Michael Madrigale oversees the wine lists at Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud, two restaurants on NYC’s Upper West Side connected by their cellars. His collection of Mediterranean curiosities and gems at Boulud Sud is among the best in New York. Joshua Greene spoke with him about how Santorini has become his best-selling wine by the glass, and the importance of holding a few bottles back.
Santorini is not the least expensive wine on our list, though it is fairly inexpensive. This year, it drove the most sales by the glass, overall—the Atlantis from Argyros. It has something to do with the cuisine and with the perception of Santorini as a beautiful Garden of Eden—a place a lot of Upper Westsiders have been to. I don’t think they know about the wine. It’s like, “Wow, I’m intrigued, I’ve heard of these wines, I’ve been there.” They try it and then they order it again. Everyone is taking pictures of the bottle with their phone to get it later. You’d think the Upper West Side would be more conservative, more about Pouilly-Fuissé or Sancerre by the glass, but Santorini can hang.
What’s nice is that guests come in here with an open mind because they don’t know Mediterranean wines much. We do have white Burgundy on the list, but the list of Mediterranean wines is deep. A lot of guests say, “here’s what I want to spend, let me put myself in your hands”—they’re discovering something new. The Mediterranean basin is huge and the wines get no love at all. Nobody talks about them. I mean the wines from Provence, Languedoc and Roussillon, Corsica, Sicily, Lebanon, Morocco, the Canary Islands—all of those wines.
There are some wines I don’t put on the list—I may have one bottle of something and I want to make sure the wine goes to the right place. I think as a somm you need to do that. So when I talk to a table, or if a friend comes in, or a sommelier from Sweden, it’s great to have some rubies to pull out. Like Overnoy, for example: I don’t put it on the list. A bunch of Kermit [Lynch’s] winemakers came in—Daniel Ravier from Tempier in Provence, Denis Jamain from Domaine de Reuilly in the Loire, and Jean-Marc Ravaille from Ermitage du Pic-St-Loup in the Languedoc. I opened a savagnin from Ganevat and another from Overnoy—amazing how it sparked conversation—it was just so cool, the buzz coming off the table. They had totally opposing opinions. That’s what great wine does: It creates conversation.