French, Italian and domestic wines are still the A-listers of the U.S. restaurant scene. The fancy places with award-winning wine menus are headlined by verticals of grand cru Burgundies, super Tuscans and consultant-crafted Cabernets.
Sure, burgeoning demand and good business sense may mean an occasional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec may squeak onto a list. Maybe there’s a vintage of Almaviva, placed by virtue of its connection to Château Mouton Rothschild. Or a trophy stash of Penfolds Grange. But for the most part, good selections of Southern Hemisphere wines are few and far between.
At New York City’s The Musket Room, at least diners can find a bountiful, well-chosen selection of New Zealand wines. Matt Lambert, the chef and owner, is a New Zealander by birth, and the entire beverage list—put together by Cameron Douglas, MS and served by Sommelier Dane Campbell—reflects his heritage. New Zealand wines dominate the list from sparklers to stickies, and even Kiwi beers figure prominently.
Just down Elizabeth Street, Public (pictured) takes a slightly broader view of the wine world, but the focus remains on Australasia. Beverage Director Jesse Webster’s list includes gems like aged Grosset Riesling and Dry River Pinot Noir, but also bottles from up-and-coming producers, like Jamsheed and Luke Lambert.
More firmly Australian and more concise are the lists at Burke & Wills and Flinders Lane, both also in New York City. They still have much to offer, from Dexter Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay at B&W to Bindi Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir at Flinders.
New York City is also home to most of the top South African wine lists in the U.S. Xai Xai and Braai, under the same ownership on a block of West 51st Street, have wide-ranging selections. Madiba in Brooklyn (and the new Madiba Harlem) have smaller, well-selected lists. But the granddaddy of all South African lists is the selection at Jiko, located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando.
For South American bottlings, Buenos Aires Restaurant in New York City boasts a wide array of Argentine wines. Owner Ismael Alba is originally from his restaurant’s namesake, and his wine list reflects that. Columbia Restaurant, with seven locations in Florida, claims to be the oldest restaurant in the state. Much of the list is Spanish, but it still includes a healthy dose of Chilean and Argentine wines.
Although the absolute best way to experience these wines is in their countries of origin, next time your schedule doesn’t permit a quick trip to the other side of the globe, now you know where to go.
A New Look at The Modern
Master Sommelier Michaël Engelmann is the Alsace-born wine director at The Modern, one of New York City’s bastions of American-French cuisine. Since joining the restaurant in July 2014, he’s expanded the number of Australian red wines on his list from four to 60 and consistently promotes Southern Hemisphere wines by the glass. “I learned a ton about Australian wine while at Rockpool [in Sydney],” he says. “And the reception here has been great, from the staff and from the customers.”