I’ve always found local wines and spirits an enjoyable way to sip myself into a different culture. So my travel M.O. is “arrive and imbibe,” whether it’s beer in Belgium or Unicum in Hungary. One of the best things about being in Paris is that “going local” means enjoying some particularly good French wine. Every once in awhile I like to crank that experience up a notch with a little help from a professional. While wine courses and tastings can be found all over Paris, here are a few of my favorites for education without intimidation.
Preston Mohr started Paris by the Glass to share his passion for France and its wines through his tastings, tours, and classes. As an American expat in Paris, Preston brings a certain sympathetic perspective. While the AOC system seems second nature to a French person, he knows that it might sound like Greek to a foreigner and takes the time and effort to explain it in a way that’s easy to understand.
Preston’s Cheese & Wine tasting class on Tuesday nights includes so many cheeses, charcuteries, breads, and fruits that we’ll almost have to call that one a full meal. Want something indulgent and sparkling? He’ll take you on a private day trip to Champagne. Me? I like my fancy wine learning while I’m in my fuzzy slippers, so my favorite offerings from Paris by the Glass are the tastings chez soi, where Preston brings everything needed for a private wine class to the comfort of your own apartment.
Paris by the Glass, Preston Mohr; Wine Tasting in Paris, Thierry Givone
Thierry Givone and his team of oenologists have a schedule of sessions geared towards beginners who want to acquire a nice foundation while having a whole lot of fun. The French Wine Tour series takes clients on a tasting through six different wines with an optional cheese platter. If you want to get a little more serious, the Connoisseur class covers only premier and grand cru wines.
Wine Tasting in Paris recently opened a bright and cheery new tasting space in a sweet little spot in the Latin Quarter, equipped with those charming Parisian stone walls. Bonus: Thierry speaks fluent English but with an irresistible little French accent. But what stands out for me in Thierry’s tastings is the nice price and easy online booking process. It’s ideal for visitors looking for something easy and affordable that still retains a professional level of quality.
After doing a fair number of wine tastings in town, I wondered how much more I could learn with another entry-level course. But I was happily surprised by my latest experience at Degust’Emoi for their Initiation to Tasting class. They provide a really solid explanation of the characteristics of different grape varieties, giving a more basic-building-block approach to appreciating wine. They also serve the wine blind and encourage guests to guess the varietal based on the discussion, which is a worthwhile (and fun!) exercise.
Here you can really take things to the next level with their training courses for Levels 1 through 3 of the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). But be prepared to practice your French, as they don’t really offer a lot in the way of English options here.