We were tipped off to Lavinia, this three-story adventure for wine aficionados at 4 Boulevard Madeleine in the 1st Arrondissement, by the concierge at the Renaissance Vendome.  The first floor offers reasonably priced wines in displays by regions, including wines on sale.  To make the tasting and buying process easier, Lavinia has what I call a “wine ATM,” which is becoming more popular throughout France and Italy.

The Lavinia wine ATMs feature 16 reds and 8 whites on tap from different areas of France and the new world (U.S. Argentina, Chile).  Purchase your ATM card at the front counter (10, 20 or more Euros) then start tasting in small (2cl) pours.  The selection included ordinary wines for 0.9 Euro a pour and 11 Euro a bottle, up to 15 Euro per taste or 445 Euro a bottle for the 1978 Mouton Rothschild.


The Wine ATM

It’s an efficient way to taste and compare.  Our 10 Euro Wine ATM experience included tasting six wines. Two people can share the same glass.  Save a bit of the best pour and then compare against others.  Take notes, save a taste of your new favorite and move around the ATM for further comparisons.

Our 10 Euro Wine ATM experience included tasting six wines. Here they are, in order of ranking (we bought No. 1 and took back to the hotel for future entertaining):

C. La Fond du Broc 2006 Cote de Provence, 2.15 and 25.  Dark purple; Grenache and Syrah nose, berries, jam; mid-body; good fruit; beef wine. 16

Le Mirror Aux Alouettes, 05, Cotes du Rhone (?), 2.10 the taste, 24 Euro the bottle.  Gamey barnyard nose; round, ripe, good flavor. Bread and sausage wine. 15.5

Chapoutier 2007 St. Joseph, 1.80 and 21.  Mid-dark color; closed nose; decent tannins and fruit; a little short. With the cheese plate. 15

Domaine des Lises 2007 Crozes Hermitage, 1.90 and 22.  Mid-dark; rubber boot note; mid-body; gamey; good finish. With the cheese plate. 15.

Io du Puy 2007 Cotes de Francs, 1 and 11.  Lighter color, flowery nose; short and thin. Quaffing wine for low-budget picnics. 14-14.5

Domaine de la Ferme St. Martin 2007 Les Cadeniieres, Cote de Ventoux.  0.90 and 11. Mid-dark, closed nose; basic country wine, perhaps a field blend of different varieties. Lunch wine during harvest. 14-14.15

Beyond the wines offered in the Wine ATM, Lavinia has perhaps 5,000 labels represented in the store, with the finer vintages in the elegant basement, which includes a temperature controlled display area with the classics behind glass, which requires one of the sommeliers to unlock, provide access and monitor (no random bourgeoisie allowed easy access).  Few can afford the wines on display, but it’s worth browsing for points of reference.

(Interestingly, the displays did make a case for buying wine futures.  A 2000 Giscours was listed at $140.  It was under $40 when offered in futures.)


Into Lavinia Cellar

The wine bar at Lavinia offers a selection of sandwiches, charcuterie, cheeses and breads until 8 p.m. It’s a fine place to stop and taste at the Wine ATM on the ground floor and then go upstairs to cleanse the palate and enjoy a break in the day.  The local favorite: a plate of bread topped with different cheeses, pate, foie gras and other delights for 12 Euro.  They have a broad selection of wines by the pour or bottle.  We liked the 10 centiliter pour, which could be shared and compared.


Lavinia Cellar, Protected Collection Behind Glass

Our wine bar tasting at Lavinia included:

Auxey Duresses, Les Craies, 2008, 10 Euros for a 10 ounce taste, 22 a bottle.  Dark gold; distinct Chardonnay nose, clean and Chablis-like; decent flavor; a little short.

Chateau La Becasse, 2007, Pauillac, 13 and 28). Dark purple; earthy nose; tannic; a little hot on the finish.  Opens with time.