WHAT TO PICK?
In our ongoing series on how to select wine from a wine menu in a restaurant, here’s the sumptuous wine list from El Five in Denver. I wrote about the ambiance, the Spanish-styled food menu, and my gin and tonic here.
Please realize, I’m less interested in evaluating the menu than I am in detailing how I pick what I pick.
WINES BY THE GLASS
The first thing I notice on this part of the wine menu? What an interesting and innovative wine list meant to pair with this food.
WHITE WINE BY THE GLASS
Yes, there’s a Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend, but it’s from Israel. If I want to know whether that one is oaked, I’ll need to ask, and hope that the server knows the wine list well.
Jumping out at me is the Chateau Musar white, a wine I have never before seen on a restaurant menu. I’m sorely tempted—it’s an outstanding food wine, and the Musar red is our favorite red wine in the world. Any of the Portuguese or Spanish whites will sing with this food. For the price, I like the Verdejo best. It’s likely to be crisp and clean.
ROSÉ BY THE GLASS
A Côtes de Provence rosé is as reliable as it gets. I don’t know the brand but I would need to want rosé badly at this price.
RED WINE BY THE GLASS
Wonderful selections here as well. The prices look good. The wine that stands out as a curiosity is the Pinot Noir from Macedonia, something I have never before seen. The French blend is probably the biggest wine, for those with palates seeking jammier profiles. With this food I would probably choose from the two Tempranillos. You tend to get more value for Spanish wine, particularly if it’s not from Rioja or Priorat. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
SPARKLING WINE BY THE GLASS
Three different Spanish sparklies? Yes please! These will be better for the price than their French counterparts. Cava is made using the methode de champenoise, so I’m going there if I want bubbly.
I don’t even know where to start with this. It is perhaps the most comprehensive Mediterranean white wine list in terms of geography I have ever seen. Sicilian, Corsican, AND Sardinian whites? Two Greek Assyrtikos? Israeli and Moroccan whites, incluing a Gewürztraminer blend??? My head is spinning. Based solely on my own palate and on price, I’m leaning toward the Moschofilero, which I’ve had before (it’s wonderful), and a classic Spanish Albariño.
If I had a ton of money, I’d order anything on this list. It would be wise, of course, to have some knowledge of the label and why it’s known to be excellent, before dropping hundreds of dollars on a bottle.
A Gran Reserva Tempranillo at this price point should be mind-blowing. Same with the Garnachas from Priorat, although if the reason that’s spelled “Grenache” is because the winemaker is French, I’m reading that as more than a little arrogant. The wine may be outstanding, but I’ll not support the Franco-fication of Spanish wine.
WHITE WINE BOTTLES
What an astounding list; one of the best I’ve seen. TWO Greek Assyrtikos from the home of Assyrtiko, Santorini; Moschofilero, a gorgeous Greek white, especially at that price; high-end Albariño and Godello from Spain. In keeping with the cuisine, I would try the Garnacha Blanca-Albariño blend, or if I was feeling adventurous, I’d snag the Basque wine.
RED WINE BOTTLES
How to choose? Well, first of all, if you haven’t ever tried a Chateau Musar from Lebanon, there it is. One of the impressive things about this wine list is that even the French grapes like Cabernet are grown and bottled in the Mediterranean basin, in keeping with the menu. You really can’t go wrong. The Riojas are spendy but trust me they’re amazing. If you’re price conscious, the Alicante Monastrell or the Valencia Tempranillo will prove great values. If you’re feeling adventurous, again, try the Basque wine.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of an outstanding wine menu. I wish more were like it, not only in terms of selection and price, but in terms of harmony with the food menu.
To see my tour of the restaurant itself, go here.