In focus: New York’s wine scene

The Big Apple is abuzz with exciting venues serving off the beaten track wines, with grower Champagne the toast of the town. Roger Morris seeks out the best places in the city to raise a glass or two.

The wine scene in New York City is what I like to call ‘re-inventive’. There’s something for everyone, in a really ingenious way. I’ve recently observed lists that are more of an eclectic melting pot, which go beyond French and Italian selections and highlight Greek and Spanish wines that pair especially well with food,” says Alex Schrencengost, head of PR for Wilson Daniels, an American wine importer and distributor that represents such heavyweight classics as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Biondi Santi and Schramsberg.

“There’s always plenty of domestic love from California, but Washington State is well represented too, and New York State is producing some world-class wines now. Even in wines from Italy, I’m seeing more and more variety, particularly in the volcanic Southern regions such as Etna,” she adds. We’re living in a golden age of food and wine in NYC, where the polish and precision of the offering can be almost blinding in its variety. The attention is no longer just on classic Michelin-starred restaurants in uptown Manhattan.

Legacy Records

Pete Wells, the food critic for The New York Times, who is as keen an observer as any fine dining reviewer, and a lot more entertaining, seems to be spending less time in Manhattan than he does in Brooklyn these days, which is now a real foodie destination.

Last spring, the first big architectural complex to rise up in ages, Hudson Yards in midtown’s Hell’s Kitchen, brought with it iconic restaurants from big-name chefs like Thomas Keller and Costas Spiliadis. So which wines offered by the glass are getting New York sommeliers hot under the collar?

Among the trendy pours at the moment are Champagnes, especially bottles from growers and in large formats; wines that have some claim to ‘authenticity’; wines from out-of-the-way places, like small islands and volcano slopes; overlooked affordable gems from classic wine regions, and ‘natural’ wines, which are now part of a broader category including organic and biodynamic expressions.

The New York wine scene is about a new attitude on the part of both the trade and consumers. “If I could use one term to explain the New York wine scene right now, it would be that everyone is seeking to have an engaged dining experience,” says Jeffrey Porter, drinks operations director for the Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group.

No longer is wine service a largely silent part of dining out. “Sommeliers are being interactive in explaining things to customers, as that’s what younger customers are seeking. People want experiences.”

Those experiences begin with wines by the glass. “I always need an approachable wine by the glass – usually something outside the box at around US$15 (£12) – to open up a wine dialogue,” says Joshua Lit, wine director at Gotham Bar and Grill. He notes that grower Champagnes and wines from northwest Spain are particularly popular. Gianfranco Sorrentino, managing partner of Il Gattopardo, also likes to make wine by the glass a special occasion.

“We offer Ornellaia via Coravin in a two- ounce pour for US$60,” he says. “In the past four months we’ve sold 13 bottles this way.” Superstar sommelier Arvid Rosengren, who pours wines at the über- cool Legacy Records, notes that one of his colleagues will pick a library bottle of a famous wine and “announce on social media that he will be pouring by-the- glass tastes that evening”.

Often, successful wines by the glass will move to a restaurant’s formal list as affordable choices. Rosengren says the city has “many restaurants with small, well curated wine lists, and it’s more difficult to make a great small list than it is to make an extensive one”.

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