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Exclusive: Sommelier Patrick Cappiello talks Bordeaux and 'Diner En Blanc'

Sommelier Patrick Cappiello talked to us about his role in Diner En Blanc
Sommelier Patrick Cappiello talked to us about his role in Diner En Blanc
Photo Courtesy of Vinesh Vora, used with permission

Originating in Paris as a small get together of friends, the Diner En Blanc has become extremely popular since it was first conceived in 1988. Today on Aug. 28, 2014, is excited to share our exclusive interview with Bordeaux's special guest sommelier for the evening Patrick Cappiello. Making its way across every major city in the world, this exclusive event has become something that people look forward to each year. Picnics are always very fun to attend, but imagine attending a pop up picnic which converts a regular park into a dinner setting in which thousands of people come together to share food and drink. This year’s Diner En Blanc was held in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Park which added an extra layer of elegance to this already sophisticated event mainly by having it near the water, where the guests enjoyed watching the sun set as they had the time of their lives.

But what made this event even better was that the incredible Bordeaux wine was featured. This brand of wine, which is produced in the Bordeaux region of France, features some of the most elegant and expensive wines in the world. The types of wine that were featured at this event ranged from the classic white wine, both sweet and dry, to some of the sparkling wines like the amazing rosé. Read what esteemed wine connoisseur, Patrick Cappiello told us below.

Q: So what is it like having the Diner En Blanc in New York City?

I think it’s cool to see something that it so European by nature and to see it in the United States. Obviously, New York tends to be a little more progressive with the idea of what happens with European lifestyle and this very much embodies that. But to see it happen here on a big scale and in other cities is really exciting. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch happen too, the evolution is really cool. A flash mob picnic, it’s pretty great.

Q: So tell us about your role in Diner En Blanc.

So I’m the sommelier for the event. This is the second year that I’ve done it, I did it last year as well at Bryant Park, and ideally my goal here is to inspire food and wine pairing. I think there is an evolution happening in the United States with people having an appreciation for food and wine and the idea of having food and wine together is happening more and more now than ever, so to see an event like this that is very much focused on that is a great opportunity to be an ambassador for that movement. And the idea of working with what’s coming from Bordeaux and the exciting aspect of great value coming from Bordeaux, it's a region that for a long time was plagued with the idea that their wines were expensive and made for the elite and super rich, but really, especially wines made from the white grapes in Bordeaux have great value and in France, and all over Europe, it has always been known that that was the case. For Americans, it has been sort of a slow evolution for them to understand how great wines can be from this area and the picnic situation with the white wines, I think is awesome, and the value is there, the wines we are serving are under twenty dollars worth in retail. It’s what people want, as more young people are buying wine and getting more interested in that, not everybody has huge budgets and they want to find wines that are good value for their buck.

Q: How has the Diner this year compared to the one last year?

It’s cool. I think this space is pretty amazing. Bryant Park was very vast and it seemed like a different energy and different vibe. I think that being near the water here is great, and being able to watch the sunset will probably make this one the most magical one yet. Bryant Park was awesome, but I think that this one will be a rowdier party.

Q: Talk a little about Bordeaux. What do you especially like about Bordeaux?

It’s a region that I grew up being exposed to because the restaurants that I worked at tend to have more francophile wine lists, wines that are definitely based more in France, and in Europe as a whole. So it was always a part of my life, but I don’t think that it was much of a focus for people who are younger and looking at the wines. And now I think it is cool to see that there are young people open to drinking wine from Bordeaux and also to see white wines from Bordeaux, which maybe weren’t the first things that came to people’s minds back then. Ten years ago when I first started in this industry, it was always red wine that people associated with Bordeaux, so I am excited to see more of an interest in white wines from that region, especially the wines emulate what so many other people love from France like Sancerre, where Sivignon Blanc, and the wines from Bordeaux have very similar qualities to that - all that minerality, all that brightness, all that freshness. I think that it is cool to see such an interest, especially younger people getting interested in wines from the region.

Q: So how did you get your start in the wine industry?

I’ve been in the restaurant business for a long time, since I was 15, and worked all the way through college and post college working in restaurants, and I’ve always had an interest in wine, I grew up in an Italian family in upstate New York, not too far from the finger lake region, so wine was around me and part of my life. Not fine wine, but wine as a thing to have with dinner, so I loved it and I always had an appreciation for it and being in the restaurant business it paved an easy path to get involved. When I moved to New York in 2001 I worked at Tribeca Grill and David Gordon who was the wine director there at the time saw something in me and decided to give me the opportunity to have me work on the wine team there and then I escalated to many great restaurants in New York City since and now I’m the wine director and managing partner of Pearl & Ashe on the Bowery.

Q: What’s next for you?

Well I am going to have a glass of wine soon, that’s for sure. But I would love to be involved with Diner En Blanc in the future and I am continuing to create the wine list for Pearl & Ash, keeping that fresh and exciting so I’m pretty happy with where my career is now so hopefully not too much different that’s for sure.

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