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Babbo wine list is too overwhelming...

I'm a very new wine drinker and I'm slightly, okay VERY intimidated by the extensive wine list at Babbo. I know that they have wonderful Sommeliers, but I would like to come in somewhat prepared. To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, we are planning to spend about $200 on 2 bottles (either 2 reds, or 1 red and 1 white). I had a red wine at Esca a few weeks ago that I loved. It was the Nieddera Contini, but I can't remember the year (2002, I think?). I can't find it on Babbo's wine list, but I would love something similar. I don't even know how to describe it (as I said, I'm very green), but I'd love to become more knowledgeable about wine. Please help!

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  1. That is what the the wonderful sommeliers are there for. They don't discriminate and can go on very basic descriptions of what you like as long as you give them a price.

    You may just want to surrender completely and let them do pairings for you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: harrison

      The one time my wife and I dined there, we opted for wine pairings and upgraded to the 'reserve' pairings to go with the pasta tasting menu (and then some) dinner we chose. We were not disappointed at all. We drank some really good stuff.


    2. Telling the sommelier what you've had and enjoyed is the best approach.

      Nieddera's also known as bovale. If you like that, you'd probably like monica and refosco. More generally, you might want to try reds from Sardinia, Sicily, Val d'Aosta, or Alto Adige, which tend to be softer and more delicate than the Tuscan and Piemontese wines that dominate Babbo's list.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Contini also makes a fine nieddra rosato, too. Thee are a number of Italian reds that
        fit that general style description--a Frappato from Sicily (try Valle d'Acate); a Ciro from Calabria, from Librandi; from Piedmont, a Ruche, Bonarda, or, a little more exotically, a Grignolino. There's nothing wrong with a recent vintage Bardolino from the Veneto, either. Or a mixed-varietal Gutturnio or Terre di Franciacorta form Lombardia. Enjoy.

        1. re: obob96

          Excellent recommendations, except CirĂ² is sometimes hard and tarry.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            On Ciro: the standard bottlings are lighter, fresher, with more fruit and cleaner than ever. The riservas, like Librandi's Duca San Felice, can be hard and tarry.

            1. re: obob96

              Just got that at a restaurant where I work...wow.

              There are some people that like that sort of thing, but not for me.

          2. re: obob96

            Thank you both for your wonderful recommendations! Soft and delicate seems to describe what I like perfectly. My father is an avid wine drinker (he was actually chair of the NABCA, so I have a lot to live up to!) but he tends to prefer dry merlots which never suited my taste. I definitely lean towards wines that are slightly fruity, or at least lighter.

            1. re: obob96

              The OP was going to spend $100 per bottle on wine. I just bought a Ciro and a Bonarda recommended to me at the Wine Expo in Santa Monica for $15 each. How much does Babbo mark up their wine?

              1. re: BN1

                I don't thik anyone is suggesting that the Bonarda or the Ciro will cost $100. I think the comments came from suggesting that there are wines that will be more to the OP's tastes than the wines that are on Babbo's list. And remember, there is a big difference between the cheaper standard bottlings and the more expensive reservas. It is like saying that I just bought an Antinori for $15 when you are talking about the Santa Cristina and everyone else is thinking the Tignanello. (not that there is an expensive Ciro or Bonarda) Babbo's mark up is fairly high, though not for NYC and the list is excellent.

                The main thing that the OP needs to remember is to tell the sommelier what they have enjoyed in the past, what kinds of wines they are looking for and what they are ordering to eat, and how much they want to pay.

          3. You definitely don't need to spend $200 on two bottles -- if you do, you're going to end up with wines that might be way beyond what you can appreciate at this stage. Aim for a $50-$60 wine, and ask for some recommendations AFTER you pick out what you're going to eat. Honestly, you should never, ever, feel compelled to spend that much on wine, unless there's a very special wine that you want to try.

            I would definitely recommend finding a wine bar and/or try some wine tasting classes. Once you have some wines that you like, find a wine merchant who can work with you.

