Cave 27 sounds more like a wine shop but here is certainly the smallest izakaya of Paris, a venue which could also pretend to the category of tachinomi because it's mostly a standing bar serving sake, wine and
tapas. Its location in Montmartre makes it a springboard for some of the best vistas of Paris by night, one of them just 20 meters away with a gorgeous view on the Sacré Coeur.
B. and I went there with a Japanese friend, and with a fourth person in the room the place seemed almost full, but we had a very good time, both with the food and the sake.
Cave 27 is located at 27 rue Lamarcq on a quiet stretch of street of Montmartre, and most tourists don't even know this spot 20 meters away with this striking view on the church on top (picture at bottom).
One of the reasons you might want to visit is Cave 27 is also because the maître des lieux, Takemoto-san, has more in his background than just setting up an izakaya in Paris. What do we start with ? Flamenco, equestrian art, mangas, arab language, hunting horn, fencing ? Motoichi Takemoto, who prefers to be called Athos Takemoto is an expert on all these fields, he travelled extensively, having for example spent 3 years in Algeria recently where he worked as an interpreter for a Japanese contruction company, after having spent now and then time in Australia, Switzerland, Tunisia and Syria, beyond Japan of course where he was born in Tokyo...
speaking of the manga culture which is now so ubiquitous in the West, I found out through research that Takemoto-san was the first to publish in the late 70s', from Switzerland and with the help of publisher Rolf Kesseling, a manga magazine named Le Cri qui Tue where you could find French translations of mangas by authors like Takao Saitō, Osamu Tezuka, Yoshihiro Tatsumi & Fujio Akatsuka, and Shōtarō Ishinomori. The first issue was published in 1978 but the venture was short-lived and stopped in 1981 after the dive of the French Franc. Takemoto-san was a precursor in the spread of this manga culture, more years were needed before the seeds could blossom, and manga fanatics in France owe much to his pioneering work.
Pierre Terrasson and the winemaker Fabien Bergeron
La Cave des Papilles, Paris 14th arrondissement
Tags : Saint-Joseph, photographer, Gainsbourg, Jagger, Dard & Ribo, winemaker, wine shop
This happened at La Cave des Papilles, and this is a story where photography and wine play a role. Pierre Terrasson is a photographer specialized on the music scene, he has terrific shots about people like Serge Gainsbourg, Mick Jagger, Vanessa Paradis, Les Rita
Mitsouko and countless other artists from the rock and pop scene. In a way, he is a priviledged
witness of the music world along the last 40 years, and this tasting event was also a book-signing op for his last photo book Backstage, where you can see dozens of (French or foreign) musicians pictured impromptu before or after their shows during the 1980s'. Somehow you get the message from these unpolished photos, whether from the 80s' particular mood or from a particular musician you're not used to see away from the pressure of the public.
This is when the question of "why in a wine shop ?" comes out. The thing is, Pierre has a vineyard parcel in Saint-Joseph and beyond the book signing, you get a wine tasting with wine made out of his vineyard, and it happens that the wine is as vibrant than the musicians he covers.
La cave des Papilles (pictured on left) is itself also a vibrant wine shop where you can buy blind everything, and I barely exagerate. The shop is among the ones I featured on my long (and non exhaustive) list of reliable wine shops in Paris dealing with artisan wines made without tricks (this shop happens to be #3 on the random list). The shop sits at a corner of the rue Daguerre, a street with a busy street market near Denfert-Rochereau.
Quai de Bercy, Paris
Like every year at the same time, a tasting featuring organic and biodynamic wineries was organized on a barge in Paris, on the other side of the Seine from the Grande Bibliothèque. It had been a few years since the last time I attended and I found the time to go this year, thanks alo because I was tipped about it by the Saladin sisters who also participate every year.
This is more than a tasting, you can purchase wine and as the parking is easy along the river bank on this Quai de Bercy, both winery owners and potential buyers had no problem parking their vehicules in the immediate vicinity. I guess also that the renting cost for this barge is close from what would be asked for a similarly-sized brick-and-mortar space.
