Chris Campbell · Troquet on South

By Ellen Bhang · 12/19/2019

Curious about restaurant wine lists? Each month, Boston Globe wine columnist Ellen Bhang chats with a sommelier about a terrific bottle and recommends a food pairing—you come away a savvier sipper. 

Meet the beverage pro: When Chris Campbell talks about his time in France, you can hear the nostalgia in his voice.

“I lived in Burgundy for two and a half years,” says the owner-sommelier of Troquet on South, recalling a mid-’80s stint working for a luxury sightseeing company. Campbell would meet tour participants in Paris on a Saturday and drive them to Beaune. The next five days featured hot air balloon rides and lavish picnics at stately châteaux. “At the end of the week, I’d take the TGV back to Paris, and do it all over again,” he says.

Campbell’s training began well before that European adventure. As a teen, he worked as a dishwasher, a server, then as wine buyer at his parent’s restaurant in Northville, Michigan. Guests, he says, would frequently bring in “some very serious bottles” to enjoy with their meal. Years later, he featured wines of the same caliber on his list at Uva, a restaurant he opened in Brighton, then at Troquet on Boylston Street in the Back Bay.

Fast forward to the present, and Campbell presides over one of Boston’s most award-winning wine programs. At the restaurant’s current location in the Leather District, 40 wines are available by the glass, in addition to nearly a thousand selections by the bottle. In the capacious cellar, thousands more bottles wait in the wings.

One gorgeous bottle: One of those special bottles, on offer for $160, is a 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape called “Cuvée Marie Beurrier” from Henri Bonneau, an acclaimed 12th-generation winemaker from the Southern Rhône who died in 2016. “This 100-percent grenache is Old World in style, with no new oak,” says Campbell, referring to how the winemaker used older barrels to mature the wine. New casks, on the other hand, can lend strident flavors of vanilla and clove. This wine, he explains, is full of finesse because its fruit is not masked by such flavors.

Posh plate: Venison Loin, prepared by executive chef Tyler Stout, is excellent with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Served rare to medium-rare, the meat is adorned with Alba white truffle shavings and plated on a jus of venison stock and red wine. Roasted delicata squash and a glossy dollop of black garlic puree round out the artful presentation. Campbell loves how the wine’s “smoky, gamy quality” isn’t shy—it goes toe-to-toe with the robust dish.

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