In France, the year's end is commemorated with celebrations that encourage submerging both the good and bad of the 365 days gone in an onslaught of bubbles and oysters. It's a great way to see the end of the past year, but often renders the beginning of the following year a bit rough. To avoid starting your new year with regrets and a headache avoid the primary causes of both which can often be attributed to sulfite-laden, sweetened champagnes.
Waking up sans morning after aches doesn't mean excluding yourself from the festivities, it just takes a little planning and enjoying a healthy dose of natural bubbly throughout the evening. These untreated wines, which have the benefit of being both less expensive and more forgiving the next day than your standard champagne, will guarantee a great night and an even better beginning of 2014.
Many natural sparkling wines, or petillants naturels ("pet' nats" if you're in to the whole brevity thing) as they are referred to in France, contain no added sulfites or other chemicals, making them all around easier on the head.
Along with avoiding any added sulfites, natural wine makers also eschew adding sugar, and will not chapatalize their wines (add sugar to increase alcohol content) or practice what is refereed to as "dosing" a sparkling wine (adding a dose of sugar or sweet wine to the bubbly at the time of bottling). Adding sugar to a wine may increase the alcohol or amount of bubbles in your bottle, but it also increases your chances of a nasty hangover the next day.
There are plenty of options for spots to pick up a bottle of pet' nat for your New Year's Eve fête ce soir. Here are five of my favorites:
Ma Cave Fleury
Ma Cave Fleury is a small cave à vins in the 2nd arrondissement. The space has seating available and you can enjoy a bottle of natural champagne on site, or you can grab a few bottles to go. Here you will find a selection of natural champagnes (including a few non-dosed options) from the Champagnes Fleury domaine, which espouses a biodynamic approach to agriculture and winemaking.
La Cave des Papilles
La Cave des Papilles is an institution in the natural wine shop scene in Paris. The staff have developped close relationships with all the winemakers they work with and are happy to help you chose a bottle. A selection of natural bubbles from the Loire and southern France await you at this cave in the 14th arrondissement.
Le Siffleur de Ballons
Le Siffleur de Ballons is one of my favorite spots to have a glass of natural wine with an assiette de fromage because their constantly changing (and super affordable) wines by the glass menu is an excellent way to discover new wines and revisit old favorites. There is always at least one pet' nat available by the glass, but you can also choose a bottle from their boutique. I recommend Jacky Blot's Triple Zero, which has been a good companion for several happy occasions.
En Vrac is a fairly recent addition to the natural wine bar scene in Paris. Located in the up and coming Riquet neighborhood in the 19th arrondissement, En Vrac sells both bottles and bulk wine. As it's name (French for "in bulk") implies, the cave offers the option of bringing your own bottle to fill with your choice of reds and wines by the barrel. If you're looking for bubbles, ask the friendly staff to orient you towards a bottle among their small but well curated selection of natural wines.
Le Vin en Tête
Le Vin en Tête has two wine shops and one wine bar in Paris, all of which are staffed with incredibly helpful wine geeks and stocked with a beautiful assortment of natural wines. The shops regularly host tastings, often with winemakers from the Champagne region, and can help you pick out a great bottle of bubbly for your evening, and why not pick up a white to pair with your oysters while you're there?
I wish you a happy and sparkly réveillon readers and all the best in the new year!
Bonne Année from Paris Paysanne!!