Discover more from NOT DRINKING POISON
Paris Natural Wine Lifers: Part II
From the 1980s to the 2000s. Part II of Series I of the NOT DRINKING POISON podcast.
I used to joke that doing business with certain French vignerons was like making friends with woodland creatures, such as squirrels: one had to approach slowly, proffering small gifts, and often it took several tries.
These experiences still didn’t prepare me for the difficulty of getting French natural wine bistrot owners in front of a microphone speaking English, as I’ve done here for Part II of PARIS NATURAL WINE LIFERS, Series I of the NOT DRINKING POISON podcast.
Throughout the series, the aim has been to illuminate the early evolution of natural wine culture, through the perspectives of the Paris restaurateurs who witnessed it all firsthand. The second biggest challenge (after the language barrier) to getting this all on tape has been the fact that some of these Paris restaurateurs are still working.1
In Part I of this series, we heard from semi-retired Paris natural wine veterans OLIVIER CAMUS (Le Baratin, Le Chapeau Melon), MICHEL MOULHERAT (La Cave de l’Insolite), and KEVIN BLACKWELL (Autour d’Un Verre), on topics ranging from southern French carbonic maceration, to the vibe at Le Baratin in the 1990s, to scandal-plagued Sancerre vigneron Sébastien Riffault.
In Part II of PARIS NATURAL WINE LIFERS, we hear from:
Epoch-defining Paris natural wine restaurateur PIERRE JANCOU (La Cremerie, Racines, Vivant, etc.), who is now based in the remote LANGUEDOC village of PADERN, running the splendid seasonal bistrot CAFE DES SPORTS. We chat about Jancou’s nascent wine production, his thoughts on Instagram, and his secret to quitting hard drugs. (No paywall.)
Paris restauratrice and interior designer MARIE CARMARANS, co-founder and designer of the hugely influential CAFE DE LA NOUVELLE MAIRIE (1993-2003, with her ex-husband, Aveyron vigneron Nicolas Carmarans) and, more recently, proprietor of Sentier natural wine bistrot LE RUBIS (2014-2023). We discuss her prolific restaurant design career, her memories of the first Dive Bouteille, and some of the women behind the famous men of the natural wine world.
Bordeaux native GUILLAUME DUPRE, whose twenty-year career as a Paris natural wine restaurateur has taken him from LA MUSE VIN (2003-2007) to COINSTOT VINO (2009 - present) to GOGUETTE (2018-2022) to his present cosy, Japanese-inflected CAVE-A-MANGER on rue Keller, GICLETTE. We talk about his recommendations for natural and biodynamic Bordeaux, his early encounter with Claude Courtois, and the wine regions that most interest him right now.
As I mentioned in Part I, I’m still coming to grips with the podcast medium. Upon hitting PLAY, you may feel like you’ve been dropped abruptly into a seat at a table after-hours at some wine shop among purple-lipped Paris natural wine nerds. That is only partly intentional. I’ve done my best to cut the umms and ahhs and to interject with brief explanations whenever my interlocutor evokes an obscure personage from French natural wine lore, e.g. Eric Calcutt, Jean-Christophe Piquet-Boisson, etc.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks for SERIES II, which takes as its title and subject CONTEMPORARY PARIS NATURAL WINE.
Many thanks, as always, for reading - and for listening!
FURTHER READING & LISTENING
France is not like in the USA, for example, where more permissive labor law allows most restaurants to maintain sufficient staff to offer owners and wine buyers some degree of freedom from floor service. At the invariably small-scale natural wine bars and bistrots of France, most owners are working long service hours, which explains their reticence to devote their off-hours to shooting the breeze about the history of natural wine in Paris. This activity already occupies, after all, a non-negligible part of a typical work shift for them.