), Chidaine les Argiles 2006 (22 Euro). Lots of other good bottles here...
The place also sells/serves Champagne, three labels, with the entry-level being a Henri Giraud Brut "Esprit" which many people buy here on a regular basis. The last time I visited, a girl walked in and asked for a bottle of it that Armand took in the fridge. It was 9:30pm and she had a good Champagne for only 24 Euro for whatever private event she was heading for...
This very evening, I was thinking about ordering a glass of Morgon Foillard 2006 (for 3,8 Euro) when Mourad took a bottle from the fridge with a yellow juice-looking liquid inside : verjus (or bernache, or vin nouveau !), the new wine, the sweet-grape-juice gently fermenting that you drink in the wineries from a glass filled straight from the vat... Nice gift. He got it from the wine shop of his associate (Au bon plaisir, rue des Pyrénées). He says it was brought by a vigneron from Valençay (Loire) but he didn't note who it was. Deliciously-intoxicating juice with plenty of vivid aromas, candy, lemon, lichees, peach... I still ordered my Foillard after that, and although it was the base cuvée, this was just so good. Couples and friends had begun to arrive at the restaurant for dinner and all seemed to know Mourad and be long-time patrons coming back for the good food and the wine.
It is wiser to reserve in advance but you may get a table without doing so.