Vanessa Rea was working as a bar manager in New York City when she became interested in wine. After completing the International Culinary Center’s sommelier training program, she worked at Untitled at the Whitney Museum. She returned home to Boston in 2018 and took over the wine program at the all-day American Brasserie Eastern Standard. Her work there earned her a spot among the W&S 2019 Best New Sommeliers.
Your bottle sales trend heavily to red, but the by-the-glass list is pretty heavily white/sparkling in comparison. Why do you think that is?
A lot of folks like to have one glass and then scoot on their way, especially for lunch and brunch. At dinnertime, folks will often start with a glass of bubbles or maybe a glass of dry white and then go into their bottle of red. It seems like folks are starting with a glass of something small then moving into something a little bit bigger. There was much more sparkling being served in 2019 as opposed to the year before. Our guests are asking for it more and more, they’re coming in for more celebrations, and they’re also just wanting to start there and move through to different kinds of wine throughout their meals.
[Filling out the poll] was definitely a great lesson in looking at numbers and percentages, which I have to admit I don’t quite look at it as much as I would probably like to. It was interesting to see how dynamic the by-the-bottle program looks versus the by-the-glass program. You have more of the classics on the by-the-glass list while, by the bottle, folks are branching out a little bit more.
Both a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (La Grange Tiphaine Trinqu’ames) and a Sancerre (Thomas-Labaille Les Monts Damnés) made it to the Top Ten list.
During the warmer months, we have a really beautiful patio that faces Commonwealth Avenue. I feel like that’s where we get almost all of our sauvignon blanc sales. Folks like to sit down out there, have their oysters, get into a bottle and just hang out. We just introduced the Grange Tiphaine Trinqu’ames on the menu. Just a delicious wine of place, really bright, energetic, for me it’s on the cleaner side of things, and we really believe in that producer—Damien and Coralie Delecheneau. It’s $55 on the bottle list, so pretty generous there. For Sancerre, it’s hard to go wrong with any, but the Labaille is one of our favorites. Slightly higher price point at $68, but for the folks that want something that’s familiar, delicious, and not going to break the bank that’s the go-to.
Is there a bottle that almost made your Top Ten that you were sad to see miss the cut?
I’m a huge fan of German riesling. I’ve been blessed with an amazing cellar full of it and I’ve bought quite a bit of it myself so I’m really trying to push riesling. One wine that was so close to making it but didn’t quite get there was from Eva Fricke, the Mellifluous Elements Riesling from Rheingau. Just delicious, it’s super clean, so bright, almost crispy in texture, one of my favorite wines to pair with the kind of cuisine that we serve here.
Have you noted any other trends in the last year?
We always try to lean at least sustainable if not organic or biodynamic, not only for accessibility but for wines of place that represent purity of fruit, really thoughtful techniques, but also provide value for the guest. I saw a little bit more of the organic or biodynamic wine trend in New York, but folks are starting to catch up to it here in Boston. It’s kind of neat that people are really interested in knowing what they are putting into their body.