Part of our day in Paris included a quick trip around L’Église de la Madeleine, the church which has links with so many composers, including Fauré, Chopin and Saint Saëns.

Whilst we were in the area, I couldn’t resist popping into Lavinia, said to be Paris’s largest wine store, and possibly even the biggest in Europe. Spread over three floors, it offers some 3000 French brands and 2000 from further afield.

Lavinia - Paris

The bulk of the wine for sale is in the basement, arranged by region and country, with reds and whites displayed together. Decorated with dark wood-effect panelling, which sets the tone for the shop, the mood is smart and sophisticated – streets apart from most UK retailers. The array of wines on display was incredible and frankly quite bewildering, although I couldn’t find any bottles at less than 12 Euros. This seemed a shame, but as my husband reminded me, buying wine for under 10 Euros in French supermarkets seems to be a hit and miss affair these days.

The premium range of wines, including several first growths and the more fragile natural wines, is stored in a climate controlled, separate area off the main show room. Unfortunately this was locked, and as we couldn’t really justify forking out for a bottle of Petrus 1945 to drink on the train home, we were left pressing our noses to the glass longingly!

Lavinia Paris

The third floor housed a quite incredible selection of spirits, particularly focussing on Armagnac and Cognacs, as well as more unusual liqueurs. There was also a full range of Riedel and Spiegelau glasses on sale, and enough wine gadgets to keep a geek happy for hours.

The wine bar sadly proved to be a bit of a let down, not least because single glasses (175ml) were charged at exactly half the price of a 75cl bottle, which limited our inclination to sample across the list. The service was also terse, even for Paris, and the waiter simply filled our glasses up without even showing us the wine we’d chosen, or inviting us to taste it. However, the wine thankfully didn’t disappoint. Michel Chapoutier, Les Mûres Saint-Joseph, 2007 is a white wine produced from Marsanne grapes, a variety native to the Rhone. Chapoutier’s wines are produced biodynamically, an approach to agriculture that employs organic methods but also timetables vineyard activities according to the phases of the moon. The wine was deeply coloured, with a powerful nose, and a lovely balance of apricots, honeysuckle and minerals on the palate. I’m rather sorry we didn’t have time to buy another bottle to bring back.

Les Mures Saint Joseph

LAVINIA 3, boulevard de la Madeleine, 75001 Paris


We love Paris and seize any opportunity for a trip, however short. When it’s not snowing and the trains are running, the Eurostar now makes it possible to get to Paris in time for coffee on a Saturday, spend the day wandering, and then be back home by bedtime. It’s also chance not only for a little injection of French culture, but also to stock up on ‘essentials’ such as cheese and cassoulet that just aren’t the same in the UK.

Taking my parents yesterday for the day gave us chance to revisit La Crémerie, on the Left Bank, which we first discovered last year following one of Rosa Jackson’s fantastic Paris food itineraries.

La Crémerie, Paris

Situated in the St Germain region, La Crémerie is a tiny natural wine store, which has a few tables for diners, and is perhaps a uniquely Parisian experience. The wine is the main draw though, and owner Serge Mathieu stocks over 2000 bottles of mostly organic wines from small producers.

The food, however, is also well worth the trip. Serge and his wife Helene serve mostly cold food, and we enjoyed a wonderful plate of Iberian hams as well as a duck pate. There is usually one hot dish, which this weekend was a goat’s cheese quiche made with mint – an unusual sounding combination, which actually worked really well. The highlight though for us was the huge bowl of, Burrata di Corato, a mozzarella-type cheese from Puglia in Italy. Spooned from the bowl, this was incredibly rich and creamy, and quite unlike any mozarella you’d buy in the UK. To finish, D and I enjoyed quite a spectacular ‘Baba au Rhum’, which must have been steeping in the rum for a while!

There is a short list of 4 or 5 wines available by the glass, and diners can buy any bottle from the shelves to drink with a 6 Euro corkage fee. We started off with a Sauvignon Blanc (Quartz Domaine Courtois Cailloux du Paradis) from old vines grown in Sologne in the Loire Valley, which had a lovely fresh minerality. Our second wine was a dry Vouvray (Catherine & Pierre Breton Vouvray Le Dilettante Sec). Although I didn’t write tasting notes, this had more fruit flavours, and was our favourite of the two whites.

Quartz Domaine Courtois Cailloux du Paradis

As the name suggests, La Cremerie is housed in an old converted dairy and still has many original features, including the beautiful tiled ceiling. The place is unfortunately also tiny, and only seats 12 so, whilst it’s good to see it getting wider reviews, we just hope it remains off the beaten track for a while!

La Crémerie 9 Rue des Quatre-Vents, 75006 Paris, France 01 43 54 99 30