Do you feel like you need a drink just to tackle a restaurant’s wine list? Even if you’re something of an oenophile, do you get overwhelmed by the number of choices you have? Whether you want to try something new and different, discover a hidden bargain, or indulge in a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, these experts are quite literally here to serve. Use these sommelier secrets to help you find terrific wine the next time you dine.
Wine Director Eugenio Jardim, Black Cat, San Francisco, California
Pro tip: Go for grower.
“I knew people would be inspired to drink Champagne at Black Cat because it’s a restaurant and a club, so I named the category ‘Grower Champagne,’ sending a clear message. It’s basically Champagne made by the people who grow the grapes. Growers let us look at Champagne as any other wine, allowing its ‘imperfections’ to be discovered and appreciated. Some grower-producers that paved the way have become more expensive; it’s disappointing. They shouldn’t be as expensive because they don’t pay for marketing the way the big houses do.” Make a reservation at Black Cat.
Sommelier Rob Guimaraes from Trattoria Il Mulino, Nashville, Tennessee
Pro tip: In Italy, go beyond the Brunello and Pinot Grigio.
”In Italy, there are a wealth of styles of wine; it’s so diverse. I brought on Lacrima, from central eastern Italy on the coast. It’s similar to Pinot Noir or an intense Beaujolais with aromatic intensity. It’s a light and open, floral wine, from the Marche. Near Rome, Frascati with native grapes like Malvasia is fun — uncomplicated, good value for Pinot Grigio drinkers with a pistachio note. Soave is a region in the Northern part of Italy. It was popular decades ago; it was Frank Sinatra’s favorite wine. But now there are a number of producers with quality. It’s fantastic with pastas and creamy sauces — or even black ink. If you like Brunello, try Rosso di Montalcino; it can be brighter and always less expensive, and it’s still 100% Sangiovese. Sicily is pretty hot right now. The Etna region offers Mascalese, like Nebbiolo, and also Frappato and Nero d’Avola. Verdicchio is maybe my favorite white. Around Le Marche, it’s a side step from Chardonnay with an almond finish that’s similar to oak in Chardonnay but a good bit of weight and phenomenal acidity. Make a reservation at Trattoria Il Mulino.
Wine Director Jason Jacobeit, Bâtard, New York, New York
Pro tip: There’s bang for your buck in Burgundy.
”Be open to what the scope of the restaurant is because, with globalization with wine, sommeliers may focus on a single varietal or region. At Bâtard, the smart money is on Burgundy; almost all of our list is dedicated to Burgundy.
Amelie Berthaud is lovely young winemaker at Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, a single vineyard. Patrick Javillier has been making wines since the 70’s; his wines are not expensive but made just outside Meursault. As the wines have gone to the stratosphere, the entry-level wines are the ones producers are excited about because they are the gateway. They can over-deliver, especially for a Burgundy drinker. At least once a night, I hear, ‘There’s no value in Burgundy,’ but the real story is how layered it is — the pride in entry-level wines is amazing. There’s really good fruit.” Make a reservation at Bâtard.