At times visiting a museum can be tiring. There is so much to see and that’s primarily what you do: just look and take pictures. But to “experience” a museum using more than one of your senses offers a more unique visit. During my visit to Les Caves du Louvre in Paris I had this type of experience and it certainly helped me learn more about wine. I then followed it up with a tasting at O Chateau. Both are aimed at informing wine lovers (and novices) about wine: how it’s made and how one tastes wine.
Les Caves du Louvre was built in the 18th century by King Louis XV’s sommelier and at the time, there was a tunnel that joined the Palais du Louvre to the caves (cellars). For the past 3 years, owners Olivier Magnay and Nicholas Paradis have beautifully transformed the old cellars into quite an entertaining experience.
Experiential learning is one of the best ways to understand what is being taught and Les Caves du Louvre definitely delivers. A very interactive experience has been created in the caves. One doesn’t just visit and look. One can also smell, hear, touch, taste…..and mix one’s own wine.
When you arrive, you connect your smart phone or their tablet to Wifi to download the app, The French Wine Experience. This app is your self-guided visit (5 languages). It takes you through the caves and contains information related to the exhibits and activities and covers such things as the wine regions, grape varietals, aromas, and tastings. What’s great is that the whole family can participate (OK, except for the optional wine tasting at the end. Sorry to those under 18).
The 5 rooms, which are underground in the original caves, is where all the “experiencing” happens. You can explore the rooms at your own pace. There is no need to rush. These rooms cover the stages of making wine and it appears that a lot of thought has been put into the design and experiences.
Room #1: The Terroir Room
Room #2: The Aroma Room
Remember “scratch and sniff” stickers? This is better because you get to play a game and try to guess the aroma. If you put the cork down on the right spot, the spot turns green. You might have the knack for being a wine taster!
Room #3: The Tasting Room
In this room there are exercises in waking up your taste buds and becoming more attuned to the different tastes that could be found in wine.
Room #4: The Sounds of Wine Room
In this room, your sense of hearing is stimulated. Corks. Champagne bubbles. Clinking of glasses.
Room #5: The Label Room
I think this is the most beautiful room in the Caves. On the walls there are labels from well known wine estates dating back to 1937.
And to finish off the tour, a sommelier can help you learn about wine while you have a glass. This is a really unique experience that has been very well done. One can breeze through it or one can delve into every area of wine making and read about every facet of the process. The best part, however, are the interactive activities. That’s what you’ll remember most.
One word of caution: at the end of my tour, to exit the Caves, I had to climb a very narrow, steep set of stairs. Those who have mobility issues might have some difficulty. I was informed that if the stairs are difficult, tastings can be done upstairs.
Following my visit to Les Caves du Louvre, I headed over to O Chateau (just a 10 minute walk away) where I participated in a champagne and wine tasting experience. It was a perfect finale following my tour of the Caves.
O Chateau is a wine bar and restaurant that holds wine/champagne tastings in its cellar. I attended the tasting which involved a Champagne Premier Cru, 2 white wines (from the Loire and Alsace) and 3 red wines (from Burgundy, Southern Rhone, and Haut Medoc/Bordeaux). There was learning, but this wine experience was accompanied by tasting “the real thing”.
The sommelier, Nils, took us through the process for “tasting” the wines and this involved using many of our senses to describe the wine we were tasting. The session was done in English, as are most of the tastings. The two hours go by very quickly and there’s a lot to take in, however, one comes away with understanding more about such things as:
- the Champagne process
- how to taste wine: appearance of the wine, the nose, and the taste
- food/wine pairing and how to do it
- the French wine industry and the appellations
I have taken many wine courses and visited many wineries in France and around the world. If you have never taken one, this would be a great introduction.
A big thank you to Les Caves du Louvre and O Chateau for providing these unique wine experiences. As always, all opinions are my own.
If you are in western France, Bordeaux’s La Cité du Vin is another excellent wine museum that is also worth visiting. This post, “The One Place You Should Visit In Bordeaux: La Cité du Vin” describes all the exhibits, many which are hands-on.
52, rue de l’Arbre Sec, Paris
Open daily 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Admission: Adults-11 Euros
-15 Euros: admission and 1 glass of wine
-30 Euros: admission, 3 glasses of wine, your own bottle of wine that you blended to take home
Children (under 18)-free
68, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli or Etienne-Marcel
Wine bar is open: Monday-Saturday 4 pm – midnight (2 am on Friday and Saturday)
First tasting is at 12:15 pm
Tour de France of Wine (1 champagne, 5 wines, bread, 2 hours): 55 Euros
There are many other packages ranging from 30 Euros (Intro to French wine) to 265 Euros (day trip to Champagne)
Dinner is also available: 2 sittings (7 pm and 9 pm)