The event was organized by Verre Bouteille, a wine-event agency managed by Isabelle Jomain, a sommelière with a crush on real wines.
The entry fee was 6 € against which you get a nice glass that you could keep aftewards and allowed you an unlimited access to all these wines to taste generously.
Wine making scenes (Normandy, 12th century - Den Haag, Königliche Bibliothek)
Wine in the Middle Ages, what a nice program...
This is about an exhibition which ended november 11 and was centered on wine in an era that seems light years away from today : the Middle Ages, a grey historic era which we consider as having taken place between 500 and 1500 A.D.
A century ago is already so far in the past that we have a hard time figuring how people exactly related to wine, like did people really focus on the aromas, or did they analyze the mouthfeel or just apreciated the well-being feel experienced after a couple of glasses and so on. But the Middle Ages is almost another planet for us, and this humble exhibition did a lot for me
to put the record straight on the subject, first because the
images speak volume and we can intuitively guess things and certain ways of the feelings back then, and secondly because the text and printed documentation and comments really clarify our understanding of this time.
This exhibition, where the entry fee was 5 € only, took place from april to november 2012 in the Tour Jean sans Peur (pictured on right), a little-known museum centered on the Middle Ages which is located 20 rue Etienne Marcel in Paris. This exhibition is mobile and for rent by the way, and I think that it is very informative and at the same time very light to put in place, so it should in my opinion find many potential buyers either private or among the cultural institutions & local museums in the wine regions including abroad. I don't know if there's an English version ready but it shouldn't be difficult to set up. The images and displayed Art here being mere reproductions, the insurance costs are minimal I guess. The showcase consists in multiple panels (a few dozens) describing, through well-chosen reproductions and an explanatory text, the various aspects of the wine culture of that time.
Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, the historian who put in place this informative and visually-pleasant research explains on this video interview that the water was polluted then and that every one was drinking wine instead, like around 3 liters a day (making probably 7 or 8° of alcohol), the children receiving smaller amounts diluted with water. If not wine, people would drink cider, beer or poiré. Even breakfast would have some wine included, possibly in the soup. Wine would be used as disinfectant for injuries and surgery. You'll learn many things by reading and watching the images at this exhibition.
Right now, the current exhibition in that museum is about the cuisine in the Middle ages, see the press release (Pdf) about it.
Chateldon (Auvergne, eastern Loire), Aux Dix Vins Cochons wine fair
One of the highlights of this type of small wine fairs in France is the dîner de vignerons that often takes place in the evening following the fair. It is something not to miss beginning with the reason that it's a very relaxed and friendly dinner, plus the food is heartening and no need to say anything about the wines that come with. You have such vintners' dinners organized at the end of most of these artisan-wine fairs that are sprouting now all over France.
Basically it's a no-frills, brotherly dinner with nonetheless the best food
you can imagine and all of this washed down with the longest wine list you can dream of, that is, the wines (bottles or magnums) brought by all these vintners who of course take part to this invigorating feast themselves. I costs usually around 25 € per person, wines included, and it beats the best dinner in town, believe me. Plus, you're seating at the side of vintners you know primarily through their wines and this is the opportunity to experience the fact that these real wines are made by real people who don't take themselves seriously and have a lot of fun with their fellow winemakers.
The dîner de vignerons of Chateldon also includes live music and concert, and this is in the real sense of the term food for the body and for the soul.
While I couldn't stay at the dinner taking place in the evening after the wine fair because we had to drive back to Paris, I could attend the dinner organized the previous evening before the fair. It was supposed to be for the vintners and their mates only, most having arrived in the village the day before the event, but we were allowed to attend also, having ourselves driven to Chateldon on the previous day. It was less crowded than the dinner following the wine fair, the public not taking part, but it was as genuine and unceremonious, you could melt into the brotherly wine family all the while drinking much good stuff.
Here is an iconic wine fair you might consider going to one day. It is quite out of the way speaking of access because there's no train going there and you need either a car or take a long taxi drive 50 km north-east of Clermont Ferrand, the regional capital city of the Massif-Central mountains. But this tasting event is unmistakably the best such event that I attended.
