“It was October 24—my birthday—and Paul Downing, who was the GM at Eleven Madison Park, gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to start an empire; want to join us?’” Daniel Beedle recalls. Manish Mehrotra, a star chef in India, was opening his first venture in the US, and in need of a crack sommelier. Beedle, who’d put in time at Betony, The NoMad and Juni, jumped at the chance, opening the restaurant in winter 2016. His list ranges the world, name-checking top regions and vintners while prioritizing wines with soothing textures and umami tones (think riesling, chenin blanc and old Emilio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo). Now in charge of wine for the entire restaurant group, he divides his time between NY, London and India, where he’s working on opening a new concept in Gurgaon.
photo by Chris Pernello
To what do you attribute the rise in wine sales?
I sold more wine at NoMad than anywhere else in my career, but that was because they had that cool factor. We have it because people want to try great Indian food with wine. We serve a mixed demographic from all over the world, but we also have a lot of Indian clientele: They know the cuisine, and here they can try it with all the wines they know from elsewhere. Last night, a table ordered an 1986 Raveneau. They know what they like and were excited to try it with Indian food. Our guests are open to everything—wines like the Economou from Crete, which is kind of expensive, but it’s a back vintage and goes so well with the food that they come back and ask for it again. Some people even call ahead and they’ll pre-buy it.
The Copain syrah is your top-selling wine.
It’s a perfect structure with Indian food: When you’re talking about Indian food, you’re talking about not only flavor, but structure: does the alcohol balance; is there enough fruit? There are a lot of tannins in the food: spices are dried, maybe even dried a year. Also, people assume syrah goes well with Indian food. Copain is lush, with great fruit; it almost works like a chutney. It satiates those looking for darker, fruitier reds but the acidity is fresh, the tannins are calm and it’s at a great price point [$100].
Does syrah outsell pinot?
The thing is, we have so much pinot I can’t site any one bottle going higher than the Copain—but we don’t have that much syrah. I’d guess that thirty percent of our red sales are pinot. People don’t like the price point of Burgundy; if you’re going to spend the money on a Burgundy, you’re going for a name, which we don’t really do—we have smaller producers—or you’re going for vintage. When you go to California…the NY crowd thinks [California pinot] is really big, extracted pinot, and this is not a Marcassin crowd. They see Oregon pinot and think it’s perfect mix—classic Old World flavor with a little more modern body and fruit. And it’s at a great price point. The Teutonic Madder Lake is pale, light with delicate cherry cinnamon flavor; the Ken Wright is dark, inky black, cola notes; they enjoy playing with that accuracy in the $80 to $100 range.
It’s easy to sell chardonnay in Manhattan. In NY, people are looking for leaner Burgundy; there was a phase of people looking for the sort of Arnot-Roberts, Dominique Lafon, juicy Corton styles; then they went towards delicate, leaner styles, leaner minerality. For the price point, Ganevat delivers what they want. The terroir in Jura is so similar to Burgundy, but the price point allows you to be more playful, expressive. And honestly, chardonnay that’s heavily oaked just doesn’t go with our food; oak plays weirdly with spices. When we sell it, it’s with this dish that has this Kerala moilee: This sauce is coconut, creamy—it kills with chardonnay that’s really oaky.
The R. López de Heredia Umami Phenomenon
We have a lot of savory, umami characteristics in the food, and [R. López de Heredia 2007 Rioja Viña Gravonia] has good acidity but richness to it as well; put it together with that light oxidative characteristic and it’s umamimania. Also, New Yorkers recognize [the wine]—we get those elite New York foodies who go to Momofufu Ssäm Bar and get their nightly drink at Death & Co. In New York, López de Heredia is an institution, an old trick—my wine buddies, they know it. I can go someplace I don’t know well and, if I see that on the list, I know I’m going to be happy. It’s always great value, and because it has some age, it is a discovery for a lot of people. We do well with the Remelluri as well—a more polished Rioja.
Every somm loves Madeira; we just have an excuse to sell it. Pork belly, curry sauce and fennel kills with 1992 Barbeito Sercial—that’s one of best pairings I’ve ever done. Every table here starts off with a blue-cheese naan and pumpkin soup—when you think of blue cheese, what are you going to pair with it? Madeira. Pumpkin soup? Madeira. I do a rainwater Madeira for every table. And people come back and say, “Let’s try a new one.” Also, a lot of our beverages and cocktails are about old shipping and trade routes; that’s what our menu’s about too. Madeira is our swan song, the last thing we talk about. We go through cases of it.