Wine-tasting at the Cave in the 11th, a tiny locale sandwiched between the Chateaubriand and the Dauphine, known for selling obscure international wines.
With wines from Sardinia, to Bulgaria, South Australia and everywhere in between, the Cave is the place to discover whether Josef Fritzl really does have Austria’s best-known cellar.
We were 8 in total, most of us locals to the area, who’d signed up for a casual wine-tasting with food pairing from the restaurant next door.
It was 8.30 in mid-October. It had been getting cold outside, and not many of the Parisian participants were warming to the challenge of small talk.
My friend William from Montreuil running late, I saw an opportunity to get conversations started.
Parisians tend to ridicule anything beyond the city limits, Montreuil obviously included. So I launched with an apologetic: “I only gave him two days’ notice, but you know Montreuil – he’s probably just getting bashed en route.”
This was said with added dryness given that poor William had indeed recently been bashed in Montreuil on the metro.
When he did arrive, 25 minutes later, it was to a small round of applause. He rubbed his nose where the scar is almost gone, and smiled. Ice broken.
A tasty Prosecco from the hills of Northern Italy got the night going after that, followed by a Bulgarian number for acquired tastes, while a tasty squid salad proved the just accompaniment for the Sardinian white.
Speaking of barrels, it was around two of them that we found ourselves hunched, the wine store too small for anything resembling a normal table. However, by now we were clicking as group, helped no doubt by the rapidly growing number of empty bottles around us.
It was about now that I looked outside and by pure coincidence saw my slightly odd neighbour walking past. In his late 20s and perhaps a sandwich short of a packed lunch, he’s nothing if not friendly, even if in kind of a “just keep smiling and don’t break eye contact” type of way.
He saw me too, and drew up short by the door, which without a second thought he opened and came in.
“Hello!” he said.
“Hi!” I replied.
“Did you get my message?” I wasn’t sure which one he was referring to, as I often receive several a day, each a screed in its own right. Nor was I certain he’d seen the other 7 people doing the wine-tasting. I thought “Yes” was the safest option.
He was looking at me, but perhaps talking to everyone – it was hard to tell.
He lingered, and it was becoming clear he wasn’t just here to say “Hi”, so I introduced him to my new friends around the barrels. “Everybody, this is my neighbour,” I said.
“Hi everyone,” he said politely.
Gauging the surrounds, aka a wine store, he then said: “I have three bottles of white from the Jura at home. My grandfather gave them to me. Are you interested in buying them?”
Everyone was certainly a bit confused, not least the wine store owner giving the class, who was more used to selling wine to customers, than buying it from them.
I stammered a “Not sure, let me think about it, I’ll call you.” It was probably not the response he was looking for; he thought his wine to be a bargain, and was not understanding why a group of such connoisseurs that we now were, would not be interested.
He made his excuses and left, leaving us to ponder that even for a wine store specialising in the exotics, there are just some bottles with origins just a little too obscure.