            2 Replies
            1. re: brendastarlet

              True that. I'd even suggest "baring your soul" to the sommelier and letting him/her know that while you appreciate food, you're asea when it comes to wine. Just surrender and tell yourself you're going to enjoy whatever they come up with... maybe it's three bottles averaging $40 or maybe it's five $15 glasses during the meail.

              One thing I would caution the OP on as a "new" wine drinker - don't spend more than $30 on ANY white wine until you have a better idea what you like - as suggested earlier go to a tasting or two with a good wine merchant and have your tastes mapped. You can go higher on reds.- sometimes it takes $50-$60 to get a bottle that fits perfectly with dinner.

              1. re: Panini Guy

                I can't think of a dish where I'd have to spend more than $20 to get a wine that would pair well. There are wines I like that cost more, but I buy them for their own sake.

            2. The Babbo winelist is very intimidating, especially for someone like me who's not as familiar with Italians as I'd like to be, but the Babbo sommeliers are sure surely not. I had my first dinner there earlier this summer, and the sommelier, whose name I should have remembered, was extremely friendly, helpful, and made our meals much better.

              While it would be better to go in somewhat prepared, that's by no means a necessity. I would simply provide him/her with as much information as you can: price range, taste preferences, what you've liked and disliked in the past, your appetizer and entree selections, etc. With a list that large, she will be able to find a host of wines to suit you and your meal.

              If you are comfortable spending $100/bottle, that's great and they should be able to accomodate you very easily. On the other hand, don't feel intimidated to spend that much if you're not comfortable. One of the good things about having such a big winelist is that the restaurant should be able to offer many options to someone within his price range. And if you are in the exploratory mood, Babbo has quite a few selections (changes daily/weekly, I think) as quartinos, or quarter-liters, 1/3 bottles. This is about 2 full glasses and is a very good option if you are dining with one other and want to wine pairings with each of your courses. FWIW, my dinner companion and I were able to get a quartino of very good Barbaresco for $25 with our main dishes after having a bottle of white for the appetizers we shared.

              1. The prime job of a good sommelier is to create a wine list that suits the patrons and pairs well with the chef's visions. Next, it is to suggest perfect pairings from that list. Tell the one serving you, what you like, and what you wish to spend. Share your dinner choices, and turn them loose. That is what they thrive on, and are paid for.

                Many lists are intimidating - take a look at Bern's Steakhouse, Tampa, FL (the hardbound edition) for a feel of overload.

                Let the sommelier(s) earn their keep. Trust them, but furnish them with all of the appropriate info. If they do, what they should do, you will be amazed.


                1 Reply
                1. How can you know what you want to drink until you know what you're eating? Or are you planning to choose your meal to be compatible with the wines?

                  1. I'm a big fan of Babbo's wine service; their former sommelier (now their general manager) also happens to be an excellent wine writer with a passion for Italian vino (with an eye toward lesser-known regions and varietals). Babbo, in my experience, is one of those class joints where they sincerely try to steer you towards the best value and the best food pairing on their vast list. If you're dead set on blowing a wad of cash during your dinner, I'd say settle on a prestigious style with the sommelier's help (e.g. Amarone, Barolo, "Super Tuscan"), then ask him/her sommelier to help you determine the greatest bang for your buck.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Yaqo Homo

                      Amarone, Barolo, and super Tuscans are pretty much the opposite of the type of wine the original poster apparently has in mind.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Yes, you are quite right; I should have read the OP's "lighter," "soft," "fruity" preferences more carefully and was instead focusing on the most memorable wine one could extract from a $200 wine budget. Although Lynch's cellar has deep selections of prestigious reds, the list (see link below) has lovely (and obscure) light-bodied options as well:

                        I doubt the OP could spend $200 on the types of wines specified even if he/she wanted to! I would instead use the money to spring for the tasting menu with intelligently selected pairings (I think they offer two tiers of paired selections--regular and "reserve" options). That way you could taste a variety of styles and regions.

