Going 10 Rounds With Top Sommelier Zwann Grays
The wine director at Brooklyn restaurant Olmsted tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “A Gin & Tonic at a dive-y spot that happens to be open, or a hard-shaken Daiquiri at a cocktail spot that happens to be open. Either will right all wrongs after a long shift.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “I don’t know if this is the all-time best, but every time I find myself in a dive bar “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits comes on. Really though, I like anything from the Back to Black album from Amy Winehouse in a dive.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “Somehow we had Domaine de Bellivière Chenin Blanc by the glass at Terroir Tribeca back in the day. I don’t remember the cuvée, but it was from Jasnières and I could never say it right. Either way, it was one of the most beautiful sips on day two of being open, when we un-pumped the bottles and checked them before service.”
What book on wine is your go-to resource? “My old American Sommelier Association book and the World Atlas of Wine for in-depth, cold hard facts. For deeper exploration, I still will break out Authentic Wine by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop. Otherwise, it’s online these days.”
Name the wine region that took you the longest to truly understand. “I’ll probably never understand Burgundy. But the good news is, I don’t have to!”
What’s your favorite wine and food pairing? “Every time I’m home in Houston we go to Pappadeaux as a family. The crawfish étouffée and a bottle of off dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc is nostalgic heaven. It totally connects my Houston roots and my family with where I am now and how I eat and drink today.”
What’s the most common wine myth you have to debunk? “The myth I debunk most often is that rosé with more color extraction is sweeter. Daily guests will tell me a wine is sweet when there is actually zero residual sugar in it. I don’t correct people anymore, I just get them something else they might like better.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine under $20? “Julie Benau Picpoul de Pinet. It has all the things I need in an inexpensive white: fruit, acid and great body.”
What’s your favorite bottle of wine over $1,000? “I can’t say I’ve savored a bottle at this price properly, but I did get a taste of Jacques Selosse, ‘Les Carelles’ Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne and that gave me an absolute thrill!”
What tool do you use to open a bottle? “Rabbit’s Zippity 2-Step Corkscrew in red. The worm snaps back in place like a champ.”
Zwann Grays is the wine director at Brooklyn restaurant Olmsted.
Interview has been condensed and edited.