Now lined with fashionable restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, Bercy Village once bustled with activity as the largest wine and spirits trade center in the world. Glimpses of its glorious past can still be seen in the renovated wine warehouses, and the railroad tracks where massive barrels were once transported remain embedded in the cobblestone streets today. Even the nearby Cour Saint-Emilion Métro stop is named for the Bordeaux wine that once passed through these hallowed grounds.
Geographically blessed, Bercy was close enough to Paris to meet her considerable wine consumption needs, yet located far enough outside of the city limits (up until WWI) to avoid city taxes. Proximity to the Seine made it possible for Rhone Valley wines to arrive by boat, while trains arriving at the now defunct Gare de Bercy brought a rich variety of wines from the southwest of France. It is probably worth noting that the wine from Bercy was not always of the highest caliber — unscrupulous merchants were known to have added “non-approved additives” in order to increase profit. In fact, the expression “C’est du Bercy” is still used today to describe a disappointing wine.
By the early 1900’s Bercy had been annexed to Paris, and wine merchants lost the fiscal advantages they had previously enjoyed. At the same time, railways and train stations were consolidated, new technologies allowed wines to be bottled at their place of production, and newer, more cost-effective transportation networks that bypassed Bercy were being developed. The decline of Bercy was complete in the late 1970’s when the last of the great wine warehouses closed its doors, but the village now enjoys a renaissance as a charming blend of vintage and new.
Directions: Bercy Village is directly across the Seine from the Center in Paris. If walking, cross the river using the Tolbiac bridge, walk a couple of hundred yards through the southern third of the Parc de Bercy, then walk past the Cour Saint-Emilion Métro station. If taking the Métro, Cour Saint- Emilion is on line 14, one stop east of Bibliothèque.