Rue Daguerre, 14th arrondissement (Paris)
This was supposed to be a very rainy day. After weeks of balmy, sunny days, rain had come the previous day over the region, soaking everyone that had gone out without cover, and sunday was going the same way, in the morning at least, a nightmare for fleamarket amateurs (there were many vide-greniers in Paris that day) and for strollers in general. But Dionysos had his say I guess, and things turned miraculously around : by 2pm it was almost sunny in this corner of the 14th arrondissement, and the yearly wine party organized by the Cave des Papilles was going full speed, with free food and free [natural] wine poured at will.
There is no secret around this yearly event, you don't need to have a special introduction to join the Fête de la Cave des Papilles but either because Parisians are spoiled or have many other opportunities you still could reach the inside for a glass and have it filled with one of the nice wines and move around enjoying the party and the music scene. There are certainly places in the world where such a venue would be swamped by wine lovers like Middle Eastern migrants crashing the gates of Germany, and the whole block would have to be cordonned off by riot police, but here in Paris it's almost taken for granted to have repeated pours of free natural wine while chatting with friends and bathing in live music...
This is a yearly event where indeed everyone is welcome, be it the regular customer or anyone interested in wine, and why not, music. I'm usually in the Loire or elsewhere on weekends, especially in september but I had decided to stay this time, partly because the weather forecast was gloomy and also because the newsletter reminding me of the event had somehow caught my attention (thank you Florence !). I went first this morning to a street fleamarket rue Raymond Losserand not far from there but then came the rain and instead of going to the Cave des Papilles next, I went back home, waiting for better conditions, and I must confess I was ready to forego the event altogether if these downpours had lasted. By 2 pm it was clear you could go safely and have a drink without fearing being drenched to the bone. Dionysos had moved his finger and allowed us to party...
The Cave des Papilles is one of the references among the many wine shops selling artisan/natural wine in Paris, the caviste has this casual feel of mom and pop wine shop at the corner of the block (it does stand at the corner) and you don't feel intimidated. Their wine selection is large, with new names as well as the classics [Florence : a couple of cases welcome for the free advertising]. They're located in the 14th arrondissement near Denfert Rochereau, on the rue Daguerre, a nice party-pedestrian street which looks like a street market most of the days including sunday. The wine shop sits just outside of the pedestrian-only stretch but this part of the street was turned pedestrian for the wine party. They had set up tents in case of rain (or too much sun) and there was live music all along to entertain you. You could freely enter the wine shop either to have another pour or buy bottles.
For this special event that lasted from 11am to 6pm you'd typically have your wine poured inside, or you'd bring a bottle outside and enjoy the party, the music there, putting your glasses and plates on whatever improvised table you could find, here a scooter top box. Here I was distracted and forgot to turn the bottle and go see what wine had this weird and exciting color, certainly another top-notch thirst wine.
If a picture can say it better than words, trust these colors to imagine the wines that were poured that day.... There were maybe 4 different wines being poured for free (and any additional refill), both whites and reds, but you could also buy any bottle of your choice in the shop and enjoy the thing outside in the street or inside, at retail price of course, no cork fee or anything added on it. I was content with the wine they served but many people bought other bottles and shared the wine with friends.
I had already eaten when I came there, plus I was already holding my glass and taking pictures and I decided to better shun this cous-cous, but the free course was a success, I heard from the staff at then end (they stopped serving in the middle of the afternoon) that they served 500 cardboard plates with cous-cous and pork cheek from the Dordogne... There were people waiting for their plate as long as they were serving but here again, no stampede, everyone polite.
No need to say a freeloader like me soon asked where was the wine, I was said by Frank that is was inside, you just had to grab a clean glass and ask one of the women there. Several bottles were opened and I asked for Simonutti's "On s'en Bat les Couilles" which you could translate as "we don't give a damn" (although it is much more vulgar in French as it involves balls...). The wine is a juicy blend of gamay and pineau d'aunis from the Loire, something so meaty and chewy, I went straight to it instead of beginning with a white. Wine conformists might be unsettled by the wine on the first sip, but man, what a pleasure then. In case you want to try this wine, it costs 9,10 € at the shop.
You could also order a plate of oysters and seafood (not free) and here is the oysters guy, who came from Normandy for this special event (Normand'huitres). Here he poses for a picture with these two nice women from Italy, one being from Torino and the other from Alghero (Sardinia).
That the 2nd glass I had, they were pouring this inside the wine shop when I walked in : Pompon Rouge, Mas de la Font Ronde, vin de France 2014. This family domaine domaine located near Sommières, a small towxn that seems to be very festive in summer. The wine is a Rhone table wine making 11,5 % alcohol, a fruity wine but with much less substance I'd say. Was still OK but a bit disappointing after Simonutti's gamay/pineau-d'aunis. Costs 6,6 € only though (I saw while in the shop they even have wines that are cheaper than that). The wine shop also sells bibs with this wine, good deal certainly for the dayly wine.
I managed to take a picture of Gerard Katz, the manager of the shop (center) with at left Franck who used to work here, Florence behind-left who works there and Michel Tolmer who is the irreplaceable artist behind Mimi Fifi & Glouglou, a comic book featuring 3 buddies that are fans of natural wine and keep challenging each other with blind tastings (Tolmer made a 2nd book with the same vinous heroes and more adventures). The ministories are made obviously by a natural-wine lover who nonetheless is not shy of laughing at himself. Here is such a story, we all recognize ourselves and someone. It's better to buy his book but you can find some of the mini-stories here.
Oddly, Michel told me this was the first time he went to the wine party of the Cave des Papilles, although he knew the place for a long time and he designed the logo of the wine shop (scroll down a few pics) and made posters for them. He says when he lived there around 2000 he had three landmarks in the neighborhood : the Cave des Papilles, Le Severo and the Maison Courtine, another outstanding restaurant which was then owned by Yves Charles who since then moved to Auvergne and opened the cutlery workshop Perceval.
You can also occasionally see Michel at Le Rubis, a great wine bistrot in Paris.
The light Rhone was soon swallowed and I headed again to the wine shop to see what else I could have. My choice was a white, this was not the right order but the switch was smooth nonetheless : this Rietsch Sylvaner 2014 was a real pleasure, a real wine with a living sapidity, one of the wines I prefered that day. Don't pay attention to the color of the wine, it's a bit pink because there were still a few drops of red in the glass.