The Wine, The Woman & The Story – Line !

I first visited Willi’s while researching ‘Vintage’, my racy novel about the wine world. The poster that attracted my attention back then was Lyu Hanabusa’s delectable nude.

1993 Hanabusa willis

Jonas Bergstrom’s girl in the glass in a very worthy successor, highlighting as it does the sensuality of the grape. It inspired me to write this little tale.

jonas bergstrand 2014

 DANGEROUS CURVES

A very short story by Olivia Darling

He’s in trouble. She is not the kind of girl who sits at a bar on her own. She would never accept a drink from a stranger. She hates to be the centre of unwanted attention. Though she’s hoping he’ll notice her new dress.

But he’s late. It’s half an hour since he said he’d be there. And it’s not the first time. The bubbles in her sparkling water have gone flat. The barman brings back the wine list and now she orders a glass of champagne. If he doesn’t turn up at all, she’ll celebrate not having wasted even more of her evening.

He arrives as the glass is being poured. He orders another to make a matching pair. She’s unimpressed by his excuses and the conversation sinks back into silence.

All around other people seem to be having a better time. He’s got to rescue this somehow. There’s a poster hanging on the wall behind her. A sketch of a woman. The lines of her body echo the wine glass she’s sitting in. She looks back over her shoulder. Is that disdain on her face? Or a dare?

‘In that new dress,’ he tells his disappointed darling. ‘You could be the model for that poster.’

She curls her lip at him. Her bottom isn’t like that, she says.

‘But it’s not just the bottom,’ he says. ‘That makes me think of you. It’s the way she’s sitting. She’s feline. She’s confident. She’s chic.’

Disappointed darling angles herself towards him.

‘She’s the essence of femininity,’ he blunders on. ‘In just a few lines. Those dangerous curves.’

Her champagne glass is empty now. He signals for the barman.

Disappointed darling says, ‘I’ll stay for just one more.

Jonas Bergstrand, Willi’s & Kickstarter. Shaken not Stirred !

Swedish artist Jonas Bergstrand will sign the 2014 and 25th poster in Willi’s world famous series celebrating Art and Wine via the crowdfunding site kickstarter.com

“Wine is a magical social cement. Enjoying wine is a way to love life and one’s fellows. Wine enchants our palates, it loosens tongues, enhances ephemeral & enduring friendships and nourishes our imaginations. The celebration of wine through the arts has gone on since the beginning of time. It is an inexhaustible richness and a concentrate of heritage, offered to us all to treasure, in delicate bottles.”…. But it’s not just about le vin

We have long encouraged painters, graphic artists and designers to add their talent, inspiration and free spirit to his celebration of wine’s pleasures by contributing to an unusual series of original posters that has grown into the « Willi’s Bottle Art » Collection. Appreciated by wine lovers the World over it brings together artists such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Alberto Bali, Jacques de Loustal, Jean-François Octave & Peter Lippmann.
 
The latest vintage of « Willi’s Bottle Art » comes courtesy of Swedish artist Jonas Bergstrand, graduate of the Forsberg School of Design. “To me wine is culture in liquid form. What’s in the glass in front of me has taken years of careful planning and know-how to present. The process and craftsmanship that governs it makes wine intriguing, just like literature and art, ” he explains.
 
Jonas Bergstrand is the 25st artist in the series to illustrate the cosy, familiar alliance between art and wine. However, in an exciting break with tradition, “Willi’s Bottle Art”, in order to finance the production of the Bergstrand’s 2014 vintage poster, as well as to enhance the visibility of the ” Willi’s Bottle Art ” collection in its entirety, is launching an initiative in collaboration with Kickstarter.  Lovers of art and wine, professional and amateur, are invited to support this worldwide crowd-funding event.

There will be something for everyone.  Just as if you were at Willi’s Wine Bar itself on the Rue des Petits Champs in Paris.
For example, you will be able to acquire a limited edition poster on Velin paper signed by the artist (£300/ €390/ $480) or host a pop up exhibition of the “Willi’s Bottle Art” Collection associating the occasion with a wine event at their property, or their vineyard, in their local museum or even at their country club… worldwide (£3500/ €4500/ $5600). A wide range of participative options, all offering rewards, starting at just 10€ are proposed.
 
Find all the “Willi’s Bottle Art” collection williswinebar.com
 

JANCIS ROBINSON & NICK LANDER book signing duo at Willi’s

This vinferous couple will be signing copies of their just released books at

Willi’s Wine Bar

Samedi le 8 Décembre de 12H-13H

Wine Grapes «The Larousse of grape varieties» contains 1,368 distinct grape varieties currently under ‘commercial production’ in the World (& in France). Wine Grapes represents four years work, (the time it takes to get a recognisable harvest), is written by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW, Robinson’s researcher and associate palate, with botanist and grape geneticist, José Vouillamoz.

