Wine with lunch or dinner? At Bäco Mercat, a quirky restaurant in the Old Bank District of downtown LA, it’s not your usual house red or white wine. Just like their menu, which is wildly inventive, with global influences, the wine list is a mix of Old World and New World, and varietals that few will recognize, at moderate prices that encourage experimentation.
The edgy wine list is divided into four categories. Aperitifs can include a variety of sparkling wines (crémant. champagne, or cava) or sherry. Whites span mostly Old World (France, Italy, Spain), with choices that can bring a tear to a wine student’s eye: Furmint from Hungary, Greco di Tufo from Campania, Savagnin from Jura, and hallelujah, only one Chardonnay, not from California but Burgundy. Twenty-one bottles from small producers, and five choices by the glass, all this just for white wine. Rosés can include Negroamaro from Puglia or a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (yes, Rosé!) from Slovenia. And Reds, all 23 bottles on the list, peak the imagination: Zweigelt from Austria, Nerello Mascalese from Sicily, Touriga Nacional from Portugal, Merlot from Slovenia, and the only Cabernet, not a Sauvignon but a Cabernet Franc from France.
Wines will come and go, according to availability, and new bottles will make their way to the list. It’s an exciting spin on the world of wine, and an example of the great values to be found in lesser-known grape varietals. Every bottle is priced in the double digits, from a low $30 to a high $90, which is very reasonable for restaurant service. And should you pine for your California Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, bring it with you, and buy a bottle off their list, the $20 corkage fee will be waived.
This is eclectic wine for eclectic food. Bäco Mercat is the invention of Chef Josef Centeno. His signature flatbread sandwich, the “bäco”, a cross between a taco and a gyro, stuffed with flavorful meats, vegetables, and sauces, is the jumping off point for an inventive menu of small plates. His sensational food has populated many “Best Of” lists, and the wine choices compliment the ambitious dishes. Ask your server for guidance, as the staff holds weekly wine tastings among themselves, so that they are familiar with the Maggiorina from Piedmont, the Ribolla Gialla from Napa Valley, or the Pinot Noir/Kadarka Rosé from Hungary.
Treat yourself, and explore the superb food and fascinating wine of Bäco Mercat, just be sure to make a reservation, as it’s wildly popular. Live on the wild side, and sip a Raven white wine from Slovenia, or a Pallagrello Nero/Aglianico/Casavecchia red blend from Italy.