Les 10 Vins Cochons is
a small wine fair which was created 9 years ago and is managed now by two people :
Stéphane Majeune and Jean-Philippe Juge, with the help of Tony Bernard. Stéphane is a well-known figure in the natural-wine world, he was one of the 3 guys behind the iconic Domaine Peyra in Auvergne, Jean-Philippe Juge is the president of the non-profit group organizing the event, and Tony is the bold mayor of the village of Chateldon, a village known for centuries for its mineral water which can be found only on high-end tables and venues.
The name of the event needs to be explained first, especially for a non-French public as its literal meaning, "Ten Wines Pigs" may be unsettling : At the beginning this was really a small wine gathering and only 10 vintners were taking part, all making additives-free natural wine from organic grapes, and basically often without added sulfites either. That makes Dix Vins (ten wines) and as it sounds like divine in French, it was turned out like "the divine pigs" (cochons) because pigs are a gastronomy symbol conveying a sense of unrepentant and omnivorous appetite. Plus like we say in France, everything is good in the pig (tout est bon dans le cochon), and this tasting event was from the start a place where you could eat gorgeous food including charcuterie made by well-sourced artisans following the same standards of truth and quality than the participating wineries. Each year there's a different logo for the fair and the one for 2012 (pictured on right) illustrates perfectly the joyous and Dionysian spirit of the event.
Chateldon is located in a wooded area north-east of Clermont Ferrand, this village (picture on left) is charming with beautiful architectural remains from I guess the Middle Ages. There doesn't seem to be vineyards in the immediate vicinity but the region of Clermont Ferrand itself is home to several outstanding vintners who have put the wines of Auvergne on the map for demanding wine amateurs. This region is technically part of the Loire Appellation but it's quite off-centered and much closer from Lyon than from Chinon for example.
La Ficelle in Paris
This was in Paris in the last week of november : Christine Ontivero and her wine communication agency had organized a special evening and dinner at Le Café du Commerce around what is known under the name of La Ficelle, the 26th edition of some sort of Nouveau-day centered on the wines of Saint Pourçain,
a little-known AOC and wine region part of the Loire and Auvergne. The
event was about the Union des Vignerons de Saint Pourçain, aka the local coop, which vinifies 400 hectares of vineyards on a total planted surface of 600 hectares in the appellation area. The appellation whites are Chardonnay blended with Tressallier and the reds are Gamay and Pinot Noir. The Saint-Pourçain coop decided in 1983 as a wise marketing tool to hire every year a different cartoonist to design the Nouveau label and since then, every Nouveau has got a new cartoonist draw the cartoon du jour, adding a fun note in an already-festive event around what is a typical bistro wine. Let's remind that the Auvergnats who have been for ages behind the bistro and café business in Paris used to import primarily the wines of their own regions for the counter wine. In the past, wine was often had à la ficelle meaning that you'd pay what you'd drink : the waiter would leave a full bottle of wine on your table and you'd pay depending of the level measured with the knots on a string attached to the bottle, in short, wholesale price for wine or pay-what-you-drink.
Caves Augé, 116 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris.
The 3rd thursday of november is usually when the Beaujolais Nouveau of the year is poured for the first time, it has been now a "tradition" for years all over the world albeit not a very old one (1951). Let's be clear, it's still mostly a Beaujolais day but you begin to see Nouveau from other regions as well, here and there,
and that's what the Caves Augé in Paris offered to passerbys
and people in the know : a gorgeous tasting of a few Nouveau wines from a handful of iconic vintners (4 of them that day) who were there in person to pour the wines. But a first glance at the small crowd could make you think that there were more vintners presenting their wines than the 4 that were announced : it seems that the word had got around in the trade that you had to be at Cave Augé that day, because there seemed to be more vintners visiting from their province than Parisians.
