Guests of Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris have the opportunity to journey 46 feet (14m ) below ground to sip the world’s wine by candlelight with a sommelier. Knowing that the wine cellar is one of the hotel’s treasures, I consider it an honor to have participated in this extraordinary experience during our recent stay.
We met Nicolas Charrière, a First Sommelier, in front of the hotel’s signature two-Michelin-star Le Cinq restaurant. He guided the five of us through the luxury hotel’s back-of-house action and down a winding staircase to La Cave, a dimly-lit, 50,000-bottle space that is not only chock full of rare vintages but steeped in history.
The cellar rests in a quarry formerly used to mine rocks to build the Arc de Triomphe (which began construction in 1806). The textured stone walls remain and are warmed by wood shelves meticulously stacked with precious bottles.
The historic George V hotel (including this wine cellar) was built in 1928, but during World War II the cellar was walled to prevent enemies from accessing it. By the time George V closed for renovation in 1997, the cellar’s inventory of vintage wines was slim.
George V was reopened in 1999 as Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris. To rebuild the wine cellar, the hotel enlisted a famous sommelier, Eric Beuamard. And, through his personal relationships with winemakers and expertise, that is exactly what he did.
Nicolas walked us through each nook and cranny throughout the cellar— which is organized by region — while addressing questions. Frankly, being in the presence of so much fine wine left me almost speechless, at first.
When our tour of the intimate space finished, we leisurely tasted exquisite wine. Tasted is actually an understatement as the size of our group led to generous pours. We started with Champagne, proceeded to a delicate Riesling and ended with a red Burgundy. Each was paired with charcuterie, cheese and other delicious bites along with interesting conversation. I enjoyed talking with the other guests in attendance as some were quite well-versed in wine while others were enthusiasts like myself.
The cellar’s selection showcases an emphasis on French wines, but virtually every wine region in the world is represented including California, Chile, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, and Argentina. It is also home to very special and very rare wines.
The oldest bottle of wine in the cellar is a 1795 Madiera, pictured below on the top shelf.
This sparked a rather interesting conversation about old wines including the kind of care involved in opening such a special bottle. Nicolas simulated how they do it using port tongs and heat.
Not on display is the most expensive wine on the list… a magnum of 1959 Petrus. Nicolas told the story of a regular hotel guest who prefers to drink rare vintages from this exclusive winery, which they are able to source for him and open with excitement. An entire wall of Petrus bottles in the cellar serves as a tribute to this client.
It is clear that the team of sommeliers who carefully catalog and curate the wines here take great pride in the cellar. They are acutely aware of guest preferences and are so well-known for their expertise that winemakers often debut wines here.
The evening concluded with each of us signing the wine cellar’s guest book. And while the walk up the stairway proved a bit more wobbly than the one on the way down, I left with a great appreciation for having experienced such an intimate and special evening.
While there are many reasons to stay in this truly special hotel, this is certainly one of them.