400, 000 bottles in a cellar in the middle of the French capital, that is really something! You can find not only a stunning collection of wines from all parts of France, but also can be pampered by gourmet food in the restaurant La Tour d’Argent nesting right on the bank of the Seine river.
The view is breathtaking. The lights of boats passing by and spectacular Notre Dame remind you that you are in one the most romantic places in the world – in Paris.
Many diners visit the restaurant just for its wine list. What is impressive is the way in which the wines are kept. The cellar has the best temperature regulation in the whole of Paris. Stéphane Trapier, a second assistant head sommelier said: “We keep the wines under a very low temperature so they age slower than is usual. Therefore, the vintages you get here have a unique taste.”
La Tour D’Argent suffered from negative food reviews in the past couple of years, often rated simply as quite boring. Nevertheless, its proprietors – the family Terrail, spotted it just on time leading to a massive improvement in the menu.
The signature dish
You can spoil your taste butts on their famous Duck which has been served here to kings, queens, state leaders as well as to Holywood stars since its foundation in 1582! It is definitely one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, perhaps in the world! If you are not a big fan of a duck you can enjoy the mouth watering scallops with truffles or a foie gras melting in your mouth like a chocolate.
While having your aperitif downstairs at the cosy bar with a fireplace your eyes will be glued up to the walls full of the pictures and autographs from such honorable diners as Salvador Dali, J. F. Kennedy or king and queen of Japan.
Though what is jaw-dropping are the bottles “enveloped” in dust whose labels only those with hieroglyphic skills can in some cases puzzle out. Chateu d’Yquiem 1880 or Grande Fine Champagne Tour d’Argent 1800 sit behind the glass enclosed cabinets.
Today, the cellar can be visited if you contact some of the sommeliers or the owners, but it wasn’t so always. During the Second World War, the treasures of the cellar were saved from devastation from Germans only thanks to Claude Terrail who walled off part of the cellars. His heroic effort protected one of the biggest cellars in France for further generations so you can still today, if you are patient enough, get on the long wait list and admire the bible sized wine list presented before your dinner.
The bible of wine lists
Once the wine list was in front of my eyes I couldn’t get my hands off of it. Nervous sommeliers must have been thinking that I found a new religion as I turned page by page of this massive book and studied all of its contents. It is strong on Burgundies. Treasures like Chambertin 1865 and Romanée 1874 may be well pass their peak, but they have an enormous value if you imagine that these vintages could have been drunk by Alexander II, Czar of All the Russias, or by F. D. Roosevelt, who both wined and dined here. The choice of Bordeaux doesn’t stand behind as you can find the strongest vintages such as 1982 or 1990 in most of the best Chateaux found there.
It is not just about wines
Bubbly aficionados will be more than pleased. Top vintage champagnes are nesting in the first part of the wine list. Besides, you can ask for a list of strong cognacs, brandies, French Armagnacs and Madeiras all of discernible vintages. Their higher concentration of alcohol extends their age worthiness when compared to wine.
I have tasted Madeira 1910, the oldest liquid ever in my mouth, and I can now confirm the dust on the bottle doesn’t mean that its content has the same life span as human beings. Contrary to this, this brownish sweet Madeira resembled leather, walnuts and dark wood on the palate. I had a sip of Malvasia Vintage Madeira 1934 as well as I was curious to find this grape variety typical for Sicily in a desert wine from Madeira. It was much sweater and gentler than the classical Madeira. I would say it was more of a female drink as it was more subtle on the palate.
I wasn’t lucky enough this time to visit the cellar as it was undergoing a reconstruction. Nevertheless, I was promised to see it on my next visit to Paris so keep reading my blog and soon you can see the secrets of one of the most interesting places not only for wine lovers right here on WINEBEING.
A quiz question at the end: I have had a bottle of wine there which I personally desired for a long time. I give you a hint – I love art and as most of us I find the year of my birth exceptional ( even though in the case of wine it is the right temperature, amount of sun and rain which makes the wine outstanding ). So which wine we were drinking at La Tour d’Argent?