I’ve unapologetically become my parents when it comes to travelling, which primarily means that I like to arrive at airports hours and hours before I realistically need to. Combine that with what Erin and I decided to drink the night prior, which was all of Cava, fresh hop beer, and bourbon. Why?! But the morning turned out fine, and we had shitty mimosas and beer at the airport to satisfy the unending ghosts of the night prior. The short layover in Montreal slowly eased us into our French-speaking modes, followed by a decent 7-hour flight to Paris. I sheepishly told the flight attendant that I would like the chicken option for dinner, which really just means I muttered “poulet”.
I don’t remember what in-flight movie I saw, but after watching the trailer, I realized this might not be the time to finally watch Taken.
Earlier in the year, when we decided to do this Europe wine trip on a whim, Erin and I had two stipulations when it came to deciding where we would travel: Bordeaux made us shrug, and Paris made our shoulders touch our earlobes. But the thought of separating Paris from our first trip to France was difficult, so we would attempt to take silly pictures with the Eiffel Tower and maybe watch tourists spend half an hour trying to get a perfect picture fingering the Louvre. Plus, our Canadian friend Theran currently lived in Paris, anyways, and he would be joining us for the bulk of the trip. So it was decided, and I took it as a sign when our first experience on Paris transit involved shitty (but admittedly entertaining) rap at 10AM which was more than any of the three of us could handle.
As much as Paris ignited a forced montage and soundtrack (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen) of I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-here realness, the first day was a jaded blur, starting with an awkward check-in at our hostel and then settling into our triple bunk, where Erin took the very top while I claimed the bottom. This was followed by a quick visit to the Cathédral Notre-Dame, a bit of a tour of the surrounding area, dinner at The Great Canadian Pub (yes: in retrospect, WHY?!), and wasting my travel data on Tinder. And so we slept like babies for the night. Our roommate had an odd combination of intentionally ripped shirts and early 2000’s cargo pants which really didn’t prepare us for the gentle distracting sounds that he provided during the night. I still think he just had a really bad itch, but Erin swears otherwise. Anyways, after some conversation (the next day, obviously), we found out that he was from Italy. And he really liked Bounty chocolate bars.
I hate to be the guy that raves about the ~bEsT cRoIsSaNtS~ in France, but we legit had some good flaky warm ones the next morning and shared pastries next to some body of water that flowed through the city. We explored some streets and areas mostly to soak in vibe, and we also had a stupid aim of finding something to buy in Paris just so we could irritatingly tell people that we bought it in Paris. Then we ended up at Le Tout Monde, a natural wine bar which, annoyingly, we fell in love with. At first, Google Maps told us we had arrived even though it was a dark sketchy empty intersection after crossing a bridge, though weirdly, the surrounding streets seemed much more lively after the hours we had spent at the bar.
We attempted to take tasting notes, but they eventually descended into haikus, and then single words, and then drunken aggressive conversations with Frenchmen.
Matteo Furlani “Sur Lie Alpino” (Vino da Tavola?, Italy)
Grapes of Pavana, Vernaccia, Lagarino Bianco, Verderbara: I hope this is accurate, and it makes me nervous that I can’t even find this last grape in the big Wine Grapes tome. Ancestral Method, if my research is correct, with no sulphites added. Hint of bruised apple and lots of white pepper and rosemary on the nose and earthy farmyard, but very open-knit and with a skein of apple skin and soil on the palate. Pétillant but quite textured. Not super long but with a ghost of minerality. Svelte and pleasantly slippery for a sparkling. Oh! Of course it’s sur lie, which explains the mouthfeel.
Les Vignes du Mortier 2014? “Brain de Folie” (Vin de France?, France)
Unsure of the vintage one this one, but I would bet on 2014 from research. Either Grolleau or Cab Franc (both?): my research is inconclusive because I can only find info on the red, but I swear this was a rosé. Rustic strawberries with a kick of well-woven herbaceousness (leaning towards Cab Franc but IDK you guys). Weighty and perfumed, with an echo of green pepper and strawberries on the palate. Rounded acid. More like a superlight red than a delicate rosé.
Selene 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais, France)
Raspberry balsamic – lambic, even. Brett. Fresh palate, with even more evidence of something Cantillon-esque, with sprightly bits of sparkle, earth, and playful red fruit. Gentle but present structure.
Château Lestignac 2014 “Tolrem” (Vin de France, France)
Merlot. Brett, soil, plums, dark chocolate, dried herbs. Ripe blackberries, blueberries, and lush, like a warm blanket with an odd eclectic pattern. Chalky tannins and a bit hot, but amazingly complex and strange.