“There is huge interest in non-standard grape varieties and we include the origins and history of each varieties, as well as interesting social stories, details of where they are grown, how much is grown and what it’s been called and what the wine tastes like now.”

The Art of the Restaurateur is a compelling look behind the scenes at some of the world’s best restaurants, and celebrates the complex art of the restaurateur. Nicholas Lander, acclaimed Financial Times restaurant critic & former restaurateur, reveals everything you ever wanted to know about the restaurant business, presenting the untold stories of the world’s best restaurateurs, from luxurious Michelin-starred restaurants, to bustling neighbourhood bistros, to stylish fast-food cafes. Every story is fascinating, entertaining, and has something to tell about the creation of a successful restaurant, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in food, and for anyone who’s ever dreamed of opening a restaurant.
Danny Meyer, NY restaurateur ‘If you are planning, or even dreaming of, opening a restaurant of your own, then this will be more use to you than any cookbook. A great read too.’

Signed copies will be available from Willi’s on the day –
Wine Grapes will be offered at 129€
The Art of the Restaurateur will be offered at 28€
The Signed duo of these books will be offered at 149€
Very limited stocks – you still can’t drink books !

On Time. 30 years late. Willi’s Extension Confirmed.

“Prendre un verre à la Mirotirie – sera bientôt possible”

Willi’s will be closing for enlargement on the 14th JULY. Soon the hole in the wall that for for 30 odd years has been Willi’s will be no more.

To those people who stood outside shaking their heads in uncomprehending bewilderment, wearing expressions that said ‘is this ReallY it ?!” I will soon be able to reply, “well no, Willi’s is , as you would imagine, huge…”

No Ball Room like Macéo, but there will be a ‘Magnum Room’, a ‘Willi Boutique’, a ‘Salon Grand Willi’ – to mention just a few of the parts involved in this project.

 

For as long as Willi’s has been in existence, I have patiently waited to take over the space currently called ‘L’Ancien Maison Jam’ which has been a ‘mirotirie’, or fittingly, glass shop next door.

Our neighbour has decided to retire. Not a minute too soon, mon ami. In fact, had he mentioned the fact before our remodeling just over two years ago, it would have been moderately helpful…

Having waited all this time I am hopeful that I will avoid the complications encountered by my friends Daniel Rose & Juan Sanchez, who became bogged down in endless complications when respectively fitting out their new restaurants.

It is never easy dealing with a whole host of movable, susceptible independent spirits & parameters, but the plan as it stands today involves work starting on the extension on June 1st, the boutiques being joined on July 14th & reopening as the new place in town on August 1st – just when everyone goes on holiday !

More photos on FB ici

Verre l’avenir & à bientôt for work in progress

Peter Lippmann’s Poster for Willi’s – The Finest in Rot

“By making this wine vine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt”. Thomas Jefferson

Who, more fitting than Jefferson, for a quote to accompany a Lippmann image ? He, an American, a lover of France & French life & Peter Lippmann, ‘un photographe Americain à Paris’, who is now so French that he can no longer separate the pieces !

Lippmann, who would prefer to be known for his life as a song writer & rock star, having formed & morphed many a band in his short life – The Burps, Walking the Dog, The Well Hung Something’s & most recently The Lobotonics – cannot escape the fact that when the phone rings it is more often clients like Christian Louboutin, Vogue, Cartier… looking for the Midas touch of Peter’s fabulous magazine & advertising work.

This image for Willi’s Bottle Art Collection is quite literally stolen from an amazing series of photographs, soon to be published, that Peter has been working on over the last few years. He has compiled a stunning collection of late harvest grapes with ‘pourriture noble’ & ‘pastrillage’ from some of the greatest vineyards of Europe.

Does this poster make you think of outer space or jewellery? Can you sense the natural purity & seductive power burried in these extraordinary grapes? Peter’s image is a testament for the wine lover, a reminder, if one is required, that even the rotten have some show stopping qualities…& I shall drink to that.

Caitlin Boyce wrote of these images on wildapplause March 2012 «Peter Lippmann’s work reveals this noble state and reminds us of a very important fact.   Death is real.  It comes to everyone.  These images ask us not to avoid it, but instead look at it and see its beauty. To me these are not just images of rotting fruit, but a thoughtful, graceful and intimate symbolic display of the human condition. »

With such an opinion in mind you immediately appreciate why there are just 100 signed copies of this poster. Caitlin may have missed out on the very real life giving juice that I see here ! For all of us, as life comes first, may there be time for a lot more.

