There are more restaurants and bars in Paris than you can poke a baguette at. Take your pick from the cache of hole-in-the wall eateries to chandelier-dripping high-end bars, and you will nearly always find Champagne on offer – for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or just because.
But if you’re a Champagne-lover, you won’t want just any old bar. Surprisingly, Paris offers relatively narrow diversity when it comes to Champagne, though it’s getting better. Since I last visited, before the pandemic, things have changed. More and more venues are providing an impressive fusion of maisons and growers, sometimes curated by terroir, and not just style.
There is new energy in Paris since resumption of the on-premise scene, and you feel it everywhere. At the recent Printemps des Champagnes grower trade tasting extravaganza in Champagne, the event was overrun by sommeliers and restaurant owners from Paris looking for something new for thirsty customers.
Under the guise of research, I recently experienced some of the city’s best options for Champagne. These are my top six recommendations.
117 Rue Lauriston, 75116 Paris
Tucked away from the tourist thoroughfare of Paris is a little-known boutique hotel called Le Dokhan’s in the mostly residential 16th Arrondissement. It is home to Paris’ first dedicated Champagne bar, nestled to the side of its small lobby.
Paired-back Parisian chic interiors, with some reference to the decadence of the 19th century, succeed at keeping the vibe low-key and intimate.
Choose your glass into which your Champagne will be poured – there are five kinds. Then select your bottle from more than 240 on the list, buy by the glass, or take a flight of three featured for the week. A dégustation of three Champagnes will set you back a mere $45 or trade-up to ‘grandes cuvées exceptionnelles’ for just $97. There are also Champagne and caviar tastings from $88 per person.
Navigate the wine list’s regional flair, which conveniently displays producers by growing area and, along the way, spot some rare beauties. Expect to see the likes of Jacques Lassaigne, Olivier Horiot and Ulysse Collin interspersed with Taittinger, Philipponnat, Gosset and many others.
18 Rue d’Anjou, 75008 Paris
Boasting one Michelin star, Contraste is more of a restaurant than a bar and hangs its hat on “making elite gastronomy accessible”.
What sets it apart is its special relationship with Anselme Selosse, the originator of the ‘Contraste’ Champagne (now known as Aÿ ‘La Côte Faron’), who had a hand in developing their wine list to provide ‘old and unique’ wines, including some not available publicly.
Choose from several Champagnes by the glass or from 40 different bottles, including: Jacques Selosse, Tarlant, Egly-Ouriet, Jacquesson, La Rogerie, JM Sélèque, Frédéric Savart, Cédric Bouchard, Charles Heidsieck, Billecart-Salmon, Louis Roederer and Dom Pérignon.
Staff are passionate, with a wonderful sense of service, and excellent English.
57 Passage des Panoramas, 75002 Paris
In the 2nd Arrondissement, take the long and narrow passageway just off Boulevard Montmartre, bustling with every kind of restaurant imaginable, until you reach one of Paris’ best kept secrets for Champagne-lovers. Here you will find duck and Champagne; it’s as simple as that. Free range duck confit, duck sous vide and duck foie gras – with simple side dishes – can be enjoyed with more than 60 different kinds of Champagne, primarily from growers and smaller maisons, at reasonable prices.
Here you will find brut, blanc de blancs, rosé, vintage, prestige but also oenothèque (museum release) Champagnes. Some gems include 2002 Jacquesson DT, 1999 Bollinger RD and an almost centennial bottle of Jean Michel from 1929. Other rarities include Leclerc Briant’s sea-aged 2013 Abyss and Special Club releases. Order Champagne with food, or simply enjoy it on its own. The staff are friendly and efficient.
Off the beaten path
22 Rue de Savoie, 75006 Paris
Follow the labyrinth of cobblestone roads along the bohemian back streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and you will discover the hidden delights of Dilettantes. Venture inside, descend the stairs into its deep, cool cellars and you will find an extensive collection of grower Champagne from some of the region’s best – but lesser known – vignerons.
Browse the portfolio of 24 producers that have been selected for their notion of “agriculture, season and place”. Take your pick from Didier-Ducos, Éric Rodez, Éric Taillet, La Borderie, A. Margaine, Claude Cazals or J. Lassalle.
Tastings are offered by appointment only, so book ahead on their website. A flight of three winemakers will set you back $53, or $129 for a more complex oenology workshop. Looking for something more gourmet? Try Dilettantes’ caviar tastings, light lunches and the cheese pairing options. Alternatively, pick up a bottle to take away.
You don’t need to brush-up on your French either. Staff are bilingual and there are handy technical reference cards in English for each Champagne.
1 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris
Push open the doors and discover a genuine Parisienne institution with a history dating back to 1880 in the 2nd Arrondissement. You cannot pigeonhole Les Caves Legrand because it’s a little bit of everything – a cellar, a restaurant, a delicatessen, a bar. But above all, it’s a place that you go to for wine that has been carefully sourced for its story, sense of place and pleasure.
Located inside the beautiful Galerie Vivienne, select your Champagne from the cellar or wine list at the bar. Choose from a diversity of producers, in bottle and magnum format, from star growers Chartogne-Taillet, Emmanuel Brochet, and BenoÃ®t Marguet to icons like Jacquesson and Pierre Péters, as well as maisons like Bollinger, Laurent-Perrier, Veuve Clicquot and Louis Roederer, among many others.
10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris
Paris is even more enchanting when experienced through the eyes of five-star excellence. Les Ambassadeurs at Hôtel de Crillon on Place de la Concorde is a destination unto itself, overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful squares. You’ll be lured by attentive staff, a luxe but cosy atmosphere and the soloist at the piano. Then be swayed by the impressive Champagne list of maisons and artisans. It’s unusual to see a solid offering of grower Champagnes by a leading international hotel. But here you’ll see the likes of Egly-Ouriet, Frédéric Savart Savart and Jacques Selosse on alternating pages with Louis Roederer, Perrier-Jouët, Billecart-Salmon and Pol Roger.
By the glass, take advantage of some prestige pours? For a glass of 2003 Dom Pérignon, don’t expect much change from $151, though other Champagnes by the bottle are not unreasonable for a bar of this calibre.
Pair with a canapé menu of petite lobster rolls or caviar and blinis for the ultimate night out in Paris.
Prices converted from Euros to Australian dollars and correct at time of print.