One of the central ironies I first confronted, as a wine geek arriving in Paris from the remote asphalt plains of LA, was the shocking difficulty of finding an honest glass of natural wine in a bar here.
It's not actually as easy as you think. Glass pours in all but the best of bars are routinely selected on a basis of either lowest-common-denominator pleasurability, or a proprietor's personal relationships with the vigneron or agent, or some combination of these factors. Neither encourages typicity or expressiveness in glass-pours; in fact they tend to discourage these qualities, which are all I'm really looking for in a glass of wine in a bar on an evening after work. Not miracles, just honesty.
Now: having defined what little it is I'm seeking in a good neighborhood wine bar, I can set about heartily endorsing the subject of this post, Gustave et Jules. It's an unpretentious little wine bar just down the road from the MacDonald's near Metro Parmentier, and it's remarkable for a wine list that contains almost nothing but brisk inexpensive vivacious dirty life-sustaining natural pipsqueak wines.
I use the term 'pipsqueak' in only the most positive sense, to connote a wine that will neither change your life nor purport to; the equivalent French term is probably 'vin de soif,' or a wine chiefly intended for the purposes of curing thirst. But it's true that most of the wines at Gustave et Jules are also natural in a pretty cheerily filthy sense; you may bothered by them if you're one of these ninnies who are terrified of sediment, or deeply perturbed by a murmur of secondary fermentation.
There are other options, however, like the terrific 2008 Morgon "Côte du Puy" by Jean Foillard that I shared with my friends J, C, and the Native Companion the other night. 2008 was a famously disastrous year for Beaujolais, but the vintage has its charms, the foremost being a sort of quiet, calm red-fruit luminescence, well represented in this particular bottle of Morgon "Côte du Puy," which in a stronger vintage would have been significantly more intense and burly.
Gustave et Jules also serves a small menu, comprising the usual cured meats and cheeses alongside some slightly more elaborate dishes like beef carpaccio, making the place ideal for low-key light meals. Add to that their occasional jazz nights, the genial charm of the ever-present owner Johann, and the (for now) abundant table space on most evenings, and you have a pretty ideal refuge for the coming winter chill.
12, rue Edouard-Lockroy
Tel: 01 43 55 54 29
L'Express on Gustave et Jules
A profile of Jean Foillard @ WineTerroirs