Problem: Far too many restaurants’ by-the-glass poured wines are geriatric, oxidized sadness. They’ve been open for days, and taste like the vinous equivalent of a balding dowager. Why should not investing in an entire bottle (the time-tested solution to the issue) always lead to the tragic contents of a lukewarm bottle that was stored aside a bar cash register or — conversely — an unreasonably chilled, glacial runoff glass pour of wine that somehow still lacks freshness?
Solution: At such extreme by-the-glass markups, restaurants should be able to convert leftovers into cooking wine once they’re tired, particularly once less than 25% of the bottle remains and oxygen dominates the bottle’s contents. Just store open bottles in a small, dedicated 55° F fridge after recorking them. Forsake your profit and loss obsession long enough to serve good wine. And none of those stupid Vacu Vin / penis-pump wine stoppers — they’re a waste of everyone’s time; just recork it.
#2. THE HAND SOAP THAT WORE A BOTTLE OF COLOGNE
Problem: Look, restaurants: we understand you want to exude LUXURY in your bathrooms. Flower arrangements; pyramids of rolled, single-use white cloth hand towels which patrons throw into a wicker basket; and hand soaps that help evoke a luxury spa with “luxurious” scents.
What an exquisite dance we had with the sommelier at Frenchie last Wednesday! The head sommelier Aurélien Masse unveiled a stunning series of wines, which we were given the tantalizing task of identifying blind alongside our carte blanche1 tasting menu dinner.
It started like this: ‘I’ve got some stuff that’s not on the wine list, as well.’
‘Any Jamet Côtes du Rhône?’
‘Yeah, I’d REALLY like to have that on my list, but unfortunately…’
‘No; there’s some Dauvissat that’s not on the list, but no Tribut. Too hard to get! I’ve got some Anne-Claude Leflaive Bourgogne blanc … ’
‘Hmm. Although would the oak élevage get in our way? Oh — how about Roulot Bourgogne blanc? Or, ooh! Any De Moor Bel Air et Clardy Chablis?’
Suddenly the sommelier leaned back, and his expression transformed into a serene contentedness. ‘Very well. I now perfectly understand your palate. No need for that wine list any more, here — I’ll take that. So. We’re going to stay within a budget of say 40-50 Euros a bottle, yes? And you’re going to just trust me.’
So, carte blanche for the chef that evening, and carte blanche for the sommelier. Why not?
Making the pilgrimage to Beaune at least once to visit producers and vineyard sites is a rite of passage that nearly every Burgundy enthusiast finds themselves doing at some point. I’d heard long ago about how one simply had to eat at Ma Cuisine in Beaune. Amazing wine list; great food. The last time I was in Burgundy, I couldn’t get a reservation; this time, I’d set it up early.
Once greeted by a paper taped to the door with a hastily handwritten “RESTAURANT COMPLET”, my colleague and I felt like diligent little hamsters who’d thoughtfully done their work. Inside, it dawned on both of us that this casual, welcoming bistro atmosphere was exactly what was missing in our life. As casual as it may have been, however, we immediately caught a glimpse of a more serious side: an imposing pyramid of some 50 Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) bottles which attested to just how many high-rollers frequent the restaurant.
We had only recently discovered via chats with cavistes that quite a few Beaune restaurants had Coche-Dury for a reasonable price (vs. US prices and accessory allocation battles). We’d been dying to see what Jean-François Coche’s chèvre à deux bec manually-filled bottles1 had in store for us, so when you tell me I can try 2010 Coche Bourgogne rouge for 57 EU in a restaurant, I don’t care if I’m committing infanticide, we’re ordering the Coche.
One look at the chalkboard menu and it’s clear Ma Cuisine serves classic French fare, perfectly devoid of modern pretentiousness or molecular what-have-you. The wine list is helpfully arranged by price, and even if my only qualm was that I’d’ve liked more Chablis in the 30-50 EU range, the 2011 Vincent Dauvissat Petit Chablis around 32 EU is nothing to balk at.
But I don’t get along that well with 2011. If that pyrazine green monster rears its head, and I realize I’m stuck with 75cl of something that reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc, I devolve into an upset little baby. So I selected a 2010 Domaine Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée des Forgets to go with our starters, and will you look at this damned thing. Instead of oeufs brouillés à la truffe, they should’ve called it truffes aux oeufs brouillés: