On a recent evening at the Paris wine merchant La Contre-étiquette, www.la-contre-etiquette.com, two dozen 20- to 40-somethings were gathered in the cozy boutique. Glasses in hand, they avidly listened to sommelier Christophe Guitard and Loire winemaker Alexandre Bain, while peppering them with questions and eagerly pairing Bain's cuvées with goat cheese and charcuterie. Weather-beaten French vintners may not believe it, but younger oenophiles like these, enthusing over the subtleties of an organic sauvignon blanc, are no longer an anomaly in Europe and are reversing the market perception of wine as an older person's drink. (A 2008 survey found that 68% of French over-50s gave wine as their favorite tipple compared to only 24% of those aged 14 to 29.)
Market watchers are now forecasting a break for the local wine industry, thanks to a new batch of Generation X and Generation Y enthusiasts passing up on beer (the most popular drink among young French) in favor of Sancerre or Saumur. And there's a growing buffet of wine-tasting opportunities in Paris to cater to them. Aside from La Contre-étiquette, here are three we've found:
O CHATEAU: In the former wine cellars of King Louis XV, minutes from the Louvre, 29-year-old sommelier Olivier Magny holds some of the most irreverent wine tastings in Paris for English speakers. With equal doses of anti-wine-establishment gusto, terroir passion and olfactory savvy, the self-proclaimed "proletarian of wine" demystifies French wine labels in a viticultural tour de France. See www.o-chateau.com. From $37.
COMPTOIR DES ANDES ET DU NOUVEAU MONDE: At the only 100% New World wineshop in Paris, tel: (33-1) 4320 0300, Melbourne-born owner Gaëtan Turner and oenologue Guillaume Desport help curious French- and English-speaking wine lovers discover the remarkable global peregrinations of French grape varietals from the Chilean renaissance of Bordeaux's forgotten carmenère, to the transformation of Côtes de Rhône's syrah into Australian shiraz. Tastings cost about $50.
HOTEL LE MEURICE: Bar 228, www.lemeurice.com, plays host to Nocturnes, in which for around $110 a head guests enjoy an intimate "oenological aperitif." Thematic tastings are enlivened by sommelier Nicolas Rebut's delectable anecdotes and haute-gastronomy canapés by three-star chef Yannick Alléno, marrying, for example, a rare cuvée of Jura Savagnin with bites of sugar-crusted foie gras and turnip chutney.
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