The best souvenirs from Paris are the ones that open the floodgates to your senses, evoking the same emotions that you felt during your trip to the City of Light. I get it right most of the time, but occasionally find myself scrambling at the last minute, which leads to me being forced to settle for a more practical (and predictable) gift at Charles de Gaulle Airport. This past spring, however, I brought home the ultimate Parisian souvenir thanks to Les Caves du Louvre – a personalized bottle of wine that was blended, corked, wax sealed, stamped and labeled by me.
Traveling with my 21-year-old niece Erin, a wine novice, it was helpful that the workshop began with a brief introduction about the terroir (elements like the soil and climate that determine the quality of the grapes). Further into the wine caves was an aroma testing room. It was a true test of our olfactory sensory neurons trying to match the bouquets with the correct spices and foods. Some were easy to detect like apple and banana, but many of the subtle scents were more challenging to recognize – like tomato and butter. Nevertheless, I have been gifted a superior sommelier-like nose and guessed accurately on each one.
High top tables were set up with five beakers of red grape varieties – Syrah (blackberry, pepper, chocolate), Carignan (ripe red fruits), Grenache (strawberry, raspberry, licorice, spices), Mourvèdre (black currant, raspberry), and Cinsault (red fruit, dry fruits, white flower). We used droppers to taste each varietal and rated them on six criteria according to our individual assessment of their acidity, intensity, tannins, aroma, alcohol, and fruit notes. The sommelier guided us through the process while we took notes of our personal preferences.
Next came the interesting part. We experimented with blending the varieties as we attempted to come up with the best combination of grapes to create a taste that suited our own palettes. My first attempt included 20% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Cinsault. It was a disaster! Too mellow, no depth and certainly nothing that I would want to drink a full glass of, never mind take a bottle home to share. I continued on with two more experiments, with the second being decent, but still not quite what I wanted. The third was balanced, yet not enough flavor; but then I nailed it on my fourth attempt – 40% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre. The Syrah gave it the intensity that I love, the Grenache the right alcohol, and the Mourvèdre the desired acidity.
Once the blend was finalized and noted, the sommelier took the formula and made enough to fill a bottle while I worked on making a “private label” for the outside. My niece Erin and I were together for the experience so we decided to take a photo together for the label. We corked the bottles by hand using a plunger system, and then dipped the ends into hot wax to seal them before finishing them off with the Les Caves du Louvre seal. The labels were printed out and placed on the bottles. Voila!
Upon returning home, Erin and I set up a blind wine tasting with our extended family. We had folks take sips of each option and vote on which they liked the best. The tally came out even, no clear winner but what was evident is that everyone enjoyed the fruits of our labors. The wine we created and brought home from our class at Les Caves du Louvre was definitely the ultimate wine souvenir from Paris!
Les Caves du Louvre (52, rue de l’Arbre Sec, Paris) was founded by business partners and wine entrepreneurs Olivier Magny and Nicolas Paradis. They also collaborate on Ô Chateau (68 Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Paris), a wine tasting venue, wine bar and wine cellar establishment in Paris. It is certainly something to consider during your next Paris getaway…