John Slover, Grand Cru Consulting, Wine, Sommelier, Wine Director, Bar Henry, Houston, Soho, West Village, Wine Bar, Restaurant, Market List, Reserve List




Q. Tell us about the wine lists at Bar Henry.

A. I have about 100 wines on the 'market list' and about 100 wines on the 'reserve list' - the difference is I'll open and sell the first half of any wine on the market list for half price, the wines are younger (and younger drinking), a mix of classic and non-classic, off-the-beaten track wines, and on the whole, less expensive (ranging from $35 to $170).

The market list is peppered with some older selections because I want people to be able to order halves of bottle-aged wines. The remaining half of a wine is put up on the mirror in the bar with a wax pencil and sold off by the glass. The reserve list is entirely classic wines, bottled-aged, and on the whole more expensive (ranging from $100 to $400); guests must order entire bottles, no halves.

Q. It seems to be an interesting and unique approach to wine lists, but one that makes a lot of sense. Why do you think more bars/ restaurants don’t take this approach?

A. Selling halves of bottles of wine is a risky proposition and a potential loss for the restaurant (if the second half of wines remain unsold). In order to make it successful, it takes more work for the wine director (me), starting with personally hand-picking staff that are wine-knowledgeable and sales-savvy, lots of staff wine tasting and teaching, sales coaching, and extra salesmanship on my part to help sell off everything that's open. I need to constantly focus the staff's attention on selling the wines that are open.

Beyond that, there are things out of our control that contribute to success or failure to sell open wines: we need a lot of mouths to pass through the threshold - we need to be busy in order to sell off open wines, and that means a constant state of warmth and hospitality (the way it should be), and a high standard of food preparation.

Q. The wine lists are focused on ready-to-drink, at their peak wines from both the old world and new world. Are customers surprised at the depth and age of some of your wines?

A. Yes, especially in a funky, low-priced, subterranean space like we have. There are no wine lists like ours, until you get to the level of a 3-star restaurant.

Q. How do you balance providing wines that both novices and wine knowledgeable customers can enjoy?

A. I pay a lot of attention to wines in the $35 to $50 price range so that the wine list is accessible to spenders and non-spenders alike. And I pay attention to having selections of more forward, drinkable wines, from new and old world alike, than I tend to drink myself. And I buy wines in contrasting pairs in all price ranges to offer a 'learning' experience (but only if the guests are interested in learning - never didactic if it's unwanted). For example, a rich style of Cabernet (Cain Cuvee) and an earthy style of Cabernet (De Trafford, South aAfrica), or a medium, earthy, acidic Rioja, and a riper, rounder Rioja.

I can sell in contrast, people can learn what they have an affinity for, and they feel like they've learned something, like their journey of wine affinity discovery has progressed. It helps that I do halves, so guests can have a half of each of two wines that demonstrate a contrast.


Q. Do you have a particular favorite style / region / wine?

A. Old world:

Red regions: Langhe, Northern Rhone, Burgundy. 

White regions: Mosel, Wachau, Burgundy, Loire.

Q. Are there any undiscovered wine regions out there that you really enjoy? Any undiscovered gems?

A. Not really, at least not on the same level as the classic regions mentioned above. However, I think there's a movement in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and Mendoza, Argentina, to make reasonable wines, old world style, and move away from Parker scores and modern wine making. I've liked wines in this camp, although I wouldn't necessarily call them gems.

Another approach to answering this question is non-regional: I like the natural wine movement, and have discovered many everyday-drinking ‘gems’ - wines that are simple, but exciting in their vibrancy and fidelity to terroir. I feature them in my wine list in their own section.


Q. What’s your favorite off-the-beaten track wine? Favorite every day wine?

A. Again, I’d turn to natural wines for off-the-beaten track and every-day wines. They drink well, vibrantly, are part of a worthy organic/sustainable movement/philosophy, and tend to be inexpensive.

Thierry Puzelat is one of the best in my opinion, he makes a Malbec (called Cot) called In Cot We Trust, the 2007 and 2008 are terrific. Also Tue-Boeuf makes Pinot Noirs and Gamays, and blends of the two that are racy and delicious. Mosse makes delicious Anjou Blanc and Anjou Rouge, from Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc respectively.

Q. No expense spared?

A. Burgundy: 1985 Roumier Bonnes Mares or 90 DRC La Tache.

Piedmont: 1985/1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia, or 1979 Barolo Monfortino.

Northern Rhone: 1988 Chave Hermitage.

Austria: 2001 Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel.

Germany: 1983 Egon Muller Riesling Auslese Scharzhofberger.

Q. Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?

A. Chicken liver pate at Bar Henry with 2007 Puzelat In Cot We Trust -  worked so well, it was breathtaking. Also, Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 1996 and raw Malpeque oysters.

