06 December 2013

where the treasure is : la cave des papilles, 75014

On the regrettably rare occasions I find myself strolling around Paris' 14ème arrondissement, I take a great deal of pleasure in the smell of money in the air. I breathe it in, moony-eyed, imagining that by some kind of magical osmosis, I might later discover, upon exiting the métro back at Barbès, an extra 50 centimes in my pocket.

Unlike other wealthy neighborhoods, like the 8ème or the 16ème, the 14ème contains a concentration of actual tasteful goods and services. The entrenched, mostly white families of this quartier purchase meat and bread and wine as I do, only their meat is by Hugo Desnoyer and for bread they have Ridha Khadher.

Their wine, if they have any good sense, comes from La Cave des Papilles, a veritable Ali Baba's cave of the treasures of natural winemaking France.

Confusion persists among Paris diners and drinkers whether La Cave des Papilles is related to the cave-à-manger Les Papilles on rue Gay-Lussac in the 5ème. The answer is : not anymore. Wine afficionado Gérard Katz founded the latter establishment first, but sold it off to Bertrand Bluy in 2003, two years after founding La Cave des Papilles.

A perfectly pleasant but slightly overpriced meal at Les Papilles with my friend F in 2010. 

(Les Papilles the restaurant, under Bluy, is rather less committed to natural wine. It's an upmarket Left Bank daintification of the more exciting, looser caves-à-manger north of the river.)

By the by, Katz was inspired to found La Cave des Papilles by a visit to future Loire winemaker Jean-Pierre Robinot's bar, L'Ange Vin. It's another example of how the natural wine scene in Paris is essentially a short genealogy of friendships and influence. Katz nowadays has two partners in the business, Florian Aubertin and Aurélian Brugnau.

Aubertin was kind to explain all this to me on the day I visited recently, in the course of some research for an article on Beaujolais Nouveau parties. As I perused the shop's narrow aisles I couldn't help marveling at all the rare or allocated bottles wedged onto the shelves. I've written a great deal about and consumed cases of Jean-Marie Berrux's "Le Petit Tetu," for instance. But I've still yet to taste "Le Tétu," a smaller production version of same that sees longer oak aging.

I was also jazzed to at last find Georges Descombes' 2011 Beaujolais Blanc, the first white the Natural Beaujolais legend has ever made. Production was limited to 1000 bottles.

We consumed it with frozen snails from Picard, about which more in another post sometime. 

Saint Aubin rising-star Julien Altaber's super-rare Puligny-Montrachet? Also in stock.

Prices are fair, even kind in some places. The selection of cru Beaujolais is impeccable. One side of a whole aisle contains enough magnificent magnums to make the Titanic tilt starboard.

In sum, the selection is almost unparallelled in Paris. I might add, somewhat unneccesarily, that unlike when shopping at, say, Caves Augé, at La Cave des Papilles one never has the vague sense of supporting villains.

La Cave des Papilles invests in upstart vignerons, even going to far as to make window display posters of guys like Yann Durieux and Hirotake Ooka. The other day they held a book signing by wine author Michel Tolmer that featured a tasting with my winemaker friends Kenji and Mai Hodgson, who, as sulfur-averse Japanese-Canadians winemakers in Anjou, are perhaps the definition of underdogs. This is a wine shop whose hearts and palates are in the right place.

If, like me, you're unfortunate enough to not live nearby, we can always await another French Revolution to free up some choice wine allocations. In the meantime it's worth crossing Paris for La Cave des Papilles.

La Cave des Papilles
35, rue Daguerre
75014 PARIS
Métro: Denfert-Roch
Tel.: 01 43 20 05 74

Related Links:

My 2013 Beaujolais Death March report, at Paris By Mouth

A Jan. 2013 piece on Descombes' Beaujolais Blanc at WineTerroirs.

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