Top Wine Varietals at Smith & Wollensky

CorkRules | Mar 07, 2023

Certified sommelier Maria Valetta explores the wine list of Smith and Wollensky on the upper east side of New York City. Top wine varietals under the spotlight include a 2020 Louis Jadot Macon Village, the PAX 2019 Gamay, the 2018 Aperture Cabernet from Sonoma showcased on their Captain’s Pocket List Page or the 2018 Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet from Napa.

When it comes to defining wine, you can categorize them by region, varietal, or style, but to really get to grips with understanding the world of wine, it makes sense to go to the source. The grape.

The type of grape is known as the varietal, and whereas once upon a time the varietals were specific to a region, in contemporary vineyards, varietals are planted, crossbred, and potentially, genetically modified. Additionally, the flavors, skins, and chemical compounds of each varietal will change depending on the terroir, temperature, and weather.

There are over a thousand different varietals of wine grapes but the following eight are the most commonly known grape household names. chardonnay, sauvignon blanc,  pinot gris, and riesling, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel, and pinot noir.

However, beyond these eight common varietals there exists a large and adventurous world of wine varietals to explore, each with its own unique characteristics based on environment, age, and production method.

At Smith & Wollensky, prime, dry-aged steaks are the cornerstone of their menu, but if fish, lobster or oysters are on your mind, you won’t be disappointed with the Cold Water Lobster Tails or the Scottish Salmon Waldorf. Pair the salmon with the Benton Lane Pinot Noir from the

Willamette Valley to experience how a light tannin red works well with the meaty fish. Pinot noir is a lighter-bodied wine with notes of cherry, cranberry, and rose. It’s drier and has a higher acidity with smooth tannins. The higher acidity and tannins pairs well with oily, meaty fish dishes. The tannins help bring out flavor that is carried in the fat, and in symbiosis, the fat tempers the tannins’ astringency, which allows the other characteristics in the wine to rise on the palate.

And with the Lobster,  try a bottle of the Louis Jadot, Macon-Villages Chardonnay

Burgundy, and see how the chardonnay’s notes of yellow citrus, pear, green apple pairs well with the rich seafood. Chardonnay is a full-bodied white that won’t be overpowered by the richness of the lobster. When pairing wine with food, just like every good match, it’s all about bringing out the best in each other.

On CorkRules podcast episode five, Maria identifies a few value wines on the list that should not be missed, she points out a few outliers that are well worth trying, and she shines a light on the meaning of verticals to help demystify the world of wine.


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