Home / Italy Uncorked / Boston’s Top Sommelier Todd Lipman on Italian wines

Boston’s Top Sommelier Todd Lipman on Italian wines

Todd Lipman of Bistro du Midi

Todd Lipman of Bistro du Midi

Voted Boston’s Best Sommelier a number of times — including 2015 — I wanted to interview Todd Lipman, who serves as the Head Sommelier of Bistro du Midi in Boston.

After graduating from Boston University, Lipman decided to begin his wine education at BU’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Studies program where he fell in love with the beverage business and knew this was where he belonged. He’s now a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and continues his education currently listed as an Advanced Sommelier candidate through the same program.

Even though Bistro du Midi is focused on French cuisine and only a fifth of their wine list is Italian, Italian wine is what initially got Todd Lipman into the business. Originally from Virginia, Lipman has been living in the Boston area for 20 years now. He started his career in the restaurant business over twenty years ago as a prep and line cook. After coming to Boston, he worked for many Italian restaurants in the Boston area.

He has worked at Bricco in the North End, the Armani Cafe in the Back Bay and Galleria Italiana in the South End, and has served as the General Manager and Beverage Director of Bin 26 Enoteca in Beacon Hill, .

Lipman is honored to be recognized as Boston’s Best and the recognition is beneficial to his wine program and restaurant, but he states that “there are a lot of talented, hard-working wine folks in our community. I really enjoy the tightly knit beverage community we have in Boston.”

Todd Lipman winning the Best Sommelier in Boston award.

Todd Lipman winning the Best Sommelier in Boston award.

For Lipman, Italian wines are very “soulful and expressive.” His personal collection of Italian wines includes treasures such as:

  • 2006 Poggio Antica Brunello Riserva
  • 2004 Aldo Conterno Colonnello Bussia Barolo
  • 1993 Aldo Conterno Bussia Barolo
  • 2001 Cocito Baluchin Barbaresco
  • 1999 Marcarini la Serra Barolo
  • 1999 Marcarini Brunate Barolo
  • 1997 Giacomo Fenocchio Cannubi Barolo
  • 2003 Giacomo Fenocchio Villero Barolo
  • 2009 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornus
  • 2001, 2003, 2005 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino Vigna del Gris Barolo
  • 2006 Bibi Graetz Soffocone di Vincigliata
  • 2004 Gurrieri Gonzaga San Leonardo

His most unique Italian wine is the 2009 Ornellaia Ornus, which was given to him by the winemaker, Axel Heinz, prior to its release on the market.

Lipman finds his customers to lean towards more modern day style winemaking and in his restaurant he finds that the “Super Tuscans” lead the pack. If you’re not familiar with “super Tuscans,” it was a term created back in the ’70s, when Italian winemakers wanted to break out from the rules and regulations forced upon them in their winemaking practices by the Italian government. They wanted to experiment with adding other grapes like cabernet sauvignon and merlot in addition to sangiovese. Some of the top rated wines of this class are the highly regarded Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Lipman feels that the use of familiar grapes in the production of these wines and the concentration are what attracts his customers to these wines.

Todd Lipman and Philippe Guigal

Todd Lipman and Philippe Guigal

Some of Bistro du Midi’s top red wines, outside the super Tuscans, are understandably known to be good wines for their price-to-quality ratio including Morellino di Scansano, Barbera, Rosso di Montalcino and Langhe Nebbiolo. Not everyone is interested in paying the large dollar demands of the big Italian wines all the time, known as the 3 Bs: Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. Plus, these are wines that need some time to open up or be decanted and your average consumer is looking for a more immediate gratification. For Italian white wines your typical Pinot Grigio leads the way in Lipman’s sales, along with other Italian grapes including vermentino and cortese (Gavi), which I was pleased to hear, because from my experience those aren’t grapes I find folks to be very familiar with.

Regardless of being a more French-focused restaurant, Bustro du Midi does host monthly dinners and events with a monthly event known as their Guest Sommelier series. They have featured many Italian wineries for tastings, seminars and luncheons including producers such as Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Renato Ratti, Cereto, Feudi di San Gregorio, Frescobaldi, Luciano Sandrone, Bertain and the list goes on.

You don’t always need to seek out a Italian restaurant for good Italian wines. As long as the food is of optimal quality and pairing suggestions are available, it’s good to experiment and match Italian wines to other cuisines.

About Jennifer Martin

Jennifer Martin is a Boston-based Italian wine blogger. Her love of wine first started years ago when she studied abroad in college in Florence, Italy. She's traveled to Italy a multitude of times now and her love and passion for Italy not only comes from her experience of living there, but also due to her Italian heritage. Jennifer now runs her own company and website, Vino Travels, specializing in wine travels to Italy.