Here among the vignerons on this picture above, only one was here to present his wines : Jean Foillard in the middle, and both Marcel Richaud (southern Rhone) and Pierre Breton (Bourgueil, Loire) were just unrepentant visitors having dropped here to enjoy a few glasses among friends.
These free sidewalk tastings at Caves Augé are always a pleasure, they're at the same time serious in the sense that it's always about good wine but there's nothing ostentatious in the event and people, including the participating vintners and the visiting sommeliers, obviously have a good time. Plus, Marc Sibard (pictured right) the caviste who runs the shop, often opens a couple of unscheduled bottles that come as a surprise when you happen to be around the small group with whom he shares it...
This was at the tasting day of Les Toqués des Dentelles, a group of wineries from the southern Rhone doing a good work. This took place in a restaurant in Paris and I managed to go there after work. All these vintners work without additives, from what I know. The tasting was free but for professionals, and I spotted a few acquaintances among the attendees, including Agnès (on the left), the caviste behind Le Nouveau Nez (second picture on this story) and Mark Williamson (on the right),
the founder of the oldest Paris wine bar, Willi's Wine Bar.
Christian Vache is the man
behind an iconic winery in the southern Rhone region of Vacqueyras : la Monardière.
__ La Monardière, Vin de Pays 2011 (red). Grenache. Nice acidity & balance, with an animal side and reduction, which is not worrying for me.
__ La Monardière Vacqueyras les Calades 2011 (red). Very, very nice freshness, the mouth is splendidly bright. Balanced.
__ La Monardière Vacqueyras les 2 Monardes 2011 (red). Straight from the vat (not bottled yet, is was to be bottled in november). Surprising acidity on the tongue. Rather elegant and nice chew with somme astringency on the sides of the mouth. 70 % Grenache vinified in vats and 30 % Syrah vinified in casks, the whole being later blended in 1/2 muids where it spent a while. Unfiltered (no wine is filtered here). Very nice, this cuvée makes a volume of 250 hectoliters, that's the biggest cuvée in the estate. The vines are older than 50.
__ La Monardière Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2010. 60 % Grenache (80 years old), 20 % Syrah (40 years) and 20 % Mourvèdre (20 years), each vinified separately. The mouth here is just outstanding by its freshness and the quality of its tannins. Here again, a beautiful balance which is so hard to achieve in the Rhone.
Marçon, Coteaux du Loir (Loire)
The picking of the Pineau d'Aunis took less time than "usual", the difficult weather conditions of 2012 (particularly in the Loire region) having resulted in much smaller volume of grapes. The 40+ vintners who had come in person with their bucket and shears to help Nathalie Chaussard gathered outside the chai in the early afternoon. They first helped prepare the press, load the grapes and plan for the following stages. It was decided to make a rosé of it and not a red, because of the not-perfect conditions of the grapes.
Nathalie had here around her the best experts she could dream of, all being seasoned vintners
in the Art of natual winemaking. They cleaned the crates and let the place spotless before joining the tables and popping up bottles. I had here such good wines, both white and red, it was crazy, and as these bottles and magnums were coming straight from the respective cellars, they often didn't have an identification label, so I just remain with the pleasure to drink these unidentified wines... The word was that Nathalie wouldn't have anything to do, so they had brought terrines, saucissons and other delicacies. They were all here together for Nathalie and Christian Chaussard and this day would be as warmful and joyful as when Chau-Chau was still around. In the vineyard, they were all scattered between the rows but here all these artisan vintners, who would individually attract crowds in any tasting event, were grouped and it was a strange feeling to pass them and listen as they were chatting and joking themselves without outside interference. This was a private event and to some extent, I could understand that day how close they are from each other.
There was also a small froup of young freewheeling pickers who were beaming a feeling of freedom and fun, here were other "surfers" like the ones I met in this Burgundy harvest recently. There seems to be lots of young people like these, enjoying the seasonal ritual of picking together across the country. One of them told me he was doing this type of harvest picking, plus fruit picking, and he worked during the ski season in restaurants in the Alps. This left him with lots of time to travel the rest of the year.
Pic on left : Nathalie at the press, Didier Chaffardon in the background.