The apéritif is a way of life in Toulouse, and in France, wine is sacred. So here is a small selection of places where you can get the best of both and have a great time to boot. Wine bars are popping up all over the place in France’s “pink city”. We’ve picked three that have found the recipe for success.
The illustrious one
Entering Au Père Louis is like entering a time capsule. With its wood panelling, zinc, chandeliers and self-playing piano, this wine bar in Rue des Tourneurs survived the 20th century unscathed and without losing its authenticity. Its unique architecture and classic views of Toulouse painted on the walls mean that, today, it is classed as a historic monument. For almost 130 years (1889, to be precise) patrons have been welcomed to come in and enjoy a drink at the bar. There are no chairs to be found here. Instead, old barrels serve as high tables. Plus there are a few seats outside. It’s the perfect setting for a good old-fashioned apéritif or a glass of fine wine. Whether you prefer dry, sweet or fortified, there’s something for everyone! The curious might want to sample the house apéritif – aromatised wine flavoured with cinchona bark – accompanied by a charcuterie board. In the afternoon, Au Père Louis is also a brasserie. But what we love best, once night falls, is to order a glass at the bar and mingle with the regulars. An unforgettable evening.
The world champion
Fancy something a bit more fashionable? Step into the cave of wonders that is Toulouse’s very own N°5 WINE BAR. In June 2017 it was voted best wine bar in the world by The World of Fine Wine, one of the top wine industry magazines. And with good reason: owner Thomas Cabrol offers a 2500-strong wine list featuring wines from 20 countries. Foreign wines from as far afield as Italy, Croatia and Tasmania are given equal billing with wines from South West France. You can of course sample older vintages and grand crus, including firm favourites Romanée Conti and Pétrus. Thomas will introduce you to each one with his deep, extensive knowledge. Still not sure? How about if we told you that they regularly invite a chef along for food and wine pairing evenings that are always a sell-out? You top up your card at the bar, sample some delicious dishes upstairs or in the vaulted cellar, and serve yourself the matching wines from the selection available in the 5 wine dispensers. All self-service.
The new kid on the block
Aesop’s cheese-loving fox isn’t to be found here, but you can certainly enjoy a nibble of cheese with your wine: welcome to Maitre Renard. This newest of Toulouse’s wine bars has set up shop in an illustrious location and has quickly made a name for itself. It’s always jam-packed! The man behind it is Bastien Vayssière, who opened the venue with a promise of quality and a sociable atmosphere. Running the length of the room is a retro floor, high tables and a zinc bar mounted on a glass wall. It’s a little cramped but that just makes it easier to chat and meet people. The walls have also been decked out in a comic-style nod to other fables. In terms of wine, there’s a menu for each colour and, for each region, a comprehensive selection of a few bottles and a by-the-glass option. The sharing dishes available to order give a real taste of the terroir. Like with the wines, Bastien has selected his products meticulously. It is no doubt the reason behind the staggering success of Maitre Renard. Food is served from 6pm to midnight!