I think we started this change, this transition in natural wine in Paris. Because before it was established places, it was more restaurants. And we were more like a wine bar. And we decided to give a fair price… So young people could actually drink natural wine. - Oliver Lomeli
Few could have anticipated that Mexico City native Oliver Lomeli, after studying film in Lyon and working as a barista, would emerge as the French capital’s most dynamic natural wine impresario of the last decade. As radical as they are casual, his Chambre Noire series of wine bars and wine shops has been more responsible than any other restaurant group for bringing a new generation of Parisians to natural wine.
Initially a partner in 11ème Mexican brunch spot Café Chilango, Lomeli struck off on his own in 2015, founding his first Chambre Noire wine bar in an adjacent space on rue de la Folie Méricourt. Lomeli’s friend Rémi Kaneko would join him in the business the following year, before departing in 2020 to produce wine in the Drôme as La Ferme du Pasteur. Today Lomeli’s ever-expanding panoply of establishments includes a Chambre Noire wine bar in a newer space on boulevard Jules Ferry (opened 2021); another Chambre Noire wine bar in Ménilmontant (opened 2023), run in collaboration with former La Contre-Etiquette caviste Fabrice Mansouri; a Chambre Noire wine shop on rue de la Folie Méricourt (opened 2020, further south from the original Chambre Noire location); and, since September, a natural wine and taco restaurant, Furia, in collaboration with chef Gloria Vasquez. In the midst of all this, Lomeli also found the time to become one of the city’s foremost importers of German natural wines.
Leitmotifs throughout Lomeli’s flurry of entrepreneurism have been the service of exclusively unsulfited, unfiltered natural wines at generously low margins; a no-reservations policy; and artfully brut décor, often adorned with fresh flowers. Paris’ natural wine old-guard may call Chambre Noire a “vinegar bar,” but Lomeli’s formula has proven its formidable and durable appeal, as popular with up-and-coming vignerons as it is with radical natural wine lovers young and old. Inside the episode, Lomeli tells us about his first taste of natural Beaujolais; how he got his first loan; and why it makes good business sense to embrace German natural wines.
FURTHER READING & LISTENING
NOT DRINKING POISON PODCAST Series II: Contemporary Paris Natural Wine, Part I
NOT DRINKING POISON PODCAST Ep. 8: Robert Compagnon & Jessica Yang of Folderol & Le Rigmarole
NOT DRINKING POISON PODCAST Ep. 9: Louis Mesana of Café Montezuma