Boston’s Evolutionary Wine Scene

The great city of Boston prides itself on many things—history, patriotism and sports, to name a few. And over the past few decades, Boston has become quite the gastronome’s paradise, moving beyond New England clam chowder and watering holes where everybody knows your name.

“Boston was described as ‘extremely provincial’ when I got here 25 years ago,” says Cat Silirie, executive wine director of Barbara Lynch’s BLGruppo. “And now our city is growing in leaps and bounds.” Silirie, who hails from Boca Raton, Florida, has been with the restaurant group for nearly 20 years and handles the wine program for seven establishments. “People love wine the way they love dining—dining has become this national form of entertainment, and I think wine is following suit.” 

Massachusetts-native Lauren Daddona, wine director of Harvard Square’s Les Sablons, returned to the area after a brief stint in New York City in 2005. The connoisseur was sorely disappointed in the wine scene. “It was so hard to get a good glass of wine. The by-the-glass program was domestically-leaning and average at best,” Daddona recalls. “And I thought, ‘I can’t stand this town, this is terrible!’ Then Eastern Standard opened—it was such a cool place and what was really needed at the time. I knew we were going to be okay.” Daddona has developed wine lists at several top Boston-area restaurants including Chiara Bistro and L’Espalier

Just like the Beantown, both Daddona and Silirie take pride in guiding curious Bostonians out of their comfort zones through various wine regions and grapes. At BL Gruppo, Silirie notes that many guests are enjoying wines from smaller regions. “Think classical European countries, but expanded—instead of Tuscany, people will try Sicilian wines or Alto Adiges or wines from Puglia,” she says. “And I do think this has to do with the booming gastronomy scene.” Recently, Silirie’s focus has shifted on the natural wine movement. 

“We are such a destination for both business travelers and tourism,” adds Daddona. “People often forget that we’re almost equidistant from both Europe and California, and a lot of us are very well-traveled. Old world wine lists are really valued.” Les Sablons describes itself as a ‘metropolitan restaurant somewhere between London and Paris,’ offering bottles from Rhône, Mosel, Burgundy and Bourdeaux. A selection of Sherrys and sparkling wines are also available, which Daddona encourages guests to expand upon. “In general, we have a lot of guests who are interested in trying grapes they’ve never heard of.”

And Daddona personally hopes fellow Bostonians will steer away from what’s trending. “I would like to see people stop chasing the new thing,” she boldly states. “I love that people are open-minded, but there should be a wider understanding of why some styles of wines and grapes are here to stay. Bordeaux has some of the greatest values on the planet. It’s been an icon for so long and stands the test of time.” 

“Boston is a classic historic city,” Silirie proudly states. “And there’s so much happening and it’s all so fast—consumers are more exposed to wine than ever before, and they’re expecting it. It’s not all steakhouses with Napa Cabs, anymore. We’re studying Greek and Portuguese wines, which is again, old world but new technology. There’s a lot going on with Sherry and there’s so much happening again in California. We have much to understand and taste and study. There’s so much room to grow.”

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*No. 9 Park hero image by Brian Samuels. 

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