Before you head to a Paris wine bar, you may want to learn a little something about French wines, and you would not be the only one. Paris is full of wine classes and tastings for visitors and locals alike. Because there are so many, it can be difficult to find the one that is just right for you. I recently tested a few and have selected three of the best to share with you.
La Dernière Goutte is the oldest and most established place I tried. A small, cozy wine shop in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, LDG is famous with expats for its wine tastings, which are held once or sometimes twice a week. LDG’s events are so well regarded that famous French food critic Patricia Wells sponsored a tasting there in December. Why are the events so popular? Because each tasting in sponsored by a wine producer trying to promote its product, all of them are free. This also means that guests are tasting only one wine, rather than learning about the art of wine tasting, but at that price, who’s to argue?
A few weeks later I met up with some friends at Le Foodist. In a storefront on the rue Cardinal Lemoine, doors open to a charming place with exposed stone walls that have been whitewashed for a cheerful welcome. Here the charmingly hysterical sommelier Stéphane Bonnerot gives guests a serious lesson in tasting wine while keeping the room alive with laughter. M. Bonnerot’s lessons focus on one particular grape, and the tastings are of the wines produced from it across the globe. The night I was invited, we tried chardonnays from California, Australia, Italy, France and South Africa. The crowd was fascinated with the variety of styles produced by one little grape.
And then there were the cheeses offered by the founder of Le Foodist, Fred, who has a PhD in chemical engineering and is a trained foodie (he atteneded Alain Ducasse Formation). A Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese still haunts my palate weeks later, while the aged Comté made me rethink my opinion of this rather simple mountain cheese. A professional kitchen has been installed downstairs for holding entertaining cooking classes, and Le Foodist also offers dinners parties during which Fred shares the history behind the French cuisine on your plate.
At last, I headed out to meet Thierry of Wine Tasting in Paris, a handsome Frenchman whose passion for pressed grapes has become his calling. When he is not out in the wine regions, uncovering the best that France’s vines have to offer, he is in Paris giving inspirational tastings.
Now an expert, Thierry offers trips of French wine regions, as well as classes for true connoisseurs. Fortunately he also has a class for beginners like me. It is held on a barge on the Seine, at the foot of the Hôtel de Ville, and I cannot imagine a more romantic place for a wine tasting.
Because the class is held on a boat, it is limited to a small, intimate group, and we soon felt like friends as we learned from Thierry, who is serious about his subject and teaches a thorough class focused exclusively on French wines, with notes for everyone to take home. He was infinitely patient with our neophyte questions and genuinely enjoyed watching the lightbulbs of understanding go off above our heads. We had a great afternoon learning about the wines, giggling with one another and watching the Seine go rushing past the portholes. It was a uniquely Parisian perspective that has left me ready to tackle the next Paris wine bar I stumble upon.