04 October 2011

nightclub wines: silencio, 75002

To my mind the only truly mysterious aspect of David Lynch's new Paris nightclub Silencio is that the bar is the size of a coatcheck.

The space - what I saw of it the other night was a tangle of corridors, a smoking room, and a dance floor - totals 650m2. The result of this size discrepancy is that all the poor punters who succeed in gaining entry (a feat which it turns out can be achieved by simply being young and decent-looking and waiting for ten minutes*) have plenty of time to discuss the conventionally overwrought décor, as they wait eternities for drinks from the psychotically overworked bartenders. Was it really done by David Lynch? Who the hell remembers what the club in Mulholland Drive looks like? Why should being an excellent film director have any bearing whatsoever on the skills required to design a successful nightclub?

Presumably in efforts to minimise waits, Silencio is equipped with a second bar, tucked away in the corner overlooking the dance floor. This bar, however, is completely deserted, because it is the wine bar, replete with eight or ten selections of Douchebag Reds and Predatory Whites entombed in an Enomatic wine dispensing machine. The girl working there looked like her isolation was the punishment for something - perhaps the owners' strange idea that these wines are appropriate in a nightclub setting. This begs the question, then: what would be an appropriate wine in a nightclub setting?

Nightclub drinking is not really dissociable from conspicuous consumption - spending money for the message it sends to those around you. So reading the wine list at a nightclub is like an index to the desires of the loud spender: heavy reds (Bordeaux, Rhône, Napa, South Africa), white Burgundy, and Sauternes. Personally I can't fathom enjoying any of these things in a nightclub. These reds turn your teeth red, for one thing. And both Burgundy and Sauternes require a patience that seems out of place in a nightclub.

In theory, the ideal criterion for nightclub wine would be simply wines for celebration that lend themselves to thoughtless appreciation. I don't mean bad wine. Just wine that requires no chewing-on or mulling-over to enjoy.

Champagne is the obvious shoe-in. I'd be the first one lining up for a nightclub with a solid list of grower-Champagne. (At Silencio, I note they neglect even to list the producer of their Champagne by the glass.) It might be tricky, however, convincing certain good Champagne producers to even allow their wines in a nightclub environment. I'm reminded of how Anselme Selosse purportedly stopped exporting to the USA for several years after seeing one of his wines merely offered by the glass in an NYC bar.

Vinho Verdé or Txacoli would both work well. Something fizzy and bright with low-alcohol to keep people on their feet. One could even use them in cocktails with zero remorse. The trouble with these wines is that it's hard to charge very much for them - another reason why I prefer the insanity of a tapas bar to the insanity of a nightclub.

People who spend money tend to insensibly desire red wine, no matter the occasion. If forced at gunpoint to drink red wine in a nightclub, I'd probably fall back on Beaujolais or Loire Gamay, or Frappato, in a pinch. Something refreshing with bright spice that doesn't blacken one's tongue.

A nightclub wine list like the one I'm envisioning is, however, plainly unrealistic. It would mean a whole new sensible paradigm in club marketing, an embrace of the idea that since people are lining up solely for social and not aesthetic reasons (or in this case, because the name David Lynch has been waved like a talisman of cool over the whole project**), one might as well sell geeky overlooked product. I'd like to think that a space that actually lived up to the ooh-la-la marketing of Silencio would be one in which nothing was recognizeable from other humdrum earthbound clubs: not the brand of gin, not the Champagne, not the beer, etc.

As it is, I detected little during my visit that separates Silencio from other overfunded nightclub projects around the world. I will say that, absurd and assuredly short-lived*** membership fees aside, the place is nowhere near as cruel a rip-off as Le Montana or Le Baron. The best moments for me were spent in one or another of Silencio's many nooks and corridors, where the music is not as loud and it's possible to forget, momentarily, that one is in yet another mercenary nightclub.

* I hadn't relied on this mode of entry. I also know the bar managers, who were at that time presumably up to their necks in mojito orders and totally unable to help me out. Not their fault.

** Lynch's press quotes on the project consist of heavily ironic self-parody. "After this project, I feel myself to be almost immortal." I don't think it is any mistake that the man himself has, to my knowledge, yet to visit "his" creation. It baffles me why a genius like Lynch continues piddling around with things like limp electronic music and department store windows and now a nightclub. 

*** The only people clueless and wealthy enough to pay these sorts of fees live on the rive gauche, and I don't see them crossing the river regularly enough to justify the expense. 

142 rue Montmartre
75002 PARIS
Metro: Bourse or Sentier
Tel: ?

The rates are, at present, are:

€780 a year for regular membership
€1,500 for premium membership 
€420 for the under-30s and non-French residents.

Related Links:

A piece by Fiachra Gibbons on the opening of Silencio @ TheGuardian
Odile de Plas on the opening of Silencio @ LeMonde
Paola Genone's interview with David Lynch on Silencio @ L'Express

A 2009 article about a Sauternes producer targeting clubgoers @ Decanter


  1. You don't like left bank people, do you? For someone who is a militant 'non generalizer' you pigeonhole pretty well when you feel like it..

  2. you're right... i should mention all the overfunded airheads in the 8eme and 17eme arrondissements more often, i guess.

  3. Aaron, I'll say it again..I love your writing

    Rob...you know who!