23 June 2014

a family affair: ma cave fleury, 75002

I used to complain often about a dearth of actual wine bars in Paris. I defined them as places where quality wine could be enjoyed standing up, without the obligation to book in advance or consume a multi-course meal. But nowadays my old screeds ring a bit shrill, since such places are no longer so rare in the city. In certain quartiers, they exist in densities sufficient to fill a guided tour

Ironically, with certain exceptions, I still find myself frequenting the ones that have been there all along. This has less to do with the quality of wine on offer than with the character of the company. I learn more from older sommeliers and restaurateurs than I do from their younger, more stylish peers. 

One such example is Ma Cave Fleury, the unfailingly festive caviste and wine bar on rue Saint Denis, founded in 2009 by Morgane Fleury, global ambassador of biodynamic Champagne producers Champagne Fleury. The bar contains nothing more to eat than rudimentary charcuterie and cheese plates. And I can admit to liking the Fleury Champagnes, in most cases, for reasons more political than aesthetic. Ma Cave Fleury nonetheless remains very relevant for its central location and for the central role its proprietor plays in the city's natural wine scene. Morgane Fleury is like its fairy godmother, her unpretentiousness and warmth constituting an antidote to the conservative froideur that typifies the public faces of most Champagne houses.

16 June 2014

n.d.p. in brittany: domaine joanna cecillon, sevignac

The Native Companion had been hinting that she'd like to visit Brittany for several years. But since no wine is produced there, it never struck me as a high priority. Brittany is like Ireland with worse beer, worse whiskey, and crêpes. Even the best ciders and apple brandies, I'd long thought, were produced further east in Normandy.

What finally tempted me out to Brittany with the NC was the prospect of a visit with Louis and Joanna Cecillon, of Domaine Joanna Cecillon in Sevignac. My friend Josh Adler of Paris Wine Company had introduced me to their ciders, which he'd in turn discovered via Louis' vigneron brother, who makes very savvy Saint Joseph on the other side of France.

Upon tasting the ciders, I quickly understood why Josh was keen to make the five hour trek to nowheresville Sevignac. The Domaine Joanna Cecillon ciders are truly majestic, wine-like in their depth and perceptibly Bretonne maritime in their acid profile. They are, in my experience, pretty much without equal, a benchmark of quality both for the region and the entire cider genre.

06 June 2014

sancerre bike trip: le square, cosne-sur-loire

Cosne-sur-Loire is not the most exciting place on earth. It's where life goes on surrounding Sancerre tourism. But it's also where many visiting wine guys stay. So I thought for sake of completion, after my laudatory post on Cosne's lone terrific restaurant, it would worth mentoning also Le Square, which is Cosne's most accessible and convenient restaurant.

No, the wine's no good, and service veers from welcoming to furious according the whims of whoever's working. But there's a lovely terrace on, yes, a square, and as long as you bring enough mosquito repellent it's a lovely place for dinner in Cosne on a Sunday night, when, as far as dining options go, the alternative is noodling for catfish in the nearby river.

03 June 2014

rock out: la cantine de la cigale, 75018

A brief moment of on-stage banter at last Monday's Hamilton Leithauser show at La Boule Noire saw the former Walkmen singer - arguably the most compelling rock vocalist of his generation - complaining about food prices in Montmartre.

"Since when did Montmartre get so expensive?" he asked, before deadpanning, "That's what we talk about in this band."

In the audience my friends and I exchanged shrugs. Where had he gone to eat?* From my perspective, it's never been easier to get an inexpensive quality-conscious meal in Montmartre. The quiet side of the hill boasts excellent pizza at Il Brigante, while the upper slopes of rue des Martyrs are home to Miroir, a totally solid natural wine bistrot. An incongruously good natural wine magnum list is just south of there at the otherwise dire Hotel Amour. And right down the road from La Boule Noire is Le Petit Trianon, which as far as concert-venue cuisine goes, is bested only by Basque chef Christian Etchebest's La Cantine de la Cigale, which is even closer, and even better value for money. It was, oddly, deserted after Leithauser's performance, which either indicates that his fans have no taste, or that I have entirely forgotten what it's like to be a young concertgoer more in love with music than eating well.