 

Willi’s Wedding Gift Ideas for William & Kate

I suppose that, when this charming couple, to whom I wish much long overdue happiness, are married that Kate will possibly refer to the Prince as ‘Willi’ in affectionate tones.
There are just hours left & I have only now realized that I have left this problem rather late. The obvious choice ‘fit for a King’ would be the 1996 Mr. King dressed so appropriately in the colours of the Union. It would go remarkably well in the Royal study.

Continue reading

Willi’s Living Memoirs 1980-2010

Willi's Memoirs. The PosterCard Collection

Willi's Memoires. PosterCard CollectorBox

Books, I am reliably informed, are traditionally released on a Thursday. While this latest Willi’s Bottle Collection publication is not exactly a book, being more of a loose leaf flirt with the written word, it does however stand in the way of time, brandishing its message in the most audible manner.

These Willi’s Memoirs are out early, pointedly colorful and delivered with candid clarity. The CollectorBox of 22 Vintage ‘Bottle Art’ posters from 1980-2010 leaves no graphical detail unturned. A particularly fragrant narrative to be attacked with the aid of a good corkscrew. Furthermore, these images are the most perfect size to cover a Kindle, allowing one to indicate to the Sommelier that at this table Wine is of relevance. The annoying claim that these memoirs are printed in a Universal language is defendable too – a point unlikely to be made when the true story is finally told.

The Poster Card Collection will be on sale at Willi’s as from today, available on the Web as soon as I can upload the necessary information. UGHHHH.. ! Until then, a very big thank you to everyone who helped to make this possible.

Yes, that means you too !

Merci Beaucoup

The Incredible Lightness of Not Being – Anthony Mc Call in Paris

McCall - Hangar Bicocca Milan 2009

McCall installation at Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2009

Just a few short years ago an explanation would have surely been required when describing the works of Anthony Mc Call. Without exaggeration this is very possibly no longer the case. Anthony Mc Call’s ‘Solid Light Shows’ have multiplied across the planet & the French cultural scene, while not alone, has been bold & outspoken in its praise as well as in welcoming Mc Call to exhibit on a disarming number of occasions over the last five years.

This illuminary man is ‘de retour à Paris’ this week with a breathtaking ‘mis en scene’ at Le Collège des Bernardins, where he is installing the double-vertical work entitled Between You and I.

Jean de Loisy, “Commissaire d’exposition indépendant” and the man behind this latest and most moving installation at the Bernadins is unequivocal in his description of Anthony Mc Call, refering to him as “un artist immense”.

Les Bernardins is a stunning 14th Century one-time monastery and center of theological depart in early Paris, with a forest of slender gothic limestone columns. The exhibit is in the Old Sacristy.

The show will run from  Jeudi 3 Fevrier — Samedi 16 Avril.

Numerous barely disguised hints have been given to this unique artist in relation to him joining the very closed club of creative people who have contributed to the Willi’s Bottle Art Collection.

Romantic dining in Paris

Willi's Bottle Art CollectionSteven Spurrier invited me to help his delightful niece to find a suitably romantic restaurant for dinner last month. Overlooking the fact that he is paid up member of Macéo, which has some of the lovlyiest dining spaces in the Capital, Steven, who is normally a picture of moderation & balanced commentary, managed to claim that Macéo was ‘Very Romantic’, but not quite romantic enough for the lovely niece in question. It is well known that I have a thick skin, so I brushed this churlish comment off with good grace and made some suggestions to the young lady -

Romance is happily just like dessert. So difficult to know the sins of others ! If one eliminates the ‘very Parisian’ bistrots & brasseries for being to pacy & noisy, one could by the same measure eliminate a lot of the newer trendy places on the basis of them not being any where near warmed up enough for romance. Here are a few places & a good bar, always useful.

The bar at the Hyatt Vendome, just across the road from Tiffany’s & a stones throw for the ‘go straight to ruin’ jewelers on the place Vendome, is a perfect spot to set the tone, even if  the stores in question should mercifully be closed at the hour of your aperitif. The bar is classy & quietly trendy, they pour good champagne & a few choice wines as well as making cocktails, providing snacks etc.

A short walk separates you from the beautiful & elegant main dining room at Pierre à la Fontaine Gaillon which is an obvious choice for dinner. Cosy, softly lit & relatively intimate, the cuisine is unfussy, pure Classic French & generally top notch. Wine list most satisfactory. Owned by Gerrard Depardieu, who also has a cute ‘Ecailler’ just the other side of the place, Pierre can draw the ‘in crowd’. Lovely terrace in front of the fountain for those sun kissed days.

La Table du Lancaster in the Rue de Berri is very pretty, small, discreet & très comfortable. In the summer there is a terrace on which to dine too. One can ‘prendre l’aperitif’ in their charming salon. The culinary input comes from Michel Troisgros & the offering is inventive, lively & modern from a classic base. The wine list is surprisingly inclusive & up to date. Service can be marginally Daliesque but, as you would expect from Mick’s favorite Parisian hotel, is capable of coping with almost any situation.

