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Great Dépôt for Wines - Large Cellars at Bercy - Entrepôt des Vins-Octroi and Charges in Paris-Counting-houses at BercyWater-Restaurants-Consumption of Wine in Paris and in England-Extension of Octroi-Liberté et Égalité'-The 'Marseillaise'-'Ordre Publique'-Wine Adulterations severely punished.
PARIS being a great dépôt for the wines from
every part of France, not only for its own consumption, but as a general market, it ought not to be omitted in a treatise upon the wines of that country. At Bercy, in the suburbs, there are very extensive cellars and warehouses for the storing of wines and spirits, which are justly considered one of the sights of Paris.
Each merchant rents a cellar, and has the entire control of all within it. Some are of immense size, full of liquids. The charge on a hogshead varies according to the rent of the cellar, but it is usually estimated at about 10d. per hogshead per annum, and the octroi and other town dues amount to about 10d. per gallon. The octroi on every kind of drink was, in 1862, 1,221,4387.; and in 1863, 1,327,7497. Every holder of wine at Bercy has a counting-house
attached; and here he may be found, almost every afternoon, accompanied by his wife or daughters, who occupy themselves in sewing; and a party of whist is often formed. The gentlemen may be seen smoking, but never drinking anything but coffee. A friend was so good as to accede to my request to be allowed to pass a few hours with him in his cellar,
where he showed me his various qualities, almost all of which were of a common kind-the usual character of the wines deposited in Bercy. Most of them were stout, deep-coloured, and young, and far from being agreeable. Upon my expressing this opinion, he said, laughingly, Wait a little, and I shall soon make you change your opinion.' I have often heard
of the watering' of wines, but never saw it practised till he brought a little water, and pouring some into a tumbler of new Narbonne, made a light, pleasant wine. How long it would stand' I cannot say; but
he informed me that about ten per cent. of water is generally added to such as I have described, and does not injure it. He further volunteered to state that these are the kinds supplied to restaurants; and that if our countrymen and others desire to have the next
bottle, á la Estèphe, or Larose, or any other la, instead of the St. Emilion, &c., which they disapprove of, the change of bin, effected by a good dash of water, will be found to possess the peculiar bouquet and body of their favourite vintage and growth!
My friend informed me that every cask in his cellar is fined and racked into fresh casks in March and September, and then filled to the bung; and that he generally does this four times a year to such as are quite new, in order to forward and age them. To attain this object, white wine is also very frequently added. Invariably, before racking into a fresh cask, he inserts a lighted sulphur-match to see if it burns bright; for, if it does not, he is sure it is not quite clean, and therefore has it thoroughly rinsed before trying it again. While I was with him, many customers, mostly restaurateurs, hotelkeepers, &c., called, each of them buying a few hogsheads; on each of which he told me he got a profit of 10, 20, or 30 francs.
Many must have observed, while in Paris, numerous carts passing along, having the word Nicolas, in conspicuous letters, and the same name equally visible in all the places there appropriated for announcements. Examining more closely, it will be seen that Monsieur Nicolas is a wine-merchant in the Rue de Paradis-Poissonnière, with many branches throughout the city, offering wine from 5d. to about 48. 6d. per bottle. Excepting for growths of high repute, his prices, generally, are within 2s. 6d. Learn
ESTABLISHMENT OF MONSIEUR NICOLAS. 375
ing from a friend in the champagne country that he was acquainted with the head of the establishment, and that it was well worth visiting, I received from him an introduction, and was so much struck with he beautiful, but simple, arrangements for carrying on a very large trade, that I begged my friend to ask M. Nicolas to oblige me with a detailed description. This he has most kindly done, and I am glad to be able to add the following translation, which may afford useful hints to enterprising men who wish to try a similar experiment in London. It is understood to have been very profitable, and the only drawback I have heard is the slight one, that the labour and thought required, have killed two or three partners, after a few years' work.
22 Rue de Paradis-Poissonnière. Paris, Sept. 15, 1864. DEAR SIR,-In reply to the questions addressed to you by your correspondent in London, I have to state:
1. My house, making its purchases direct from the growers, by my own agents, whom I have in all the chief wine districts, I thus avoid every kind of intermediate profits and commissions.
2. The classification of my wine is shown in my price. current, of which one is enclosed.
3. In order to avoid confusion, my distinguishing numbers are upon each bin in the cellar, and every bottle is sealed with the price, so that my agents shall not be able to charge more than my price. The different kinds may be at once known by the label, or the colour of the wax. Each bottle of champagne has a stamp of lead attached to the neck, with the price.
4. I have 25 branches throughout Paris, and 31 town travellers, whose sole occupation is in seeking for orders.