The New Go-To Destination For Low- And No-Alcohol Beverages?

Say “wine” and “Paris” side by side and the association could conjure up images of bistros or sidewalk cafes une demi bouteille a crisp white or chilled red shared at lunch. Low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverage options don’t traditionally fit the bill, but that could be changing. Low alcohol and alcohol free [or NA] Going against history and romantic notions, options are a new trend in France’s capital.

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What is behind such a shift?

“I see Parisians, especially the younger ones, as much more experimental and open to new ideas and change than their parents,” said Martha Wright, sobriety coach at Clear Power Coaching, who also co-founded Scott Paul Wines in Oregon in 1999 and Caveau Selections wine import company in 1999 2006. Wright has spent six of the last twelve months in Paris, where her daughter currently resides, keeping a close eye on developments and trends in the “low and no” world there.

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“I think the small but growing interest in NA beverages is like a cocktail recipe,” Wright said, made up of “part continuation of the entire wellness movement, part desire to be more inclusive, part growing recognition.” the connection between alcohol use and its effects on anxiety (the pandemic has made this more evident) and some of the excitement of breaking some rigid, outdated notions about what is acceptable to eat and drink and when.”

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What follows are excerpts from my interview with Wright, along with her recommendations for favorite AF [alcohol free] Venues around Paris.

To be honest, I’m not sure Paris comes to mind as a hot bed for low and non-alcoholic wine options. Why has it caught on there now?

MW: Well [laughing], I didn’t really expect Parisians to fall for “le brunch” or “les donuts” so much, but they did! Really, another question is why did it take so long, in France or elsewhere?

Moderation is considered the highest virtue in France, public intoxication is really frowned upon and the legal BAC [blood alcohol concentration] Limit for driving is much lower than in US. The French have contributed so much to cuisine and tableware. I’m excited to see what they can do with the little-explored area of ​​non-alcoholic food pairing!

Paris *already* springs to mind as a city committed to natural wine, while also breaking away from traditional or historical wine options. Is there a connection between natural wine and AF, would you say?

MW: Absolutely. The French began championing natural wines twenty years ago, and many of their advocates were younger people who pushed for more transparency, advocated for more environmental practices, and questioned the status quo about everything that grapes might be planted where and what a wine label might look like.

I think it’s a similar mindset that has younger Parisians asking, why should my only non-alcoholic option be a citronnade or a “coca”?

And what would be possible if a creative force like Margot Lecarpentier, an exciting and “rule-breaking” mixologist/bar owner, infused coffee into a non-alcoholic vermouth and added fig leaves, verjuice, and orange flower water, as she does in a non-alcoholic cocktail I’m presenting I tried brunch at her Capitale restaurant and bar in Belleville a year ago. I’m still thinking about it.

Please provide a little context for your perspective on this topic. Why do you see Paris with AF lenses? And how much time did you spend sourcing the land there?

My husband and I have been wine producers/importers specializing in Burgundy and Champagne for 23 years so we have spent a lot of time in France over the years visiting the small family producers whose wines we import. When our daughter left home and moved to Paris we realized we could travel more so these stays have become longer and we have spent 6 of the last 12 months in Paris.

In 2017 we spent three months in Burgundy. My husband could easily skip a night of drinking, but I found myself getting cranky when there wasn’t a bottle of wine around. A little over a year later, I was certain that I wanted to reverse my wine habits. It was scary for anyone in the industry to admit, but I did it. It made me feel a lot better [that] I jumped at the chance to get certified as a sobriety/mindful drinking coach so I could help other people who were realizing that alcohol was playing a bigger role in their lives than they wanted.

How did your personal and professional path lead you to this point?

Before working in the wine industry, I worked with Food Network chefs. I [also] grew up in New Orleans. Food, drink culture, hospitality and taste are passions. For me, eliminating alcohol was an opportunity to double down on those joys, rather than backing away from them. I’m also a reporter by nature and an Enneagram 7 who loves new things and wants to be a resource. So it became my fun mission to explore, discover and study the landscape and cultural differences surrounding the AF movement in both the US and Paris.

Please take a look… counterpart to this post for Wright’s AF recommendations around Paris.