The 'Wine Bar and Bistro' Lifestyle
Enjoying a glass of wine with friends
A bar of wood polished by time, conversation spiked with laughter, a sense of good taste in a cosy setting with festive atmosphere, plus a ‘plate’ of local cuisine: everything heralds a wonderful moment of fun and discovery as you taste and appreciate a little-known but brilliant wine on the advice of an enthusiastic, friendly barkeep or owner. This is the tradition of the typical bistro found in French villages as well as in Paris (and Lyon, where it is called a bouchon). The same trump card is played by ‘wine bars,’ which combine the functions of wine merchant and restaurant. This allows epicurean clients to explore new taste experiences or discover little-known but high-quality vintages, thanks to a veritable collection of 100 to 250 wines ranging from glamorous to local.
- Le Bistro du Sommelier: a restaurant that functions as a bar thanks to its list of Bordeaux wines – and its attitude.
- La Part des Anges: a resolutely yet refined setting in the centre of Marseilles that is run by enthusiasts who regularly invite local producers to proudly show their produce, proving that wines from Provence are now up to scratch.
- L’oenotilus: a wine bistro in a converted 100-year-old canal boat docked near the Saint-Sauveur Bridge that stretches along the romantic Canal du Midi.
Lyon, ‘bouchon’-style bistros
- Le Mercière has outlets that feature good food and fine wine, whether at the bar or at a table, in an inevitably authentic setting. They feature Beaujolais and Rhône Valley wines. A Ma Vigne, Chez Hugon, and Abel are proud (yet discreet) representatives of these friendly, characteristic establishments. They are frequented by locals, and are usually unable to be found on the internet.
Epicurean experiences in Paris
Real bistros and wine bars in Paris are often run by people from the provinces with their own local suppliers and connections back home. Guests are thus transported to the countryside by a glass of wine and a hearty ‘simple’ dish.
- Louis Vins: a well-known spot with a classic yet refined interior, including a glass-cased collection of wines, in the Latin Quarter.
- Melac: Jacques Melac, originally from Aveyron, is the latest avatar of a family that has been in the bar trade for 70 years (in the 11th arrondissement).
- L’Ecluse: a wine bar that specialises in Bordeaux wine; now has several outlets that spread the ‘good word’ to various neighbourhoods of Paris.
- A l’Ami Pierre: a ‘model’ bistro that respects tradition in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine quarter.
- Le Bistrot de Robert: a traditional spot revamped in a trendier ‘concept,’ with a good choice of wines. Here, a cork fee of € 7 allows you to uncork any unopened bottle!
- Le Petit Verdot (near Place des Ternes), Chez Fernand (run by talkative Jean-Luc), Les Veilles Vignes (run, as is often the case, by an Auvergnat), and Le Temps des Cérises (near La Bastille).
A Dedicated Website
Paris-Bistro fulfils the role of an enthusiastic and stimulating guide to bistros in the capital.
Worth Reading: Selective Guides
• Les Zinzins du Zinc (published by Fleurus)
• Guide des Bistrots à Vin de Paris (Editions de l'If)
• Guide des Bistrots à Paris (Bottin Gourmand)
• Guide du Routard des Restos et Bistrots de Paris (Hachette)
• Guide Lebey des Bistrots Parisiens (Albin-Michel)
Worth Knowing: The ‘Bistrot de Pays’ Label
A state of mind and a charter promoting a style for cafés and bistros in little towns of less than 2,000 residents has resulted in a ‘Bistrot de Pays’ label in several regions of France. These establishments cultivate an Epicurean lifestyle while remaining faithful to the cultural roots and culinary traditions that are so much a part of French heritage.