When you fall in love with a place, there is no way back. A good dozen visits in Champagne within the last 2 1/2 years, half of the times my road has taken me to the Aube, that fabulous and rural southern tip of the Champagne region. Besides Manu Lassaigne whose wines I adore, a big reason to return is Aux Crieurs de Vin, one of the coziest bistros in this world.
Although many restaurant people seem to have a stunning memory when it comes to remembering the customers and their preferences and little caprices, Aux Crieurs de Vin’s Jean-Michel Wilmes and Franck Windel are a league of their own. I still remember how warmly this power duo greeted me when I arrived at Crieurs for the second time. No wonder I have felt like home – and been getting back – ever since.
Founded in 1998, Aux Crieurs de Vin is one of the oldest natural wine bars in France. For me, it is a place where I first got to taste Dard & Ribo. It is also where I tasted Ruppert-Leroy‘s champagnes for the very fist time. Now these two are among my favourite vignerons.
At Crieurs, I have also got to shine several times as the only one in our group to recognise Ruppert-Leroy when served blind. And I don’t mind if sometimes I have named a wrong one from Bénedicte & Emmanuel’s champagne range. To me wine is not that serious: you have days when you do pretty well with guessing… and then there are days when you suck big time.
Jean-Michel’s knowledge on wine is immense, but what’s even more impressive, is his down-to-earth approach. He is a guy who truly seems to enjoy what he does, and for this reason he manages to create a unique atmosphere around him. Every time he has surprised me with something new or unexpected, and thanks to him, I have found wonderful natural wines from various French wine regions.
This is also a place where I have enjoyed unforgettable lunches and dinners with Monsieur Lassaigne, and I hope there are more to come. Another essential element of the Crieurs experience is staying overnight at Comtes de Champagne hotel, an old wooden building with sloping, wobbly floors and whispering walls. The hotel is located just around the corner, so if you end up having a late night, home is always near.
Since the pricing of champagnes is delightful, I drag bottles home every time. From Aux Crieurs de Vin, I have still found Vincent Laval‘s Brut Nature (one of my favourite NV champagnes) with 50 euro, cheaper than anywhere else. Also great Aubois producers such as Olivier Horiot, Charles Dufour, Remi Leroy and Val Frison are well available at Crieurs. This bistro has its own in-house bubbles as well: Champagne Aux Crieurs de Vin made by Pierre Gerbais, which is pretty nice for the price.
With champagnes it’s not just about the Aube. Here you can find Anselme Selosse’s Rosé, Les Carelles, Initial, V.O. and Substance, Jérôme Prévost’s magnificent Fac-Simile rosé champagne, as well as David Léclapart’s L’Astre, L’Apôtre and L’Artiste from the shelves.
As a huge fan of Northern Rhône, I have also noted with joy that producers like Thierry Allemand (read here about our recent visit in Cornas) and Jean-Michel Stephan are represented. But despite your preferences, my advice is to let Jean-Michel and Franck decide for you: if you fall in love with a wine in your glass, it is nice to buy a bottle home.
Aux Crieurs de Vin is definitely worth visiting if you enjoy genuine, unpretentious French atmosphere and classic bistro food, plenty of details in the interior and the company of local people. This place is like a living room or a safe corner in this ever-crazier world that welcomes you after a long day at work (read: visiting champagne estates).
To conclude, if I have to find one flaw in the whole, Aux Crieurs de Vin is definitely not a place for vegetarians or vegans. On your request they may discover something un-meaty to your plate, but this is first and foremost a place where they really master preparing classic meat dishes of tender first-class meat.
Although I have not yet understood the beauty of andouillette, I have eaten with great delight all other meat dishes coming from the Crieurs kitchen. This is not surprising as specified small producers deliver pork, beef, duck, cheeses, veggies and fruit to them.
4 Place Jean Jaurès (Troyes). Tue-Sat 12–14 and 19:30–23. Tel: +33 (0)3 25 40 01 01.