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A Corking Night Out
Chilled rosé is a must in Nice, particularly in summer when it’s perfectly acceptable to throw a few ice cubes into the glass. Yet rosé is not the star at the new wine bars that are popping up all over the city. As in Paris, the emphasis is increasingly on vins naturels: wines produced with a minimum of chemicals and sulphites, many of them organic or biodynamic. Because there are few producers of vin naturel in Provence, you’re more likely to sip a crisp white from the Loire or a blackberry-scented red from the Rhône Valley than the ubiquitous rosé.
Responsible for launching the vin naturel trend in Nice is Olivier Labarde, whose wine bar La Part des Anges (17 rue Gubernatis, 04.93.62.69.80) just outside the Old Town puts many of the country’s best natural wine producers on display: look for names such as Gramenon, Breton, Richaud and Lapierre. At the back of the shop is the unpretentious wine bar where you can nibble on cheese or charcuterie or choose from a handful of delicious hot dishes (perhaps spaghetti with razor clams) at lunch and on Friday and Saturday nights. Take advantage of the lack of corkage fee to indulge in an exceptional bottle of Burgundy, or try something more unusual such as vin de pays from the Ardèche. La Part des Anges recently opened a second wine bar, Vinivore (32 av de la République, 04.93.26.90.17), run by the genial Bonaventure Blankstein from Québec. Here, the music is louder and the ambiance a little more boisterous, which doesn’t keep the staff from being every bit as knowledgeable. Bonaventure, or Bono as he is known, previously worked at Vin sur Vin (18bis rue Biscarra, 04.93.92.93.20), a knowledgeably staffed bistro à vins with a terrace on a pedestrian street near the Nice Etoile shopping centre. Here, wines are stored in a temperature-controlled “cellar” in the back of the dining room, which you can visit with the sommelier to select your bottle. Organic wines are available and the mostly meaty menu changes with the seasons – try the courgette blossom fritters or the steak tartare if it’s available.
Perhaps the most stylish wine bar in town is La Cave de l’Origine (3 rue Dalpozzo, 04.83.50.09.60) not far from the Negresco, run by Carlo Ferreira and Isabelle Ponsolle in a former arms-making workshop. They have created a peaceful space with a red-and-grey colour scheme and a small épicerie in the front where you’ll find everything from smoked tuna belly to handmade nougat. At mealtimes, the two dining rooms fill up with a cheerful French and foreign crowd that appreciates the fresh, often organic ingredients from the market and the uncommon wines selected by Isabelle.
Bistros with interesting wine lists have not been so easy to find in the Old Town until recently, with the opening of two new haunts for wine-lovers. At Le Bistrot d’Antoine (27 rue de la Préfecture, 04.93.85.29.57), succulent grilled meats such as duck magret or steak and the occasional fish dish (maybe salmon gravlax with ultra-fresh vegetables from the nearby market) provide the foil for wines selected from small producers and sold at reasonable prices, starting at €13 a bottle. Resto Wine Notes (6 rue Ste-Réparate, 04.93.53.09.79), where you might sample wine from the tiny Bellet region in the western hills of Nice, has a more contemporary bistro menu: think kangaroo fillet with mole negro sauce. If this sounds too modern, visit the long-established Cave de la Tour (3 rue de la Tour, 04.93.80.03.31) on the other side of the Old Town, where the mostly male regulars linger around the bar sipping surprisingly good wines and snacking on pissaladière, the local onion tart. Ask for a glass of Bellet or St-Jeannet to taste the best of what the Nice area has to offer.
– Rosa Jackson
This piece has been updated from the article Rosa prepared for the TimeOut guide South of France: Provence & the Cote d'Azur. It is re-published with TimeOut’s kind permission.
Food critic and cookbook author Rosa Jackson moved to France from Canada in 1995 to work at the Cordon Bleu cooking school and run Paris Market Tours. Rosa loves the way of life on the French Riviera and has made Nice her home with her husband and five year old son.
Rosa has written two cookbooks, edited five editions of the Time Out Paris Eating and Drinking Guide, updated the dining chapters of the 2006 Time Out South of France and Fodor’s Provence and the Cote d’Azur guides and written about food for magazines and newspapers around the world.
As well as writing for Riviera Pebbles and for numerous other publications, she runs the custom-designed itinerary service edible-paris.com and through Les Petits Farcis offers market tours, cooking classes, and meet-the-producers tours. To read more about Rosa’s inspiring life in Nice and Paris, visit her food blog!
Riviera Pebbles is delighted to have her on board to share her knowledge and passion for the edible delights of the Riviera.