When in Paris, you have to enjoy the wine.

It has been said that one of the best ways to learn about wine is to taste it, and a wine tasting – or a special event that includes wine pairings — may be one of the best ways to share and build that knowledge.

De Vinis Illustribus is a premier, family-run venue in the Latin Quarter that specializes in vintage and rare wines. Owners Lionel and Dominique Michelin established De Vinis Illustribus in 1994. Since then, it has become one of the most popular wine shops and wine tasting venues in Paris, offering a one-of-a-kind experience with expert wine advice.

Experience De Vinis Illustribus in Paris:

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Lionel Michelin has an impressive knowledge of French wines. He has more than 40 years of experience with French wines, and he has participated in tasting juries.

De Vinis Illustribus has a spectacular underground cellar, and it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the business streets above. The cellar — which dates back to the 12th century with the newest portion constructed in the 17th century — is where you can attend or host wine tasting programs. It’s also where Lionel and Dominique age wines and certain spirits (conditions are perfectly controlled for storage and temperature).

Lionel shared a detailed tour of his cellar where the inventory and his collection dates back to the 19th century — which is great for an event planner because if he or she orders a wine for a tasting that may not be a good for that wine, Lionel will alert them and make the recommendation to change.

If you are looking for a wine tasting and paring that compliments the rich history, culture, knowledge and of course French excellent wines, then De Vinis Illustribus is for you. The cellar stores wines, offers customized tastings and pairings for special events and corporate events, and even has an onsite wine shop where the family of sommeliers can instruct visitors around the wines to purchase.

Wine Tastings at De Vinis Illustribus

Tastings and pairings never involve wine by the glass as a new bottle is opened each time a tasting occurs. The Tour de France of Vineyards is an excellent wine tasting lunch or early dinner in the shop section of De Vinis Illustribus in English above ground.

Also impressive is that the family run business includes Michelin’s son and nephew — both serve as sommeliers, sharing their knowledge and instructing guests around the shop and their selections.

Lionel highlighted how each course pairs with wine, using a map of France to demonstrate the science of food and wine pairing.

For example, the Burgundy Chardonnay paired well with the cheese, but when I went back later and tried the Chicken Rillettes with the cheese, the flavor was not enhanced, proving that the Chardonnay and cheese paired as well as the chicken and red Bordeaux. In addition, De Vinis Illustribus sources its cuisine from specific local shops for even the bread!

The menu included the following:

  •  Burgogne, Chardonnay Millot “Les Magny” 2012 Paired with Comte Cheese. This was my favorite wine. The cheese was light but delicious tasting, and it was paired perfectly with the white Burgundy Chardonnay. Lionel highlighted the importance of the soil in this course and even had examples on hand to demonstrate the significance of soil difference in Chardonnay production.
  • Bordeaux, Chateau de Ferrand Grand Cru Saint-Emilion 1996 Paired with Chicken Rillettes and Dried Duck Magret. Chicken Rillettes was my favorite dish. It included different herbs and spices added (but not overpowering) with a smoky duck filet. The Bordeaux taste was deep but delicious, and Lionel walked me through the differences in Bordeaux left and right bank wines.
  • Rhone, Grenache de Sixte 2012 Paired with Duck Fois Gras Terrine and Green Salad. The salad paired excellent in the middle with this profound red wine, and the most tasty and delicious fois gras that I have had. Lionel emphasized the difference in the grapes between the North and South production for Rhone wines.
  • Rousillon, Rivesaltes “Sur Grains” Boudau 2012 Paired with a Melting Chocolate Cake. The sweet red wine complemented the molten chocolate cake, and Lionel explained the different processes on the creation of sweet wine.

While enjoying the wine and cuisine, I noticed the neighborhood feel of the shop as locals would appear and speak with us during the course of the pairing.

Special Events at De Vinis Illustribus

The cellar has a capacity for up to 25 guests, and De Vinis Illustribus offers three primary events there:

  • Moments around wine (daytime tastings of two or three wines).
  • Wine tasting lunches and early dinners (four wines which would be the Tour de France of Vineyards)
  • Wine tasting nights (four to six wine).

Special events are very customizable, and Dominique and Lionel work with the event planners to ensure that their requirements are met. You can even order a bottle as a gift for participants in the special event.  The cellar is available for groups with 5 to 25 guests while smaller events can be held on the main level.