Mas d’Agalis “Yo No Puedo Más XIII” (Vin de France, France)
Syrah (50%), Carignan (40%), Mourvèdre (10%). Languedoc. Traditionally not allowed to state a vintage (though Vin de France is allowed now), hence the sneaky “XIII” on the label indicating 2013. Soil, blackberry skin, oregano, and meat. Ripe fruit and chalky structure. Simultaneously velvety and bumpy, and finishes tarry and ashy. This translates to something like “I can’t anymore”, but I’m pretending it means “I can’t even”.
Yannick Pelletier “L’Oiselet” (Vin de France, France)
Looks like past vintages have been vintage-dated, but the bottle we enjoyed seemed to be devoid of any specific year; same thing with a designation of Saint-Chinian. Hard to source down the grapes for this bottle but a faint internet grasp shows it’s probably based on Grenache, Cinsaut, and Carignan. A different sort of meatiness. Tea leaves and the vague description of Asian spice. Meaty green onions and dark fruits. Kinda cool and a ripe herbaceousness but strange and almost too weird: deserves time to be enjoyed, I think, instead of us taking on so many of these cool idiosyncratic wines at once. Cushy, intoxicating, ballsy, and fiery.
Yannick Pelletier “l’de Rien” (purportedly Saint-Chinian, France, but that wouldn’t make sense if it was practically all Terret Blanc, would it?) [magnum]
Oxidized dream. Sip.
Optic orange and nutty.
Sinks under the tongue.
A tasting haiku whose matching wine identity escapes me:
– “Brown sugar and prunes.
Bitter-sweet, raspberry leaf.
All oceans have shores.”
I might not have even written this last one. All oceans have shores. Anyway, I go through this cycle of being enamoured with natural wines and then questioning the whole thing, but Le Tout Monde amongst other recent things have certainly nudged me towards the former, fermenting the desire for such places back home. Pun intended, always.
Cue the next morning: our mothers would kill us if we didn’t take pictures with the Eiffel tower, so we did, albeit with a bit of a hangover.
After discovering that the Champs-Élysées was not some sort of garden (as we had somehow convinced ourselves because we’re stupid), we explored the famous street anyway and I bought my one fabulously floral Parisian shirt about which I could shamelessly brag. Except it was from H&M, which means you could literally buy it almost anywhere in the world. Whatever though because I bought it in Paris.
We visited the whimsical Ma Cave Fleury, which mainly served wines of the biodynamic Champagne house, Fleury, but they also served bottles of wine with similar organic or natural philosophies (e.g. Puzelat-Bonhomme!). It also happened to be something like “grass days” on the street, so there was astroturf everywhere, including long lawn chairs in front of Ma Cave Fleury, where we obviously decided to sit. If we’re gonna be sipping Champagne, we might as well do it on the most perfect thrones.
Fleury NV Champagne Brut Nature (Champagne, France)
A blend of the 2006 and 2007, if I remember correctly. Beautiful gold-tinged colour, with lots of lemony citrus and red apple, sea salt, brioche, and butterscotch. Dry with delicate mousse and plenty of austerity giving way to more butterscotch. Interesting nutty centre amongst the lustre.
Fleury NV “Notes Blanches” Champagne (Champagne, France)
100% Pinot Blanc: yes. This is the weird shit I live for. Not super aromatic, but some red apple, a bit of nuttiness, yeast, and white flowers amongst the mineral. A little abrasive and hollow on the scale of Champagne, but with an apple juice-like accessibility and an earthy resolution.
Fleury 2002 Champagne Extra Brut (Champagne, France)
Not super extroverted and even slightly clenched. More doughy sweetness on the palate; sugar-dusted charms with soil and mineral. Definitely a combination of nutty, fleshy, and long. Lots to play with on the palate, here.
Fleury NV Champagne Rosé de Saignée Brut (Champagne, France)
Dusty florals, cranberry, and earth amongst the elegant red fruit, which becomes much more explosive on the palate with more dried strawberries. Love!
We passed out for a couple of hours back at our hostel (“…5 more minutes…”) before visiting the Montmartre, catching the tail-end spectacle of the Richmond Nightmarket-esque shops and the concert at the top of the hill. We were there mostly to get to Le Grand 8, a fantastic restaurant featuring organic and natural wines, which was suggested back at Ma Cave Fleury. We met some Texans who were discussing something about the appropriateness of one of their particular Instagram posts, and then we met Germans who talked about being German, or something. I don’t remember.
We left early the next morning for the Angers, in the Loire. One city done; four to go!