Wine list insider: Bar Boulud

bar boulud
We all want to order wine like a pro at a restaurant. But apparently ordering wine off a wine list is an extremely pressure-filled situation for many people, ranking right up there with fear of public speaking and fear of grizzly bears. So with a new, recurring feature on this site, we aim to help you order wine like with aplomb and find an excellent deal.

Although regular wine markup in restaurants is 300 percent of the wholesale cost, many wine lists have hidden deals. There are any number of reasons why they exist: Perhaps the sommelier has a soft spot for an unheralded grape and slips it on the list with a low markup or maybe there is a closeout item and the restaurant passes on the savings.

Today’s such gem comes from Bar Boulud. To accompany the restaurant’s extensive charcuterie menu, wine director Michael Madrigale runs an innovative program that focuses largely on wines from the Rhone and Burgundy. One of the exciting things he does is feature a different large format bottle, often a rare mature wine, open it and pour it by the glass. (Follow on Twitter to see which wines are being poured.)

But one deal that he doesn’t telegraph is what he calls “the nugget.” On the wine list at any given moment is a wine that Madrigale puts on for the wholesale cost (that is to say, even below retail). He doesn’t highlight the item and it’s often an obscure, wine geek’s wine and his stock can be quickly depleted. Diners have to spot the wine on the list as being an outrageous value, and then order it and accept it. At that point Madrigale lets them know the value they have uncorked. “Usually, they are quite happy about their choice,” he says. Previous such wines have included Chapoutier’s ’04 Cornas “Les Arenes” for $55 and the Chateau Grillet 2004.

So order wine like an insider when next at Bar Boulud. The current nugget is…Eric Texier, 2000 Hermitage rouge for $69.

Bar Boulud
1900 Broadway (between 63rd & 64th) New York, NY 10023
(212) 595-0303

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15 Responses to “Wine list insider: Bar Boulud”


  1. I think the large format by the glass and nugget are great ideas.


  2. Some great ideas –Bar Boulud adding the excitement of a treasure hunt to their wine list, and the good Doctor giving us insiders the secret pirate’s map to the treasure. I hope this combined effort expands.

    I enjoy searching restaurant wine lists for the best “deal”, but it’s both frustrating and intimidating when you’re on the spot (especially when you’re with other diners). That’s why I appreciate restaurants posting their wine list on their web sites to pre-peruse.

    A few weeks ago at Gary Danko in SF, I was overjoyed to find Bernard Baudry Chinon listed at only double the retail price. A screaming value at retail (see Eric Asimov’s column this week) it was the LOWEST PRICED wine on their list. I jumped on it and it was delicious! I was one happy bargain-hunter.


  3. Terrific writeup and a great idea for a by-the-glass program. The wine program we just took over is in El Paso, TX. We are pricing our bottles at retail, and when the wines are consumed on premise we only add the corkage fee. The by-the-glass program is still in the works, but we love what Bar Boulud is doing. Thank you for sharing!

    Zak and Olena


  4. Doc,
    Amazing- I did not know the btg special was posted on twitter- good on my that I can walk there after work!!! I’ll be in soon for some of those!
    B.


  5. These guys are killing it, great write up. Madrigale gave some awesome insight on Twitter from this past week at the Burgundy hoe-down, #LaPaulee


  6. Excellent post that offers yet another reason to frequent Bar Boulud! Bar Boulud has one of our favorite wine lists in the city, as they offer a wide range of excellent wines at a variety of price levels. Thanks for the tip…we will make a trip there this week!


  7. Very cool. I’ll guess that you can’t simply ask him which one it is lol.

    Impressive marketing ideas there for any restaurant. I wonder if that is something they could advertise on some level, although with the use on internet on phones their stock might be depleted immediately.


  8. I am currently working at a restaurant that does something unlike any other place I’ve worked: it is a full-on retail wine shop AND cafe/restaurant, where our exec. chef is CIA-trained and very good, with an avid following here in town. All of the 300+ wines in the retail store can be purchased with dinner, and with no corkage fee. So, you can order an amazing meal, and get a kick-ass bottle of wine to go with, without the usual exhorbitant restaurant mark-up. Oh how the folks love it! :)


  9. Had the 2007 Copain Syrah there the other night. Fantastic wine. $50-$60 I think.


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