Lunch and a visit to the Paris Wine Museum


I like wine, wine cellars and learning about wine, so I really expected to enjoy the Wine Museum of Paris. After getting a glimpse of the vaulted restaurant while on a walking tour of the 16th arrondissement, I returned on a particularly nasty day a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps it was the driving rain or the throat thing that I was developing, but I left with a vague feeling of disappointment.


After studying the museum's website, I decided that the 29€ Terroir lunch menu was a good deal because the price includes the 11.90€ entrance fee. What I didn't consider beforehand is that the two items that I couldn't resist, scallops with foie gras and roasted rack of lamb, would come with a surcharge of 3€ and 5€ respectively. Add a glass of wine and my delicious lunch was suddenly 42.29€. In all fairness to the museum, the menu did offer 4 starters and 2 main courses that didn't come with an additional charge.

While the ambiance was convivial, the food was well-prepared and the waiter threw in some free French lessons, in a charming rather than condescending manner, something didn't feel right -- maybe it was the red folding chairs and bare tables that made the historic cellar feel more like a seminar room than a dining establishment. With a couple of candles (even fake ones), it would have been so cozy and romantic!

An onion shaped heater used to make cognac.
Picking up a free handheld audio guide in English at the entrance desk, I learned that the Wine Museum is located in an ancient limestone quarry and that the vaulted cellars were used by the friars of Passy Monastery to store wine during the 16th and 17th centuries. After renovations in 1950, the Eiffel Tower restaurant stored wine in the cellars before they were converted into a museum by the Cup-bearers of France Council, a brotherhood dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of French wine.


Among the displays of wax figures corking champagne and making barrels, there was one showing Napoleon on the battlefield drinking his favorite wine, Chambertin, from Côte de Nuits in Burgundy.

Trick pitchers from the 18th to 20th centuries

While the display cases are filled with every imaginable item having to do with wine, ranging from commemorative glasses to tools used to trim grape vines, these trick pitchers caught my attention. Because of the open design at the top, the wine at the bottom can only be poured by blocking a small opening hidden in the handle.

Even though the museum showcases a wealth of objects, I was underwhelmed by the poor-quality, free audio guide in English, which was a shame because many of the descriptions were only written in French.

Would I recommend the museum to my visitors? Yes, but with some reservation.

If you had a different experience, please let me know. As I already mentioned, I really did expect to like this museum, especially since wine and Paris are almost synonymous. I may return for one of their wine tasting classes. The next one in English is on February 18, 2012.

Paris Wine Museum
5/7 Square Charles Dickens
Rue des Eaux
75016 PARIS

The 11.90€ entrance fee includes a glass of wine.

Bottles of brandy were given on special occasions - Number 9 (from the early 20th century) a bottle of brandy in a casket marked the end of a bridegroom's days as a bachelor and number 3 (19th century) was a small cask given to a conscript. 

Comments

  1. Wonderful post and photos (as always!) - appreciate your critical yet kind view of the place.

    I've read about this museum so often but can't bear the thought of being in those underground spaces, so won't be going there myself -- your thoughtful post makes me think there are just so many better ways people can spend their time in Paris. Maybe just for the uber-enthusiasts!?

    Cheers and thanks for the insight.

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn! I think that you're right that someone with limited time in Paris should probably visit other places unless they're really interested in wine. Most of the people who were there on the same day as me appeared to be locals. There was a woman celebrating her birthday with a group of friends. It made me think that it's a good spot to reserve for a private dinner...but not if you don't like underground spaces!

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  2. If you're ever in the region, there is a most hilarious wine museum in Chinon where animatronic figures act out the wine-making process as a voice narrates (in English - not sure what they do if you're not the only two visitors, perhaps the situation has never arisen). The tourist office gave us a booklet with a coupon to get in for 2€, I think otherwise it's 4€ and you get a free glass of lovely Chinon wine at the end. If you don't like laughing at hilariously kitch automatons, it might not be for you, but otherwise, why not? Chinon is a great place in general.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! I just googled Chinon and it looks beautiful. As it isn't too far from Paris, it would be a good weekend destination. And hilariously kitch automatons followed by a glass of wine - sounds good to me! Thanks again for telling me about it because I haven't explored that area of France at all.

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  3. Even without the meal, that seems quite pricy for a museum. It looks interesting but I don't think it'll go to the top of my 'to see in Paris list'.

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    1. No need to add it to your list, especially since it seems to be getting quite long -- unless you move in with Caiti if she decides to study in Paris. Then you would have plenty of time to explore! ;)

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