… So did you ever wonder how wine got on a restaurant’s wine list? For many upper end restaurants, the wine list is one of the primary reasons customers come to dine at their establishment. Some very high end restaurants spend upwards of a million dollars on their wine program, which includes stocking wine, cellaring wine, and renovations in the cellar in addition to the salary of the sommelier and his or her assistants.
Yet wine in fine dining restaurants is not just about the wine’s pedigree. Sommeliers and beverage mangers must find a variety of wines to suit the various dishes on the list, and at many different price points. A sommelier would also have to find wines to be sold by the bottle and also to be sold by the glass, typically consumed as an aperitif, or to pair with various dishes on a tasting menu.
Recently I had the good fortune to chat with Emanuel Moosbrugger, Sommelier (and wine buyer) at Café Boulud, one of Celebrity Chef Daniel Boulud’s many restaurants. Moosbrugger’s parents had run a hotel so he grew up serving at an early age before completing his wine education at a European university and then here in New York at the American Sommelier Association. Moosbrugger’s background has given him a talent for understanding the ‘small things’ that enhance a guest’s pleasure.
When asked how wines get on his list, Moosbrugger explains that typically distributors make appointments with him to showcase their wines. To narrow the selection to his needs, Moosbrugger typically tells them what specifically he is looking for. As an example, Moosbrugger explains that a distributor made an appointment with him to show him a California Pinot Noir, and ended up “sneaking” in another wine that Moosbrugger had not requested. This wine was Chateau du Campuget Prestige Viognier from the Costieries De Nimes. “I found it was perfect to sell by the glass,” recalled Moosbrugger, “because it fills a gap in the white wines we presently offer.” Moosbrugger describes the wine as “rich yet medium bodied, with notes of peach, pear, orange, and tropical fruit. “There is great acidity in the finish, and it balances out the richness from mid-palate,” he remarks. “The climate and soil are important in this wine, as it is from the Rhone Valley (Costieres de Nimes is considered an extension of the Rhone) where they have the galet stones.”
Moosbrugger calls Prestige Viognier a great aperitif because it is fresh, herbaceous, and with notes of anise and ginger. He likes to use it on tasting menus for the spring and summer, specifically with Café Boulud’s spring salad (featuring different spring vegetables), or seafood starters such as the restaurant’s delicious crab salad which is spiked with grapefruit. “A Riesling from Alsace would be a good traditional pairing with the crab dish,” says Moosbrugger, “but many of our clients do not like wines with residual sugar so this is a good replacement.”
And finally, Moosbrugger raves about the floral aroma. “For a customer, the sommelier should be able to open the bottle, pour it into the glass, and see the guest have the full enjoyment of the wine’s delightful aromas.”
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