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Insalata; Mixed Greens, Anchovy, Pecorino & Breadcrumb

Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Spicy Tomato and Guanciale


2013 G.B. Burlotto Barolo Cannubi


Our Vinous Table column often highlights extraordinary meals and fabulous wines our critics have the privilege of enjoying all over the world. This week I want to spend some time on a slightly different topic – the pricing of wine in restaurants. 

One of the comments I hear most often from Vinous readers is a resigned sense of discouragement over the state of wine prices on restaurant lists. It is no secret that the restaurant business operates on razor-thin food margins and that survival often depends on margins in liquor, wine and bottled water. Not too long ago, the standard restaurant markup for a bottle of wine was approximately 2.5-3 times retail, give or take. Today, markups are often well in excess of that. In recent weeks, reports from New York City’s wine directors and sommeliers have been the same. Check averages are fine, but covers are down across the board. Could this be the beginning of a weakening macro trend in the economy? It’s hard to say, but the anecdotal data suggests people are eating out less. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

Insalata; Mixed Greens, Anchovy, Pecorino & Breadcrumb

Given that context, I was absolutely floored when I visited Maialino a few weeks ago. Not by high wine prices, but by the exact opposite. I seriously contemplated ordering a number of rare, hard to find bottles just to drink them. Alas, this was a casual Sunday night dinner. Prices on the list are even more remarkable because Maialino operates under proprietor Danny Meyer’s 'hospitality included' framework in which service is included in all food and wine prices. Kudos to Meyer and Jenni Guizio, Union Square Hospitality Group’s Associate Director of Wine, for putting together a tantalizing list at Maialino that will leave guests planning their next visit before they leave. The Piedmont selection in particular is simply jaw-dropping, both in its selection and pricing. Diners will find everything from the established names to most cultish of growers. So many bottles are approachable, but if you are in the mood for a splurge, your dollars will go further at Maialino than anywhere in New York City.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Spicy Tomato and Guanciale

In perusing the list, I could not resist Burlotto’s 2013 Barolo Cannubi. Sure, the Monvigliero gets most of the attention these days, but I find just as much pleasure in the Cannubi, and it has avoided the speculation that now surrounds the Monvigliero. Although very young, the 2013 shows all of the precision and class it did when it was first released. I probably should have chosen a more robust Barolo to drink with Maialino’s Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Spicy Tomato and Guanciale, but it was gorgeous just the same. I didn't try enough of the dishes to be able to say something meaningful about the food, but I can report that my team raved about the dinner they had at Maialino just before La Festa del Barolo. 

Burlotto’s 2013 Barolo Cannubi 

Italian wine lovers who have not visited Maialino absolutely owe it to themselves to do so. I don't think there is a more consumer friendly Italian-focused list in the United States. If there is, I want to know about it!