What Makes Le Bernardin's Wine Program So Special

The proud owner of three Michelin Stars (via Michelin Guide), New York's Le Bernardin offers guests a modern take on French cuisine. Known for its unique seafood dishes, the restaurant is also recognized for its equally exceptional wine service — so much so that it received the James Beard Award in 2009. But what exactly makes Le Bernardin's wine program so unique?

A good wine can be tasty, and so can good food, but pair them correctly, and you've got a transcendent experience. While it can seem intimidating, luckily, sommeliers roam the earth, imparting their professional knowledge and solving our biggest wining and dining qualms. 

Generally, wine pairings consider three things: balance, complementary flavors, and preference. However, since wine (like food) also has its own set of flavors and structure, pairings can be a bit of an art. Science of Cooking states that a wine's level of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body can influence our perception of taste when accompanied by food. If flavors overpower or overwhelm one another, the dining experience can suffer, which is precisely why Le Bernardin's strategy is about creating balance.

Marrying the flavors of food and wine

According to Le Bernardin, "A great pairing doesn't just emphasize the wine or the food, it transforms them both and elevates the partnership to a perfect harmony."

In a relationship that focuses on balance, the culinary offerings crafted at the hands of Chef Éric Ripert are matched with wines curated by Wine Director, Aldo Sohm. Since their partnership in 2007, Sohm's role as a sommelier has been to find an equilibrium between food and wine, so that neither outshines the other, notes Food & Wine. Instead, the goal is to fuse the flavors together.

Some of the many stunning collaborations that have transpired between chef and sommelier are listed on the Chef's Tasting Menu and include salty caviar-topped scallop tartare paired with a zippy Spanish Albariño, smokey grilled hiramasa paired with tannic Italian Brunello di Montalcino, and earthy warm artichokes paired with an herbaceous Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

Dubbed the "Best Sommelier in the World" in 2008 (via Decanter), Sohm's extensive knowledge on oenology is especially important when curating a cellar stocked with over 15,000-bottles that range in variety, region, and vintage as stated by the restaurant — like I said before, we're lucky that sommeliers walk among us.