Chase Sinzer of Momofuku Ko on Slashing Burgundy Prices, while Pushing Riesling and Champagne - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Chase Sinzer of Momofuku Ko on Slashing Burgundy Prices, while Pushing Riesling and Champagne

Chase Sinzer cut his teeth at Union Square Hospitality Group, working his way up to a manager position at Maialino. After a stint as head sommelier for John Fraser’s Narcissa, he joined Momofuku Ko, David Chang’s Michelin two-star tasting menu outpost, when it debuted in its newer, roomier space in 2014. Carson Demmond asked him about the magic of slashing prices and how certain wines previously deemed esoteric are selling themselves.

So, you’ve slashed prices, but sales seem to be up…

Oh man, that’s the school I came from at USHG. It’s about getting people excited about wines because they can afford them. Think about the restaurant wine lists that you most want to drink from: It’s because they’re giving you great wines at great prices. You’ll come back a second and third time, and the restaurant sells more wine that way. It’s also a matter of having a cool boss who will let you work within those cost parameters. Once they realize that you don’t put percentages in the bank—as long as it corresponds to people having the best possible time while still being financially sustainable—that’s the goal.

Yet you have no problem selling fairly high-end Burgundy. Wines from Roulot, Mugnier, Comtes Lafon and Dauvissat all made your top ten.

Burgundy is a catchword, so I think people are veering towards those wines because they know the name. It’s not that all our guests are intrinsically Burg-heads or whatever. I also think the versatility of white and red Burgundy at the table, because of its texture and elegance, is unmatchable. Then, the types of producers we have listed—the hard-to-find Roulots and Dauvissats—it’s awesome to see someone’s eyes light up when they see something they want that badly. Especially when we’re pricing them so low. All that stuff is under $180. Not that that’s a budget wine, but we’re trying to price it so that you really have no choice but to order it because the value is there.

How did a $65 Beaujolais succeed amid all those heavy-hitters?

The Sunier Fleurie is a glass pour that we go through by the case-load. We don’t have to suggest it so much. People will actually order Beaujolais on their own, which is pretty fucking crazy.

And your top BTG wine was a riesling, the Peter Lauer Senoir from the Saar.

Well, with the menu here, it’s one of the best ways to go. It works with everything from raw fish to clean vegetable dishes, lighter dashis and broths—as long as the guest trusts you and is willing to try that glass of riesling that they may be scared of because of its sweetness.

Champagne trends

If you ask any wine director in a tasting menu restaurant, I’d bet you’d find that more people these days are drinking Champagne throughout the meal. So, rather than the conversation being about whether or not to have Champagne, it’s about what style of Champagne to have. A prevailing trend on our list is a shift towards leaner, tauter, less-dosage Champagnes. You don’t necessarily want a rich, sugary Champagne when you have three bites of raw fish. But the most important thing is to ask what someone usually drinks, because if it’s Veuve Yellow Label, they might not be into Prevost, for example. Luckily, people are wanting those leaner styles anyway. We’re too far downtown to have people come in and just ask for Dom right away, you know?

Photo of Chase Sinzer by Zack DeZon.