Friday, 9 December 2016

Taste the shopfitting! Louis Vuitton's Bon Marché, Paris

Acting on a tip-off we went to take a look at the Caves of Bon Marché, Paris. We had never set foot in the historic store (1852, the world's first department store) and were not even aware that they had a wine department. 

cleverly arranged out of what might have been an unpromising space
Reader, it was worth the journey across Paris. Louis Vuitton who has owned the place since 1984 has refurbished it to an unimaginably exquisite standard. It is just gorgeous. Difficult to imagine such opulence and taste is really necessary for the balance sheet but LVMH know what they are doing. 

Indeed, it's approaching the point where you will be able to live your life exclusively in relation to the conglomerates products and facilities of LVMH if you have enough money. You can dress Louis Vuitton of course, live in one of their hotels, go to a number of art galleries including the extraordinary Louis Vuitton Foundation (built by Frank Gehry) in Paris, hear Maxim Vengerov play a Stradivarius by arrangement with them and buy wine at this fantasy 'cave'. LVMH  own many top wine estates and companies. The MH stand for Moet Hennesy. They also own 

Cheval Blanc
Cloudy Bay
Dom Perignon
Veuve Cliquot

and many others.

The selection is mainly but not exclusively French and shows a discriminating eye. Prices are surprisingly democratic with plenty of wines under €10.

This Beaujolais Gamay a petits grains was a case in point; we had never come across this before. We subsequently learned that there are many types of Gamay and this one, with little berries is just that: small berries. Emmanuel Fellot claims they are 'Naturellement gourmandes' but the 'on dit' is that this makes no particular difference to the taste. 

Rushing to 'Wine Grapes' and Galet's 'Dictionnaire encyclopédique des cepages' we found no mention of a Gamay a petits grains. On googling the term, we were directed to Bibendum's website where a Serbian wine made from Gamay a petits grains is on offer with the following explanation;

...this émigré Gamay has become Francuska Vinarija's emblematic red. It's made from an ancient cultivar of Gamay called 'manchot à petits grains', which is related to, but not the same as, the cultivars and clones of Gamay that cover most of Beaujolais today. This small berry, thinner skinned version of Gamay is believed to have arrived from France during the Phylloxera era, as French vignerons sought solace in Serbia's sandy and chalky soils that were resisting the nasty aphid's advance. The fruit of manchot à petits grains (à petits grains = of the small berries) yields about half the amount of juice as a regular Gamay, so in more ways than one, it can be considered the Pinot Fin of Gamay. We know of at least one tiny pocket of Gamay à petits grains that still survives in Beaujolais (not far from Vissoux) although there are probably more. 

Manchot is also unknown to Wine Grapes and Galet. Fascinating.

 While on the subject of Beaujolais, these beautiful labels reminded us that Beaujolais Blanc is made from Chardonnay and what is more, it seems local regulations permit the naming of the variety. Beaujolais Blanc is a shadowy appellation. It seems that everything is being done to suppress it altogether. Since 2004, Aligoté has been forbidden. Only 15% - some say 10% of any one vineyard is permitted to be given over to growing Chardonnay for Beaujolais Blanc. Production accounts for only 1% of all Beaujolais. The Oxford Companion to Wine doesn't have an entry on it. We never imagined we would ever come to the aide of Chardonnay but this seems rather unfair, especially since Beaujolais is the least diverse of any of the larger French appellations. As with most people Beaujolais Blanc has only rarely crossed our paths. Can it be that bad?

We like a story behind a label and this one was a good example. We bought this bottle but the wine itself was perhaps not the best in the store.

Perhaps this one would have been better? Here the story is to do with the purity of the wine which is made without any chemical intervention at any stage. The emphasis being on the age of the vines and the number of generations of the same family who have worked them.

While on the subject of labels here's a nice one for the musically literate among Bon Marché's customers.

Another bargain was this very pleasant Gascon white with Ugni blanc 45%, Colombard 35%, Sauvignon 10%, Gros Manseng 10% and an alcohol level of 11.5%. We had previously seen this at Toulouse Airport Duty Free. Perhaps LVMH owns that too?

If you like to buy your wine while floating several inches above the floor, Le Bon Marché is the place to go.

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