It’s no surprise that Paris is a top choice for wine lovers. Wines from all over France arrive in the city, where the wine bar culture is guided by a more casual atmosphere than the haute cuisine restaurants that can also be found throughout the capital. The best wine bars have three key characteristics: ultra-knowledgeable staff, an ever-revolving list of great wines, and a bit of tasty food to stave off the hangover.
While most visitors to Paris imagine that there’s a wine bar around every corner, the truth is that until a few years ago, great wine bars were few and far between in the capital. The traditional bar in France certainly serves wine, but it’s tough to find a grand cru, or even a great little bottle from an unknown producer, at one of these corner cafés. Enter the cave à manger or “eating cellar,” a trend that first graced Paris a few years ago. These modern wine bars unite great wines with excellent food: Usually cheese and charcuterie boards or simple, market-driven small plates.
Many modern wine bars focus on organic or biodynamic wines, as well as natural or “living” wines; a technique that arrived in France in the 80s and has since developed into quite a trend. These wines are made without any additives, including sulphites, and are known for their slight effervescence and their bright, unique flavours. Since even the most knowledgeable wine connoisseurs may find the world of natural wine tough to navigate, at least at first, a wine bar is the key place to learn its ins and outs.
Le P’Tit Cou de la Girafe
With over 60 wines to choose from, Le P’Tit Cou de la Girafe is an ideal choice for any oenophile looking for something new. This sister shop to the nearby restaurant (La Robe de la Girafe) focuses more on wine than on food, though the house specialty, soft-boiled eggs with toast soldiers, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. The wine doesn’t disappoint either; the selection of bottles is made with an eye towards “clean” wines, with “irreproachable” production methods. Who could ask for anything more?
3, rue Froment, 75011
Le Verre Volé
Lovers of great wine and great food have found their home at Le Verre Volé. Behind the purple awning of this wine bar hides one of the best collections of natural wine in Paris, not to mention exquisite food from chef Takao Hinazawa. The “neighbourhood joint” feel at Le Verre Volé attracts people from all over the city. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend. That said, if this little spot is full, never fear! Just up the block is Le Verre Volé sur Mer, the seafood-centred sister establishment.
67 rue de Lancry, 75010
Martin Boire et Manger
This little wine bar is just as focused on eating (manger) as it is on drinking (boire). The ever-changing, market-driven food menu features a host of reasonably-priced, innovative small plates to pair with wines by the glass or the bottle (or one of the entries on the extensive G+T menu). The sommeliers here are extremely knowledgeable, particularly about natural wine, but they don’t take themselves too seriously; as evidenced by the well-placed jokes and puns on the wine menu.
24 boulevard du Temple, 75011
This cosy little wine bar not far from the Louvre is another great option for getting to know natural wines. The staff is known for its geniality, a characteristic that is becoming less rare in Paris but is still a pleasant plus. They’re also known for their savvy: the by-the-glass list changes pretty much every day, and yet bartenders always seem to know everything about everything. Food is simpler than at some of the other modern caves à manger, but there is a great selection of cheese and charcuterie on offer, as well as the rare but always welcome vegetarian option.
41, rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001
Frenchie Bar à Vins
The little rue du Nil would be better dubbed “Frenchie Street,” these days. With a restaurant, a “to go” shop, and a wine bar on the same little stretch of sidewalk, chef and owner Gregory Marchand has certainly developed his own little universe and the cult following to go with it; the restaurant often has lengthy waits for a reservation. Luckily, at Frenchie Bar à Vins the food on the ever-changing small plates menu is innovative and delicious, and the no reservations policy there means the wine bar can be a fantastic last-minute choice. Just be sure to arrive early, especially if travelling with a large group; the quality of this wine bar is no longer a secret.
6, rue du Nil, 75002
L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer
Yves Camdeborde was dubbed the unofficial mayor of the 6th arrondissement by food writer Dorie Greenspan; an apt moniker, considering that Camdeborde is not only the chef of the Comptoir du Relais, but also at three small plates wine bars in the area. The Avant Comptoir de la Mer is the second of the three, with a focus on seafood. Excellent grands crus and wines from smaller producers are paired with choice oysters, crab, fish tartares and more. Of course, if there are no available spots here, there’s always the original Avant Comptoir or the newer Avant Comptoir du Marché nearby.
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006
La Vache dans les Vignes
La Vache dans les Vignes doesn’t market itself as a bar, but rather as a shop where customers are allowed to sample the merchandise before purchasing. The shop, whose name translates to “The Cow in the Vines,” sells bottles from small wine producers and house-aged cheeses. Have a glass (or a bottle) in-house, and the staff will prepare a curated cheese and charcuterie platter to go with it, to be enjoyed overlooking the trendy Saint Martin Canal. Its status as a shop rather than a bar does imply one caveat, however: La Vache dans les Vignes closes promptly at 10pm.
46, quai des Jemmapes, 75010
En Vrac’s name is aptly chosen; the French expression means “in bulk” and refers to the store’s concept of allowing visitors to siphon a selection of bulk wines into their own containers, or into old-fashioned bottles sold by the shop. En Vrac also operates like a modern cave à manger, with a dish of the day, different open-faced sandwiches, and a few other nibbles to accompany wines by the bottle or the glass (the ever-changing wine of the day is a steal at 4 Euro). This shop also offers winemaking workshops, where a professional helps you blend single-variety wines to create an assemblage of your own making.
2, rue de l’Olive, 75018
The Simone team owns and operates a restaurant and a wine bar. Both are in the 13th arrondissement and both focus on quality products. This warm, relaxed wine bar is the pinnacle of simplicity; from the inside, it certainly evokes the traditional zinc Parisian café. One look at the menu however, shows that Simone is in another league entirely. A wine list, focused on biodynamic and natural wine, is accompanied by a selection of simple cheese and charcuterie or organic oysters. Customers who need a bit more sustenance will find what they’re looking for at the restaurant, just a few metres away, with its selection of original dishes made with only the best French ingredients.
48, rue Pascal, 75013