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From sultry Autumn to frigid Winter

Updated: Apr 18

“There’s no such thing as being lost in a vineyard. You’re always in the right place.” (Unknown)

Winter walked into Paris pretty much unannounced on Friday 1 December. Temperatures went from chilly to freezing overnight and wherever the city’s vines had not yet lost their leaves, they’re gone now.

Winter is the season of hibernation and dormancy. Leaves fall, sugars are stored in the roots and the vine enters its winter phase, its gnarly rootstocks looking like dead sticks protruding from the earth, belying any hope of ever blossoming again.

I live between the Jardin des Plantes and Les Arènes de Lutèce, both of which have vineyards. I visited both today, pictured herein. The naked, skeletal vines, unadorned, reveal winter’s contribution to the cycles of nature, reminding us of the quiet grace that exists even in the dormant phases of the annual cycle.

And while nature hibernates, and vines withdraw into themselves, we do the opposite and begin to gather around the comforting pleasures of hearth and home, planning celebrations and festivities, seeking warmth in one another’s company.

The City of Lights lights up this time of year, which goes a long way to adding cheer in the ever earlier dusk descending. So where in Paris can one enjoy the spirit of the season without feeling like death the next day?

Paris is the quintessential capital of the natural wine scene so it’s pretty easy to stumble upon a glass of something bubbling with life that won’t give you a horrific headache.

Mulled wine challenge – win a free wine walk!

This is also the season for ‘mulled wine’, ‘Gløgg’ (Danish) Krasomelo (Greek, Glögg (Swedish), Glühwein (German), Vin chaud (French), or Wassail (Old English – as in Here We Come A-wassailing), which is variously loved and despised as it can be frighteningly awful when prepared on the cheap and joyfully delicious when made well.

And by well we mean with real wine, fresh, organic ingredients along with a certain flare for the alchemy of spices. There are countless recipes out there for this winter classic, and we cannot claim to know which is the best as recipes are really just a guideline and a memory jog when it comes to cooking. If you think you have the quintessential ‘mulled wine’ recipe, email us the recipe and our entirely objective team of experts will review each one, announcing the winner in the coming weeks.

The winner will be entitled to a free wine walk (worth 65€), valid for one year.

Following are a few convivial natural winebars and wine shops we frequent, some of whom also serve ‘vin chaud’.

We have probably spent more time here since they opened in 2014 than any other winebar in Paris. Our Belleville Unbottled wine walk ends in a wine shop nearby, but we invariably carry on here after as no one ever seems to want that walk to end. Brothers Romain (Top Chef in 2010) and Max Tischenko combine high quality dishes (Romain’s talents are happily apparent in all the dishes, and are now prepared almost exclusively by Max who masterfully prepares some of his own) with an exceptional natural wine list that provide nothing but joy. Frequented by an eclectic crowd of locals and savvy travellers from around Europe and abroad drawn by the natural wine scene, the mood is convivial, highly social, and utterly addictive. In addition to breathing in the heady atmosphere of enthusiastic revelry (the bar is pretty small so the crowd practically always spills into the street, swelling in numbers as the night prolongs), it’s possible to buy wines to consume off premises. (Alternative addresses: Le Canon d’Achilles, Candide)

Chambre Noir

What began as a small, crowded space on the rue de la Folie Mericourt with the duo Remy Kaneko (now making wine in Nyons) and Oliver Lomeli, has blossomed into a series of highly popular addresses entrepreneured by Oliver. Without intending to turn this list into a one-stop-shop, the range of possibilities under the Chambre Noire ensign are unto themselves enough to keep anyone in the broadest range of natural wines and colourful company forever. What distinguishes all of them is a commitment to unfiltered, unsulfited natural wines, unadorned industrial brut decor softened by delicate aesthetic flourishes that include flowers, freshly prepared dishes, often produced by visiting chefs, and a very casual, friendly atmosphere that is as inviting as it is uplifting. In addition to a broad range of natural French wines, there are exceptional finds from Eastern Europe and Germany as Oliver is the main importer of these wines to Paris. He also hosts an annual tasting of German wines that is among the most inspiring wine experiences one can find in the city. Addresses include Chambre Noire on boulevard Jules Ferry with the large terrace post-Covid now reduced to a countertop and a few tables along the sidewalk (opened 2021); Chambre Noire wine shop on rue de la Folie Méricourt (opened 2020), Chambre Noire Ménilmontant (opened 2023), a natural wine and taco restaurant, Furia (opened 2023) and Canaille, the most recent addition to the roster located on Jean Pierre Thimbaud.

