Riedel welcomes Todd Lipman to the Sommelier of the Month program. Todd has served as Head Sommelier at Boston’s Bistro du Midi since 2011. During this time, he has been recognized as ‘Boston’s Best Sommelier’ three times, in 2011 and 2015 (Improper Bostonian) as well as in 2014 (Boston Magazine) and his wine program has been dubbed “…one of the City’s most formidable” (Bon Appetite Magazine - 2011). Additionally, he currently serves as Wine Director for both the Nantucket Wine Festival (Nantucket, MA) and the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival (Newport, RI).
Food and Wine? Favorite combos? What do you find to be the hardest/easiest to match up?
At Bistro du Midi, Grolleau Rouge (Clau de Nell) paired with Roasted Monkfish and Sauce Bordelaise. It's a gorgeous combination.
Easiest pairing/hardest pairing?
I always yield to a style of wine that the guest is looking for unless they tell me they trust me entirely or care for my opinion. Some guests have no interest in food and wine compatibility. They simply like to drink what they like to drink, no matter what they are eating and that's okay. My only interest is to make them happy. When they are dead set on a style I always do my best to steer them in the 'right' direction without making the selection about my personal tastes or pairing predilections. When the opportunity presents itself to exercise my tastes and/or experience, I never hesitate to do so confidently and courteously.
Your restaurant - What is your must eat dish on the menu and which wine do you recommend with it?
Our Chicken for Two is a total knockout! It is roasted whole in our brick oven, continuously being basted and cared for. The chickens are brined for two days and then stuffed with ricotta, lemon and herbs under the skin. Depending on the time of year, it is either served with roasted fingerlings or a vegetable cocotte, a melange of sauteed vegetables. It's simultaneously rich but not heavy as well as somewhat rustic with an undeniable elegance...a wonderful achievement by our kitchen team. While red Burgundy is certainly an extremely complimentary pairing, I prefer to offer a white Rhone with some weight, a few years in the bottle and a delicate kiss of oak like 2009 JL Chave Selection 'Blanche' Hermitage Blanc.
Any tips that you have for decanter newbies?
To accomplish the purpose of decanting, that being to oxygenate wine quickly for any number of reasons, any vessel large enough to hold the contents of the bottle will do. However, in a professional dining setting the ritual can only be enhanced by incorporating a beautifully crafted decanter. After all, there was a lot of attention paid to every step in the production of the wine, in the appropriate setting, service should be equally as detailed and polished. In terms of a tip, if you know from experience that the specific wine you are decanting is devoid of any sediment and not particularly delicate in nature, invert the bottle completely and allow the combined physics of gravity and bottle shape to help in the process. A glug, glug, glug into a decanter is even better, given it meets the above-mentioned parameters.
Can you recommend one red and one white that you find to be crowd pleasers. Suggestions?
With a larger crowd, it is unlikely EVERYONE will enjoy a particular wine in the same manner. For Reds, Pinot Noir is generally 'friendly' to a broad array of palates. New world Pinot Noir, for it's (generally) richer, possibly more oak-integrated character tends to be received more positively than old world Pinot which has a higher risk of its pronounced acidity not agreeing with the majority.
For whites, I've found there is a greater division amongst the masses. There are those who prefer rich, barrel fermented butter-bombs and those that prefer a more streamlined, cleaner, more mineral wine that speaks more of place and nature than of elective winemaking. Of course there are myriad other styles in between. For a larger crowd, I'd shoot right down the middle with Chassagne-Montrachet or Viura-based white Rioja. For a more affordable white, Hecht & Bannier's Languedoc Blanc is a very special blend of Picpoul, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne that seems to make most mouths happy.
In your opinion, how do Riedel glasses enhance the wine drinking experience?
I use Riedel stem-ware in our restaurant, as do each of our company's establishments in the US. Not only do they feel and look elegant, as well have a good balance of weight distribution, but the unique, varietally specific options truly enhance a wine's enjoyment when drinking. The right wine and glass combination is truly a match made in heaven.
Any big trends that you have been noticing in the wine industry?
Consumers are getting more savvy, though many are still over-interested in scores and swayed by what someone they never met has (indirectly) told them they should or even worse, should not drink. Generally speaking however, people are increasingly willing to expand their horizons and try something new. Over the past 9 months to a year, wallets are tightening little by little, but there is plenty of great wine out there that doesn't rival your mortgage in cost. Additionally, the world over, high-quality, affordable wine is on the rise.