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On Monday, October 21, as part of the Regional Series at SevenFifty House in New York City, 10 producers and négociants poured wines from some of Bordeaux’s most renowned appellations for on- and off-premise buyers. The theme of the intimate walk-around tasting was the Origins of Bordeaux, and the wines selected for the event highlighted four appellations—Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, and Barsac—that helped establish Bordeaux’s reputation as the wine capital of the world.
Buyers had the opportunity to taste a diverse selection of wines, including the most recent three vintages of dry whites from Graves and vintages 2014 through 2018 of dry whites from Pessac-Léognan, as well as reds from 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 from both appellations. Eight Sauternes—including one from 2009 and a single-varietal Sémillon from 2018—were also on offer. The wines were complemented by small bites from Coco Catering by Compagnie, including a farro and beet salad, artisanal bread, a cheese plate, Iberico paleta and melon, and boquerones with a gremolata featuring toasted hazelnuts.
Carolyn Downs, from the newly opened Turning Point Coffee Roasters café and wine bar in Stamford, Connecticut, arrived at the event looking for options that aren’t highly represented in her market. “People love things they recognize, and they order a lot of it,” said Downs after she tasted through the Sauternes, some of which are represented on the wine bar’s current list. Her goal was to begin identifying additional regions and wines that might help further develop the list in the future.
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Rainel Gomez, of Transit Wine and Spirits in New York’s Penn Station, explained that he attended the event with a mind to help shake things up in his shop. With the August closure of Penn Station’s other wine shop, Penn Wine & Spirits, Transit is the remaining outpost for wine-loving commuters. Gomez was looking for the kinds of wines that could help elevate the shop’s current holdings. Nosing a dry white from Graves, he emphasized that “the customers are there.”
Jessica Phalin, the beverage manager for Aqua Grill, a seafood-focused restaurant in SoHo, came looking for a Sauvignon Blanc but ended up tasting through a sampling of several Sauvignon Blanc–Sémillon blends. “It feels like it was a good mix of winemaking styles and vintages,” she said. “Some even have the barnyard—that brett—that I love. I’m from Wisconsin. It’s like home.” Phalin also took time to explore the Sauternes selection. One already holds a spot on her list, she said, and added that she’s been working on teaching staff how to hand-sell it.
It was the Sauternes that drew Nina Granados, a sommelier at Vanguard Wine Bar, to the tasting event. “I love Sauternes,” she said. “I’ve never tasted one and said no.” What Granados especially liked about the event was having the chance to interact with producers and learn about the particular Sauternes, as well as the dry wines, they were pouring. With this experience, she said, “you’re getting more of a sense of place.”
The notion of place was a significant takeaway for John Pragalz, the manager of the restaurants Leonelli Taberna and Benno at The Evelyn Hotel. “I came to learn,” he said, “and to talk to the producers and hear about the decisions they made both stylistically and for the vintage.” Pragalz explained that the Origins of Bordeaux tasting was an opportunity for him to seek that sense of place, which he found—first in a white Cru Classé de Graves, then in a 100 percent Sémillon Sauternes that he said had managed to hold on to an austere minerality, even in its opulent botrytized state.