Michael Madrigale

Head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, big-bottle aficionado

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Michael Madrigale

Michael Madrigale Photograph: Evaan Kheraj

How did you first get into wine? Do you remember any epiphanic moments—or memorable bottles—that made you want to work with wine?
I didn't have much exposure to wine growing up in Philly. I moved to NYC after graduating college and found myself at a house party in Turtle Bay. A few people brought bottles of wine, and I remember being bored and went to the corner to taste all of the wines next to each other and a spark went off.

If you had to narrow it down to an elevator pitch, what would you say is your wine philosophy?
Wine should taste like where it comes from. Be it the most perfectly situated limestone vineyard in Burgundy or a red dirt field in Alabama.

How do you think wine—and the wine enthusiast—is changing in the city?
Wine has become more democratized. It's not only about Bordeaux and Napa Valley cabernet anymore. People aren't looking for wine gurus, they're becoming more curious and confident with their own palates, which I think is incredible and quite promising.

For curious drinkers who are still intimidated by a traditional wine list, what's the best way to discover new selections?
Talk to the sommelier. Tell him you're interested in something different. Give him a price range. Rinse, repeat.

Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud have quite different wine lists. What were your inspirations when you were putting them together?
The wine list I've put together at Bar Boulud is a love letter to Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. Boulud Sud's wine list is a study of the diversity of the wines along the Mediterranean basin. Both lists share one thing in common and that's my infatuation with syrah. You'll find boatloads on each list.

There's a lot of chatter about your big-bottle program at Bar Boulud. What is it, and how can people take advantage of it?
My big-bottle program is something that I've been doing at Bar Boulud for nearly two years now. Every night I'll open up a large-format bottle—1.5-liter magnum, 3-liter jeroboam or 6-liter Methuselah; anything larger than that is impossible to pour at the table—and pour it by the glass at close to cost. Big bottles are hard to come by so I scour the wine world to find them. Usually I'll get them at auction or from private collectors. I make it my mission to really find rare wines with a good amount of bottle age to give guests a wine experience that they cannot get anywhere else. The idea is to give wine lovers a chance to taste great, aged wines out of a large-format bottle, which always taste better than the regular 750, at a price (never above $29) at which everyone can participate—from the 23-year-old budding wine prodigy to the octogenarian operagoer. Each night I'll take a picture of the big bottle of that evening and tweet it from my Twitter account, @mikemadrigale. A few people have told me that they've received my big-bottle tweet on their way to a dinner reservation and immediately called the restaurant to cancel and redirected the taxi to go to Bar Boulud!

What's the easiest way to spot a wine newb...
When they say, "Honey, look at the legs dripping down the glass!"

...and what is the most ridiculous thing a wanna-be aficionado has done to try to impress you?
When they tell me, unprompted, how much wine they own in their cellar and how much it's worth.

What have you seen around New York lately that's excited you as a wine drinker?
The acceptance of Muscadet as one of the great wine values of the universe.

What do you think is the next step in NYC's wine evolution?
Wine bars becoming as ubiquitous as Irish pubs.

We won't make you choose an all-time favorite wine, but what about something you've had recently that everyone needs to know about?
Handcrafted champagne from small growers. They're so fascinating to drink.

Besides your home turf, what's your favorite place to drink wine in New York
Terroir. Period. Stop.

How about a favorite wineshop?
Crush. The guys over there are on it like ConEd.

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