Delicatessen Place

This is a tiny space with a only a few tables inside and a countertop outside that accommodates some of the overflow. There’s a very relaxed vibe that is sustained and complemented by the highly professional all-female staff and a wine list that is boosted by the Delicatessen wine shop next door. Open from 4pm till 10pm, it happily sits between the aperitif crowd and those who comfortably settle in sampling the wondrously delicious dishes of the limited but masterfully curated small-plate menu cooked in the tiny space behind the bar, with new offerings daily. It’s easy to forget whatever it is you were intending to do after arriving here, as one bottle leads to another and conversations start to flow across tables. (Alternative address: Aux Deux Amis, Liquiderie)

Caluche

For years, this was an Irish pub called Connolly’s Corner, which has been magically transformed into one of the most authentic winebar restaurants on the left bank. Having established the Café de la Nouvelle Mairie as one of the first natural wine bars in Paris, Benjamin Fourty left in 2021 after a reign of nearly 20 years. He has now put his inestimable wine connoisseurship and culinary savoir into creating an intimate, tasteful, and always gratifying address that turns out impeccable bistro fare while heading the list of Paris’ natural wine meccas. Casual, but with a certain French elegance and refinement, Caluche is a true gem. (Alternative addresses: L’Ours et le Vielle Grille, Chinaski)

Bon Vivant

The natural wine scene is largely focussed in the east of Paris, but thankfully is not limited to that side of the city. Among the more accessible left-bank winebar restaurants, Bon Vivant (open 7 days a week from dawn till 2am) has an excellent wine list along with a ‘cave’ wine shop next door to the restaurant that can be reserved for private groups and tastings. The menu is pretty meaty, but there are always vegetarian options. And across the street is what I often refer to as ‘the best pizza in Paris’. The pizza dough is fermented for 72 hours and the highly original toppings vary with the seasons, although the standards, including the fabulously delicious ‘Piquanté’ (spicy) are happily always available. Le Bon Vivant is among the winebars we know serving ‘vin chaud’. (Alternative addresses: Les Flacons, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie)

Still haven’t decided what to give that person who ‘doesn’t want anything for Christmas’, or who is notoriously difficult to please? Gifting a Paris Wine Walk is the perfect answer. Buy one below, or take advantage of upcoming PWW walks and tastings:

Give the gift of experience!

Paris Wine Walks Gift Certificates are available year round and make exceptional gifts

Sparkling Wine Splash

Immerse yourself in the effervescence of the season with our Sparkling Wine Splash experience. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just toasting to the joy of the holidays, our blind wine tasting of carefully selected sparkling wines invites friendly competition to see who can identify the Champagne among five fabulous sparkling wines. Book now!

Wine & Cheese Please

Indulge in classic and surprising pairings of wine and cheese with our in-depth Wine & Cheese Please tasting. Explore the nuances of flavour as our knowledgeable guides lead you through a ‘cultural’ tour de France, revealing the secrets of perfectly paired combinations. It’s an ideal way to savour the sophistication of Parisian life. Book now!

Wine Walks!

For more information, click on the underlined links:

Paris’ most famous wine producing vineyard

An insider’s journey to the oldest wine neighbourhood in the city

The Marais seen through a wineglass

Discover the vinous spirit of medieval Paris

A comprehensive overview of medieval Paris

Short on time? This one’s for you.

Drink responsibly, drink sustainably, in moderation

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