Wine Museum in Paris, Episode 124

The Wine Museum in Paris


Is the Wine Museum in Paris a must-see? The Musée du Vin is located near the Eiffel Tower and if you are interested in wine you may want to stop by and take a look around. Or should you skip it? Brenda takes us along and lets us know what she thought so you can see for yourself!

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Places Mentioned in this Episode: Musée du Vin, Paris Wine Museum.
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The Wine Museum in Paris

Today we are talking about the Wine Museum or Musée du Vin in Paris. The guest of today’s show, Brenda visited the wine museum in July 2016. Annie hadn’t visited it at the time of this recording. This museum is 1km away from the Eiffel Tower; the closest metro stop is Passy on line 6 of the Paris Métro. It’s open Tue-Sat 10am until 6pm and is wheelchair accessible. There are audio guides in English. Entry is 10€ and it is not on the Museum Pass. Possibly as a result of it not being on the Museum Pass, the Wine Museum is not crowded.

The Wine Museum is tucked away and not so easy to find in you are not coming from the Passy Metro stop. The Museum is on Square Charles Dickens and to get to it from where they arrived they had to go through an alley and around the back.

wine museum in paris
Oh, the irony!

This is the sort of place that organizes wine tastings and can provide cheese and cold-cuts plates for an extra fee, and they have a restaurant open for lunch. The Wine Museum is owned by a wine promoter corporation called “le conseil des échansons de France” a group that seeks to promote French wine and gastronomy. We have many such organizations in France, as if wine needed defending–says Annie who is always a little bit snarky! The “échanson” was the sommelier of yesteryear who served wine to the king or to the prince.

A Little Bit of History

The Wine Museum is housed in a cave setting that used to belong to Monks of the Minim religious order (Ordre des Minimes). Most items in the cabinets are labeled in French only, but the bigger items have English translation also. The audio guide in English was good and easy to understand. There are a lot of things to look at but it is not a very large museum. It took Brenda and her husband 45 minutes to visit it.

There used to be vineyards along the Seine river and the Wine Museum shows old instruments that were used for wine-making from Roman times to the Middle Ages until today, and explains what they were used for. It also talks about authors and other artists that have something to do with the area. One famous one is Honoré de Balzac whose house is pretty close to the Wine Museum (Maison de Balzac is on 47 Rue Raynouard, 75016 Paris). They have displays with old wine glasses and “taste-vin” which are the little cups the sommelier used to taste the wine and are mostly honorific today.

The Wine Museum would probably not be interesting to people who don’t care for wine, but Brenda thought it was enjoyable. At the end of the displays you come out into the restaurant area and it’s all very scenic and cool. There used to be a lot of grapes grown in this area of Paris, this is not the case anymore. Grapevines prefer a poor soil and the soil around Paris is too rich.

Other Things to Visit Nearby

What else can you do in the area? The area is upscale residential, You could hang out at the trocadero where you’ll find the Musée de la Marine and the Palais de Chaillot, you could go to the Balzac Museum 500 meters away, if you haven’t been to the Bir-Hakeim bridge, definitely go, you will get great views onto the Eiffel Tower from the bridge. There are a lot of Asian couples who come to Paris just to take wedding photos.

There is a wine tasting at the end of the tour, where they ask you if you’d like to taste white or red. Brenda and her husband had lunch there and they paired a different wine with each dish. Brenda had foie gras with a sweet white wine for her appetizer (or “entrée” as we call it in French). In the southwest we tend to have a slightly sweet white with our foie gras (it’ll usually say “moelleux” on the bottle) but not super sweet. Then she had a chicken breast that was really good and moist, also paired with white. Then she can’t remember the third course on account of having had too much wine 😉

Unknown Paris

Brenda and her husband were going for an “unknown Paris” theme on this trip. They were hoping to find hidden gems, and this was definitely one of them. Wine culture is huge in France and it is good to get to know it a little bit. The majority of French people are not snobbish at all about wine, contrary to the perception Americans may have. Drink what you like!