La Fable de la Fontaine in the 7th is minuscule, but unlike most French bistrots du gendre has avoided the temptation to pack in an extra 3 couverts. Decorated in chocolate & orange tones, la Fable offers some beautifully prepared, mainly fish based dishes with cutting edge appeal. The wine list is generous & well chosen. Try for a corner table away from the bar. Terrace dining in the summer.
In the 9th Casa Olympe is fun & lovely, but you will share your romance with your neighbors. In les Halles Pharamond has an amazing dining room, but is possibly a little hearty for romance, the culinary offering here being better suited to “dinner with pals”. Terrace in the Summer. Behind Notre Dame Les Itiniraires on the Left bank is a place that has it all. Modern, but cosy, great ambience, an alert culinary offering, marvelously democratically priced wine list. You can stroll along the banks of the Seine after dinner too.

Lunch with Miss Palmer gives Vintage delight

Albert Givton, one of the many ‘Vintage Personalities’ of that gripping book ‘A Billionaire’s Vinegar‘ & I had a long postponed lunch date last week which was clearly billed to be more about wine than the culinary excellence of Thierry Bourbonnais, the chef at Macéo. Albert proposed to bring a very special bottle, ‘Possibly a Palmer 1966 & perhaps another bottle, we will see’. Loinel Pinot of the exciting new wine blog Haido joined us.

Albert, well hatted, arrived early carrying the promised & splendidly kept 1966. He also bought a reconditioned 1924 Palmer that he had acquired at the Parisian Auction House Drouot quite recently. This interesting bottle had lost its wax seal at the time of reconditioning. We wondered, but only for a minute, if it was going to be a genuine wine.

He removed, with reasonable ease, a cork from the days when the Bordelais were still serious about their wines capacity to age. Without a date, but with the Château’s branding. The level was also very good. Albert decanted the 1924 with great care & served it  immediately, wines of this age can so often fade, collapse & die within minutes in the glass.

While this had been going on, we distracted ourselves with the latest classy offering from the Maison Brice in Bouzy. The 2002 Vintage was exactly what we required to prevent us from distracting the Maestro. 75% Bouzy, 25% Avise, this Grand Cru Champagne has spent, as if with the forthcoming Royal attraction in mind, two years in the cellars following dégorgement. A complex & friendly Brut.

Then Albert was ready. In the presence of such a ‘grand old wine’ we were obviously going to pay a bit more attention than usual. Gathered round the bar at Macéo, a cluster of intrigued collaborateurs observed, twirled, sniffed & tasted, all appreciative of the moment.

The colour had something of mature leather apolsotry to it – think of an old Jaguar MKII. But there was still a very pronounced ruby heart to this wine. The first aromas were of fresh champignons de Paris, with a faint medicinal, herbal quality. Hesitation. No, there was a lot of finesse in this wine that simply needed a little air. For 15 minutes we observed the lady awaken in the glass, classic Margaux character becoming apparent in the manner of a sun filled dawn in Winter. A firm tannic structure at the base of a wine that delivered mesmorising visions of pot puri, remaining fine & delicate in the way of a treasured, lively great aunt. We were all struck by the delightful, fresh acidity & tannins that were beautifully wrapped in mid pallet fruit. A wine for those who beleive in ageing populations, as even when we finished our glasses some 30 minutes after decantation, this Château Palmer 1924 was enjoying the party.

Before leaving the bar to be seated Albert set to work on the 1966 Château Palmer, considered to be one of the very best wines of a seriously good vintage. The cork was original & in very good condition given its age. Albert did a splendid job decanting the promising wine & again the twisting ritual returned. This time various noises were made – that any listener would have taken for appreciation.

Leather was again in the back of my mind as the mature rim had something club like to it. Rising from behind the 1924, the more explosively expressive bouquet of infused woodland fruits held everyones attention. All this generously wrapped aroma with a hint of fresh straw, trace of liquorois & the warm ripeness of a blessed vintage. Perfectly enchanting, this wine that needed no lunch to accompany it, the Palmer 1966 delivered a femenin but majestic style from center stage. As in any living thing, one acquired a notion of where it is in its life. In its prime, with the profile of a race hourse on a winning streak. When in the presence of true greatness, one so rarely needs to be told.

Thank you Albert.

Oh, Thierry, the lunch was one of the best I have ever had !

PS Albert made the observation that there are no Médoc or for that case Bordeaux like these Château Palmers made today. The individual unshowy greatness of the Palmer 1966 will not be something we shall rediscover in the equivalent wines of today that are (still) tailored towards 100 point scores. But, on a good day, I like to believe that as markets mature, so the ‘product’ will evolve, progress & rediscover some soul. Possibly some individual greatness too.