Sarah Clarke of Los Angeles’ Republique on the Pairing Capabilities of Champagne and Burgundy - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Sarah Clarke of Los Angeles’ Republique
on the Pairing Capabilities of
Champagne and Burgundy

Sarah Clarke joined Manzke Hospitality in August of 2021, directing the wine programs at the group’s trio of Los Angeles restaurants, Manzke, Bicyclette and Republique. She fondly remembers her first experience with wine, eating and drinking in France with her dad on business trips.  But a career in wine wasn’t always her plan. After graduating with a business degree from Central Michigan University, she attended The Culinary Institute of America in New York. “When you get back from your externship, you start on the wine program,” Clarke said. “Once I started taking that, I realized, ‘This is it. This is absolutely what I want to do.’ And I haven’t looked back.” —Alissa Bica

Sarah Clarke

What are the wine regions that spark your interest most right now?

Well, Champagne is my favorite. But of course, that’s the easy answer. I started enjoying it for a silly reason; when I would eat with my dad in a bistro in Paris, I would order a glass of Champagne and it would have a little strawberry on top. I felt so elegant. But why does it speak to so many people? Well, it’s refreshing. It goes with everything. I think there is so much more Champagne out there than people realize. They save it for celebrations, and they don’t realize how useful it is with so many different foods—and foods that everybody loves. Fried food and Champagne is amazing.

If I would name something that’s a little more off the beaten path, I love the Alto Piemonte wines—Lessona, Gattinara and Boca—because you get such great wine for your money there. And not just that, but nebbiolo is so good when it has a little bit of age. This affords you the possibility of getting to do that without a high price tag.

Do you have any favorites from these regions on your lists right now?

We have quite an extensive Champagne list so it’s hard to pick just one. I’ll go for two. (laughs) I would say my overall favorite is Brigitte Fallon. She makes a Blanc de Blancs Champagne with a lot of lees aging. Her husband [Michel Fallon] used to work at Selosse for twenty years, and then started this project in the cellars. But it’s a more elegant style than Selosse. I tried that recently with the somms and we were all blown away. I thought it was excellent. One that I really liked but is more unusual is Guillaume Sergent. He’s a tiny producer—he has about a hectare and a half; his plot is in Vrigny right next to Egly-Ouriet, and he makes a wine called Pataphysique. It’s an outstanding Champagne, 100 percent pinot muenier. It is delicious, so complex and interesting and definitely a great Champagne to have with food.

My absolute favorite [of our Italian wine] is Soldera Brunello but that’s quite a rare, expensive Brunello. That’s kind of a dream wine. One that we have that’s more accessible from Alta Langa is Ettore Germano. He recently took over the vineyards for another famous producer, Roagna, and he has a plot called Vigna Rionda—a vineyard that gives wines with depth, power and elegance. Silvio Germano took over Roagna’s plot. We have two of those wines, the 2017 he’s classified as Barolo and his first vintage, 2014, which he declassified—I think partly because it was his first year making it and partly because it was a challenging year.

What other categories do you focus on at your restaurants?

At Republique, definitely Burgundy, both white and red. The food just lends itself to Burgundy. We have a lot of beautiful fish dishes. We have a Dover Sole that we fillet table side and is exceptional with white Burgundy. We also serve duck and quail and things that are excellent with red Burgundy. It’s tough because so many are allocated; we get three or six bottles at a time.  But one that’s really popular is the Bruno Clair Marsannay—they also make an excellent Gevrey-Chambertin. We have a nice collection from Côte de Beaune because I love Volnay. D’Angerville Volnay does well, also Lafarge.

Burgundy carries over at Manzke but, there, we also do more German and Austrian wines. There are some Asian elements the food there and they pair well with German and Austrian wine, which I love and Chef Walter loves. Knoll and Alzinger do well. We sell both the riesling and grüner veltiner, but we probably sell more riesling.  We also sell German riesling—Diel [from Nahe] and, my personal favorite, Von Winning from Pfalz. I feel like they’re almost a Burgundian riesling producer. But I wish people bought more riesling. What you get for your dollar is amazing. White Burgundy is very expensive and not getting any cheaper. I think people have a little bit of the wrong concept about riesling, and Germanic wines in general, in that they’re cloyingly sweet. They’re really expressive, dynamic wines that can go with a lot of different things.

Are there any categories of wine you would like to increase this coming year?

I love chilled reds. When I worked at Osteria Mozza about six years ago or so, I did a chilled red lunch, and nobody showed up. People thought I was crazy. And now, people love it! I think that people like it on both sides. It gets red drinkers to try something new—maybe they don’t want to go with big, rich reds in the middle of the summer—and I also think it’s something that people who drink mostly white can lean into. I love Les Aricoques Gamay from Savoie.

Are chilled reds taking the place of rosé?

Hmm. That’s interesting. You know, we actually don’t sell a lot of rosé. Yeah, I think that’s fair.

What other categories impact wine sales?

In January, the non-alcoholic beverage program did really well. Shawn Lickliter has a beautiful non-alcoholic pairing for the tasting menu at Manzke, but he has non-alcoholic cocktails at Bicyclette and Republique as well. Some are just lime, mint and ice, that kind. But then he’ll also do drinks that mirror a drink of the same that has alcohol, like a Negroni. That is definitely a strong category right now. No question. In the winter, it kind of goes more towards wine and, in the summer, it goes a little more towards cocktails.

To read more about Shawn Lickliter’s non-alcoholic pairing and the original cocktail recipes you can make at home, read our article Booze Without the Buzz from our Winter 2023 issue.

Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Associate Editor and Spirits Critic at Wine & Spirits. She is also a sommelier at 71 Above and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.

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