When Cynthia Goddeau moved to South Carolina, she couldn’t find a job as a sommelier. It didn’t matter that she’d been part of the all-star team at Union Square Café in NYC in the 1990s, or worked at Blue Hill and Del Posto for years; sommelier jobs were scarce in Charleston. But one day she ran into Caitlin Toscano, a former colleague at Del Posto, who’d arrived in the city to open a restaurant with her husband, Michael, and they asked her to come work on the wine list. Goddeau joined Le Farfalle shortly after it opened in 2016, taking a small list focused on sangiovese and opening it to the world.
The Somm Thing in Charleston
Four years ago, it was like, ‘Can I please get a glass of something besides chardonnay and sauvignon blanc?’ Now we have trousseau, furmint, bottles from Languedoc, Sicily. What’s happening in Charleston is that we have so many people coming in from the north; we have a lot of knowledge coming here; a lot of sommeliers excited to get new things in. But the somm thing is still only at special restaurants here. To have me on the floor as a somm is like, “Wow, she comes to the table, she decants, the wine is chilled!” But guests are also saying things like, “I’m going to try furmint tonight.” Yes, you are!
A Prosecco is your top-selling wine.
We do really well with sparkling wine. For one thing, it’s warm here—once the weather starts warming up, it’s happening. The Livio Sessetti—we got a deal on it, and they brought it in for us, a special cuvée, very low sulfur. It was originally our happy-hour wine, but it’s light and fresh and people started drinking it all the way through the meal. Also, Charleston is the number two place in the country to get married, behind Vegas. When the bachelorettes come in here, they start with cocktails or they start with sparkling…
And a Russian River Valley Chardonnay from Buehler comes in at number two.
Charleston is a real chardonnay town: If I had Rombauer on the list, it would be the number one wine—it was when I was at Cypress. The Buehler is that nice blend of oak and fruit, not overpowering, and people just love it. If it’s not that, it’s Chablis: People want unoaked Chablis, fresh and crisp, and they are calling for it by “Chablis.” Also, my staff asks, “Do you like the oaky style or the crisp and citrus style?” We also pour at the table, bring bottles to the table—that never used to happen down her—that helps.
On the Domaine Bulliat Morgon Nature as your best-selling new addition.
It’s just so delicious. We had their Moulin à Vent—so fresh and pretty, but not so grippy. Beaujolais is a little bit of a trend here; we will offer it instead of pinot noir. It will go great with vegetable dishes, with the meatballs or lighter pastas. But also, [it’s certified organic with no added sulfur] and natural wine is a trend here—wine bars picking up on that—Skins & Stems is really involved, and Fig is known for it as well. I just acquired a case of the Monastero Suore Cistercensi—from the monastery working with Paolo Bea in Umbria—and it took me two minutes to run out of it. And the COS Rami—the grecanico-insolia blend—I Coravin it. It’s on for $18 and people are like, ‘Oh, I’ll try the orange wine!’
When it comes to Italian wines, it looks like your diners go all over the boot.
There’s a lot of interest in southern Italy now. I just added an aglianico from Grifalco to the list—it’s not nebbiolo or pinot noir, it has riper fruit, but it also has a little grip, and is medium-bodied. And when you have a little aglianico with duck confit agnolotti—that’s our signature dish—it’s delicious.
I’ve added more Sicilians now, too; Sicily is big now. I started with a Donnafugata catarratto blend, Anthilia; we added Tasca d’Almerita Grillo; and Graci’s Etna Rosso is a fabulous sell here. If I could have three Etnas, I would. I also added Sardinia to the list— Parpinello Cagnulari from Isola dei Nuraghi—and was so surprised when people would ask about that and want to try it. The aromas are very herbal, savory; on the palate it’s almost like an Amarone—not that ripe but has that upfront richness and depth; people love that.
is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.