by Nancy Stiles
In honor of our 2013 Best Of St. Louis issue, we're profiling some of the most fascinating winners from the Food & Drink section. This week's category: Best Wine List (Price Be Damned). Read the entire Best of St. Louis issue here.
The wine list at Elaia (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) is a thing of beauty. Classic wines and regions share billing with wines from Romania, Greece and Lebanon. Sommelier Andrey Ivanov created the list, which represents 25 countries, with a trend he feels strongly about: There's a world outside of France and California. It sounds obvious, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a similar list in town.
"I wanted to put a wine list together that was a snapshot of what's going on in the world of winemaking today. If there's something noteworthy going on, that should be represented on a world-class wine list," Ivanov says.
Ivanov put together Elaia's list by country -- normally wines are organized by grape varietal.
"But we have 79 grape varietals, so that would be a lot more confusing," Ivanov laughs. "The idea was to showcase terroir and to have good breadth, not have 35 versions of Napa Cab."
Most of the wines Elaia sells by the glass are selected regionally because they are tied to a specific dish. The wines available by the glass change every night, though, just like the menu.
"We sit down and decide what would be the best wine for those dishes and pull the particular pairing for that night," Ivanov says.
He thinks that although it's unorthodox, customers have really taken to it -- it's easier than trying to pick a bottle of wine for four people eating four different things.
Another innovation at Elaia is the Coravin Wine Access System. The wine is extracted using a needle -- thus allowing sales by the glass of wines on the bottle-only menu -- and the empty space is filled with aragon, which keeps the wine from oxidizing. (See it in action here.)
"I look at wines by the glass as an opportunity to try new things, not to sell cheap wines," Ivanov says.
So, we had to know what Ivanov's personal favorite wine was.
"I don't have a favorite!" he insists. "But if I was stuck on a desert island with only one wine to drink the rest of my life, it would always be a German Riesling. Or just Riesling in general. It's the most diverse and expressive grape that's out there, and expresses a sense of place more than any other grape."
Riesling it is! Check out Elaia's current wine list here.
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