Q. What are some of the strangest requests people have asked for?

A. It's strange to me when someone sits down, orders a glass of southern Rhone red, or Zinfandel, or Bordeaux, or [fill in the blank with any large scaled, big red wine style] and then orders a dozen oysters. Makes my jaw drop.

It's also strange to me when people walk into Bar Henry, a wine bar known for off-kilter wines that champions small, artisanal wineries, and asks for Cakebread chardonnay.

Q. As the weather slowly starts to turn warmer, spring and summer thoughts start to enter into our heads, what are your thoughts on rose? Serious wine or just for slurping on a hot summer day? What are your favorite roses at the moment?

A. I think rose is a serious wine, or can be. I prefer restrained, elegant wines such as Sancerre rose made from Pinot Noir. Crochet Sancerre rose is always beautiful.

For stronger wines, I like Bandol rose, such as from Bastide Blanche. Both regions make pretty wines, rather than fruity one. A good new world rose is Copain rose from Mendocino - we pour it by the glass.

Q. Are they any wine books that you think are very informative and worth having in your bookshelf?

A. I don't like Robert Parker's taste in wine, but as informational documents, his books on Bordeaux and the Rhone are excellent. I like Cote D'Or for Burgundy, by Clive Coates.


Q. Any wine that you keep at home as your go-to wine?

A. Riesling Kabinett, Barbera, Villages Burgundy, Cru Beaujolais, Champagne.

Q. What’s your favorite pre-dinner drink / aperitif?

A. Aperol and soda with orange.


Q. Favorite after dinner drink / digestif?

A. Amaro, straight -- Nocino, Santa Maria al Monte, Ramazzotti.


Q. Is there a wine or cocktail that you secretly love that would make a wine director or bartender laugh? i.e. your dirty little drink secret?

A. Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne (Chapoutier is not so well -respected).


Q. Who else in the wine and cocktail world is doing interesting things that you should deserve more praise?

A. Paul Grieco at Terroir, Greg Majors at Cru restaurant, doing interesting wine and food pairings in the bar at Cru.



Q. What are your favorite wine stores?

A. Astor Wines & Spirits, Chambers Street Wines.


Q. Favorite wine lists (in restaurants, other than Bar Henry):

- for inexpensive wines?

A. Ten Bells.

- wines by the glass?

A. Terroir, Eleven Madison Park.

- for the wine geek?

A. Terroir, Ten Bells, The Counting Room.

- for breadth and depth?

A. Cru, Daniel, Veritas.

Q. Restaurants that won’t break the bank, but have killer food?

A. Lupa: fresh and intense, all the stuff you want to eat everyday.

La Pizza Fresca: for pizza.

Northern Spy Food Co.: inexpensive, seasonal, fresh, comfortable.

Q. Late night food?

A. 'ino.

Q. Five restaurants (other than your own restaurants, fancy or casual and anywhere in the world) that made a lasting impression and what you like about them?

A. Weibel (Vienna, Austria): in Vienna, where they drink wine very young, you could always find 5-10 year old Riesling and Gruner Smaragds on the list there, and their schnitzel is amazing. Great old world, traditional Viennese restaurant.

Lupa (New York, NY): always have a satisfying meal there, have never been disappointed.

Ma Cuisine (Beaune, France): unbelievably fresh ingredients, excellent low key homey food, stereotypical amusing cranky French owner, good list of villages, 1er and grand cru with some bottle age, prices pretty good.

Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA): possibly my favorite restaurant in the world. I've had the greatest tastes of things ever there, and very simple. Extremely comfortable cafe upstairs, incredible flavors, the best pluot ever, the best grapes, incredibly fresh intense ingredients.

Blue Hill (New York, NY): love the philosophy of local/seasonal food, and they coax the flavors out so well. Always have a great dinner, and the room is very comfortable.


Q. What wine producers inspire you?

A. Roberto Conterno, Robert Chevillon, Comte Liger-Belair, Thierry Puzelat, Henri Milan, Copain, Noel Verset.

Q. Places for outstanding cocktails?

A. Pegu Club, Eleven Madison Park, Angel's Share.

[See details.]


Details of John Slover’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in New York, Vienna, and Burgundy.



Wine Bar / Restaurant

Soho / West Village

90 West Houston Street

New York, NY 10012 (view map)

T: 646.448.4559



Sun - Mon: 5:30pm - 12am

Tue - Sat: 5:30pm - 2am




45 East 22nd Street

New York, NY 10010 (view map)

T: 212.982.8422 (make a reservation)



Sun - Thu: 5:30pm - 11pm

Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 11:30pm


Recommended By

- Wine Writer Talia Baiocchi


John Slover’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in New York, Vienna, and Burgundy.

Q & A

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Photograph Courtesy of John Slover

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