                        1. re: Yaqo Homo

                          You are right! I was not able to spend the $200 wine budget! Also, I'd like to answer the questioning of some of the posters as to why I was spending so much on wine as a new wine drinker... I was actually the winner of the Ultimate Day of Dining competition so I had $500 to spend. At Babbo, we realized, that $500 will go a long way! I did follow your suggestion and told the sommelier what my likes and dislikes were. He was wonderful! He not only chose wonderful wines, but he described his visits to the specific vineyards in great detail. He was also kind enough to write down the wines that we had that night which were (I'm deciphering his handwriting as best as possible... if I've misspelled anything, please let me know!):
                          Wine #1: Trinchevo Baobera d'Asti "Vigna del Noce" 2000 (Piemonte)
                          Wine #2: Montecalvi "Montecalvi Rosso" 2001 (Toscana)
                          My friend also ordered a glass of Schiavenza Barolo 2000 (Piemonte)

                          The second wine we had was amazing. He described it as "the white wine drinkers red wine" which was a perfect description. It also worked out extremely well that our cheese plate came out as we were finishing our last glasses of wine. I definitly have a new appreciation for red wines and I'm really excited to go back home (I grew up near Walla Walla, WA) and do some tastings!! Thank you again for all of your wonderful advice.

                          Also, I will ask my friend to post her descriptions/opinions of the wines.

                          1. re: thunderbug84

                            I also feel I have a limited knowledge of wine, although I have taken some clases and done some tastings in Napa. My memory of the first wine we had, the Trinchevo Baobera d'Asti is a bit hazy...the dinner was very long (and enjoyable). I do remember that I liked it and felt it went well with the slightly spicy spaghettini with lobster. The second wine, the Montecalvi Rosso, was excellent. It had a good amount of acidity with hints of cherry and finished with a slightly peppery taste. It was great with the cheese as the cheese rounded out the wine making it very smooth on the pallet.

                            Sorry I can't offer more on the wine but thanks for all of your suggestions. I must say that it was quite exciting working with a sommelier and the one at Babbo was exceptional in my opinion.

                            1. re: thunderbug84

                              I like Babbo and they do have a great Italian list and in general the sommeliers there are very knowledgable. Im glad you were happy with the sommelier's choices.

                              I do feel that the sommelier's description of the 2nd wine as, "the white wine drinkers red wine" as a little weird. That might be a true statement in his (her) view, probably meaning that its a soft wine, not tannic... but actually, I have no real idea of what he means by that. Does he mean that it tastes more like a white? Better to actually describe the wine itself and not make a general statement like that... so you can put it in perspective and have a basis for the future.

                      2. The new general manager and sommelier team at Babbo is EXCELLENT. They will help you negotiate the wine list. It's what they love to do. i know exactly what he meant by a white wine drinkers red. It seems explanatory enough to assume that he meant that if you usually drink white wine you would like the red wine he recommended. Without getting to fancy or technical, he was probably trying to make the guest feel more comfortable obviously noticing their inexperience with wine terms and knowledge, and in a more pedestrian way( or secular way if your a wine geek like myself), help them to understand.If the person had asked what he meant he would have probably replied because it has a similar flavor profile and describe the wine in more detail. Modesty often wins the day. I'd rather hear that than fancy statements like "long periods on the skins", "malo blocked", "neutral oak", and such. Throw in a couple fancy words but dont send them running for the hills...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sharonm

                          I've already agreed that the team there is excellent... and I agree with not intimidating the customer... and agree it wouldn't be constructive to start getting technical here... all Im suggesting is that saying, "this is a white wine drinker's red" is just as constructive as saying, "here's a wine I think you'll like".

                          I'd rather the sommelier say, he's a wine I think you'll like... try it and let me know what you think. I still don't know what the sommelier means by "a white wine drinker's red". One has nothing to do with the other. Just strikes me as bizarre, that's all.

                          1. re: WineTravel

                            "this is a white wine drinker's red"

                            A rose?