In France we have so much wine with so much variety that it’s hard to make strong pronouncements on “good” wines. It is true that French people are a little bit defensive when it comes to California wines; but that’s probably because so many California wines are so good!  French wine-makers like to mix grape varieties and so you rarely see straight Chardonnay or Shiraz, it’s a bit of a “secret de fabrication”. When you come to France don’t plan on shipping wine back to the US, it’s almost impossible to do. You can take a couple of bottles back in your luggage, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

Some of the reviews of the Wine Museum on Yelp are negative which Brenda thinks is unfair. It is a small museum that will only take 45 minutes to visit; but it’s a good place for a short visit and a meal. Also consider that the audio guide is well done. We think it’s a good place to visit if you’re a return visitor to Paris.

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4 thoughts on “Wine Museum in Paris, Episode 124”

  1. Hi, Annie.

    I wanted to comment on your question about French wines being blended, as opposed to American and other wines focusing on varietals.

    As I understand it, although I can’t remember where I learned this, the French trust the individual vintner to mix different ratios of different varietals based upon each year’s harvest to achieve the best wine. So from year to year, the exact ratios change, and you buy by the house instead of by varietal.

    It was California that made it fashionable to bottle by a singular varietal, in part so that the drinker knows roughly the flavor of the wine by grape type. However, one vintner might still have several plots of land- for instance a field in the Napa Valley, a field in Lake County, a field in the Anderson Valley, and grapes from each of these fields can be mixed as needed to engineer the flavor of a single varietal. (However, some California vintners do bottle single field varietals, for instance offering Chardonnays that are specifically only from the North Coast, the Central Coast, etc.)

    In addition, because viticulture in France is so much older than in California, traditionally vines were not irrigated, which made the harvest vary greatly dependent on each year’s growing conditions, necessitating the blending. California wineries have growing down to a science, with irrigation, etc. making conditions from year to year much less variable. This is partly due to the large scale corporate nature of American vineyards. California wines also typically engineer the wine more during the fermenting process to enhance or change the flavor of the final product- think oaked vs. unoaked chardonnays, American vs. French oak barrels, stainless steel barrels, etc.

    Hope this helps, and if anyone knows more or if I have anything wrong, I’d love to hear.

    David

  2. Annie,

    I also forgot to mention, I have a former neighbor who is a documentary film maker, who has 3 films that focus on wines. The first, “Wine for the Confused,” is hosted by John Cleese, and is a good general wine documentary. His two other films on wine are “A Year in Burgundy,” and “A Year in Champagne.” The last can be streamed currently on Netflix.

    David

  3. Hello Annie and Brenda,

    Enjoyed the podcast – thanks.

    Some comments:

    1. Alsace in France labels their wine by grape varietal – all others typically are labelled by region or town. The Old World generally believes that the place is more important than the grape varietal than generating the style of wine – hence the naming. This can be confusing and frustrating, because picking up a bottle labelled Chablis gives you no indication that the grape is actually Chardonnay.

    2. France makes both varietal based wines (eg. Burgundy, largely from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and blends (eg. Bordeaux). While tradition plays a large part in what is planted where and for what reason, blends are typically made in France and worldwide so that a consistent house-style wine can be made in both good and bad years. Grape varieties ripen at the different times, so if the weather changers year-to-year, then the producer can change the ratio of the different grape varieties that go into a blend in order to reach his/her goal. This is particularly true in Bordeaux where the weather throughout the growing cycle can drastically change year-to-year.

    3. Brenda made a comment about riesling. Not all rieslings are sweet. While wines like Blue Nun gave a bad rap to riesling in the 70s, most are now made dry. Try some from Alsace but the trick is to pick one with at least 12% alcohol, or feel free to contact me and I can make some suggestions.

    4. One might note that I have used the word “typically” in my comments above. This is because for every generalization regarding wine in France, their are countless exceptions. It might be better not to try and understand all the French wine regulations, rather just enjoy the wine!

    All those movies that David recommended are worth watching (while enjoying a glass or two.)

    Thanks again for a great podcast.
    David.

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