The right wine can make all the difference when it comes to your dining experience. When dining in some of Boston’s finer establishments, make sure to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge a sommelier can share with you. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know a pinot from a merlot, the sommelier wants you to enjoy your wine and maybe learn a thing or two.
– Katie Curley-Katzman
Here’s some expert advice from Grill 23 Sommelier Brahm Callahan
How do you create a wine list that appeals to everyone?
The key is balance, obviously it depends on the kind of restaurant and how big a list but my goal is always to have wines that will appeal to all of our guests. We may be stronger in one area or another but if there isn’t at least something in each category and a number of price points and styles then I haven’t done my job. A lot of sommeliers will only buy the wines that they like or that they find interesting but then you have a list with a bunch of holes and often somm’s tastes and general consumer’s tastes are very different.
What trends do you see emerging?
Sommeliers are writing geeky wine lists with an emphasis on wines from new emerging regions. I think it is great to support these new regions and be some of the first to show them to our guests, but at the same time new doesn’t always mean good; the classics are classic for a reason, people like them. Again balance is the key.
What should every wine drinker know to help you help them?
To relax and not take it too seriously, the more relaxed they are about it the easier it is for me to help them find what they want. It is my job to take the information they give me and find them a great bottle of wine that they will enjoy. I want them to be willing to try new things and trust that I have the ability to listen to what they want and translate it into a great bottle of wine.
Any unexpected regions producing great wines?
Greece – people have a lot of ideas about the wines coming from all over Greece as low quality and not interesting. The reality is just the opposite, amazing wines (reds and whites) from indigenous varietals that you have never heard of.
What’s the most versatile wine you recommend?German Riesling – it is delicious and it goes with everything
Your favorite food and wine combo?
Chablis and oysters, or bubbles and oysters- don’t make me pick, I can’t.
What are the benefits of pairing wine with the food?
You always learn something, sometimes the food is better with the wine, others the wine is better because of the food, and sometimes neither works at all.
What do you open at home?
Everything, depends on the time of year…Rosé in the summer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the spring and fall. Syrah, Cab, Nebbiolo in the winter. German Riesling any day.
I know wine is your passion, but do you ever just have a cocktail? What’s your favorite?
All the time, depends on my mood. Before a meal a Negroni, during a meal martini’s (gin), after lots of scotch and/or amaro
How did you get into wine?
Started drinking very early, wine was part of the meal as a kid so it didn’t have a stigma. My family made (very poorly made) wine as a kid too, for home consumption so I got into it very early.
What’s your favorite wine on Grill 23’s list right now?
Rainoldi, Sfursat Fruttaio Ca’Rizzieri 2008 $95. Nebbiolo with out the angry tannins, perfect balance of fruit and structure.
Katie Curley-Katzman loves learning, collecting and writing about wine. She holds a certificate in wine tasting and education from the Institut d’Oenologie in Aix-en-Provence, France and is a graduate of Salem State University with a degree in English and French. Her wine writing has appeared in the Quarterly Review of Wines Magazine. Have a wine question or suggestion? Tweet her @KatieKWBZ