Paris Natural Wine Lifers
From the 1980s to the 2000s. It's Series I - Part I of the NOT DRINKING POISON podcast.
“I love your wine writing, I just never have time to read,” said my English friend R a few months ago, during our friend’s birthday dinner in London. “When are you going to start a podcast?”
It was not the first time I have received this advice, which I often liken to the insider French wine-buying tip some highly informed IT guy gave me during a party in someone’s apartment the year I arrived in Paris. (“Côtes du Rhône.”)
But R, who is homeschooling two children with his wife in rural Portugal, explained that the only solitude he ever enjoyed nowadays came when he was either driving someplace or cooking dinner for the family. Fair enough, I thought. I’ll get on it.
THE NOT DRINKING POISON PODCAST: SERIES I
The first NOT DRINKING POISON Podcast series is called PARIS NATURAL WINE LIFERS. It concerns the careers and personalities of six natural wine veterans in the French capital. The first three episodes are available to subscribers below:
An interview with MICHEL MOULHERAT, former proprietor of 11ème arrondissement wine shop LA CAVE DE L’INSOLITE, which was, incidentally, where I myself first got into natural wine. We talk about his classical wine education working for STEPHEN SPURRIER; finding SPIDERS in early natural wine bottles; and why he signed the letter in defense of SEBASTIEN RIFFAULT. (No paywall.)
An interview with KEVIN BLACKWELL, longtime Paris expat and former proprietor of beloved 9ème natural wine bistrot AUTOUR D’UN VERRE. We talk about why he left SILICON VALLEY for Paris; the symbolic power of having A DOG AND A CAT on staff at his restaurant; and his enduring love for “SOUTHERN CARBO.”
An interview with OLIVIER CAMUS, the influential co-founder of enduring natural wine bistrots LE BARATIN and LE CHATEAUBRIAND, and former proprietor of Belleville cave-à-manger LE CHAPEAU MELON. We discuss the early years of Le Baratin; the importance of knowing “classic” wines; and his new career restoring antique furniture in Normandy.
Three more episodes will arrive next month. Along with, at some point, a new full issue of the written newsletter, for those of you not constantly terrorized by screaming children.
Paris natural wine culture dates back to the mid-1980s, so the city still abounds with wizened natural wine doyens like my friends above. The challenge was finding ones who speak sufficient English and who are willing to be recorded doing so. I wagered it would be worth it, for the perspective Paris’ natural wine lifers can offer on the evolution of natural wine culture, particularly throughout the formative years of the 1990s and 2000s.
During this time, natural wine coalesced into a subculture touching most regions of France - yet its practitioners were only just beginning to encounter the attention from export markets that would come to define the scene by the mid-2010s. The Paris bistrot owners and wine retailers of this early era saw natural wine grow from the bar conversation of a handful of eccentrics in Belleville to become a culture-shifting force in Paris and France.1
Take a listen to what they have to say, and let me know what you think ! This is a new medium for me, so I’m all ears when it comes to feedback.2
An October 2022 Q&A session about The World of Natural Wine, held at Somerville, Massachusetts book-and-wine shop Wild Child, which owner Lauren Friel kindly let me release as a podcast.
Indeed, in the world at large! But that came somewhat later, and will be the subject of a future podcast season.