Meet Todd Lipman, Bistro du Midi’s Sommelier Extraordinaire
Ask Sommelier Todd Lipman about being named Best of Boston at his craft by Boston magazine, and he’ll humbly call it “a huge honor and a bit of a surprise.” We think it’s a big deal and we raise a glass to him.
From running food to sauté cook and server, his culinary background runs the gamut (and runs all over the kitchen). He’s worked with the likes of top Boston chefs and restaurateurs Ken Oringer, Jamie Bissonnette and Frank DePasquale, to name a few. But Lipman’s curiosity in ingredients, textures and flavors led him to become his own big deal – head sommelier at Bistro du Midi.
Here’s what Lipman had to say about pairing wines, building an award-winning wine closet and how to not be afraid of the big bad bottle.
TheVoiceofDowntownBoston: What’s the excitement behind wine?
Todd Lipman: Wine is a living, breathing thing. Not only is the world of wine enormous, but when you add to it just how much an individual wine can change over time, the topic never gets boring.
VoD: How important is choosing the perfect wine with a meal?
TL: I don’t believe there’s such a thing as the ‘perfect’ wine. There are successful pairings and less successful pairings. When the synergy between a glass and a dish is spot on, they work together to elevate each other.
VoD: When adding a wine to Bistro du Midi’s list (650 to 800 selections strong), what are the must-have components?
TL: There’s a science involved when constructing a wine list. Much like wine in the glass, wine on the list must be balanced. Most important is quality, followed by price, menu compatibility, a sense of place, and accuracy of varietal and origin. Sometimes obscure provenance or unusual characteristics are dominating factors.
VoD: You won Gordon’s Fine Wines’ SommSmack challenge, pairing wines with surprise meals. What’s the thrill of matching food and vintage?
TL: SommSmack was a great deal of fun. Making people’s taste buds happy by way of my selections is rewarding. Most pairing sommeliers do is theoretical, so it requires a broad understanding of cuisine and wine. When a pairing is deemed successful it’s an affirmation that all the hard work and study, plus all the tasting and tasting, has paid off. Through trial and error, one continuously learns.
VoD: Now give us the real shocker.
TL: I don’t drink much wine at home. The Lipmans are cocktail folk. On occasion, my wife and I enjoy some bubbles or lighter white or easy-going red wine, White Burgundy, Alsatian Riesling, Red Burgundy, Northern Rhone mostly.
VoD: Wine can be intimidating. How do you demystify it?
TL: Wine is merely a beverage. The world of wine is never-ending and extremely dynamic. Have fun, drink what you like, and most importantly, even if you learn from others…form your own opinions.
To see Lipman at work, check out Bistro du Midi’s wine program, a Wine Spectator’s Best of Excellence Award winner. The wine dinners pair vintages with five courses. Lipman works with Executive Chef Robert Sisca very closely, so you can’t go wrong. A guest host (from winemaker to importer) gives first-hand tableside wine info, but there’s no pretention. Just fun conversation. The Guest Sommelier Series are even more easy-going. A guest sommelier and Lipman work the floor during traditional dinner service. Just ask, and you’ll get insight into the wine you’re drinking. Special featured wines are open to taste with no obligation. Read: you could be sipping a flagship Chateauneuf-du-Pape, compliments of the house.
Let’s toast Boston’s wine experts and uncorking the mystery behind wine, shall we?