Sebastien Auvet and Rakesh Chandiramani have long been ardent appreciators of French wine. In pursuit of their shared passion, Auvet—a French ex-pat with front-of-house experience at David Bouley’s now-shuttered fine dining restaurant Bouley—and Chandiramani—a former director at United Health Group—launched French wine bar concept Vin Sur Vingt in New York City’s West Village neighborhood in 2011, along with a third partner, Dilip Hari. The premise revolved around curating a far-reaching French wine list that would encourage guests to take a deep, stress-free dive into the wine regions of France.
“Our goal is to take the intimidation factor out of wine, and make it more approachable,” Chandiramani says. “We want to bring it down to a level where you can identify wine and enjoy it, without feeling like you have to pronounce the grapes properly, or even know their names.” Auvet adds, “When you’re given too much information about a wine, you’re going to lose your focus and forget to enjoy the experience.” To this end, the Vin Sur Vingt wine list has never included descriptive words or grape varietals alongside its offerings.
Today, Vin Sur Vingt spans five locations throughout Manhattan: West Village, NoMad, Upper West Side, Tribeca and inside the Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall. The flagship West Village venue launched with 20 wines as a play on the French words for wine (“vin”) and 20 (“vingt”). At all sites, Auvet curates a running list of roughly 50 wines by the glass, sourced from across France. The venues offer around 20 reds and 20 whites ($12.50 to $20 a 5-ounce pour), as well as a selection of Champagnes, sparkling wines and sweet wines ($14 to $60 a glass). Most of the red wines hail from Bordeaux, though there’s a healthy selection available from Languedoc, Burgundy and the Rhône, among others. Meanwhile, the white offerings are predominantly sourced from Burgundy, with an ample amount of labels from the Loire and Alsace also available. A handful of wines are from less well-known regions like Corsica, the Jura and Southwest France.
Vin Sur Vingt also carries its own private label, Bar A Vin, which launched at the end of 2015 and currently features three selections: Vacqueyras, Muscadet and Morgon. Four more—Côtes de Francs Bordeaux, Beaujolais-Villages, Bordeaux White and Rosé—are slated for arrival next year, with the rosé production expected to surpass 1,000 cases.
Moving with the seasons, Auvet has curated a fresh list for the fall. “Beaujolais, Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux, especially from Margaux—we’re going full-speed with these wines,” Auvet says. “The Rhône is also going to be trendier. I’m looking for more wine from the that region, especially natural wines, though they’re not as easy to find in the case numbers we want.”
The wine list remains uniform across all five locations, a practice that Auvet and Chandiramani have employed since their first expansion. Difficulties with maintaining a shared master wine list, however, have mounted as Vin Sur Vingt’s growth has continued. “Now that we have multiple locations, rotating the list has become increasingly challenging in that we’re dealing with larger quantities,” Chandiramani explains. “Even though we’re still able to wrap our hands around a lot of the boutique selections that we want and work with some really interesting varieties, those may not get a permanent place on the menu given their limited quantity.” To gain access to a broader selection of French wines, Vin Sur Vingt’s owners are tapping into direct imports. Auvet, who has cultivated relationships with a variety of French winemakers, has started to source directly to secure exclusive selections and reduce costs.
Looking ahead, Vin Sur Vingt’s owners see plenty of room for future expansion, both in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as beyond to Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. “As we continue to grow, we’re going to keep the wine list interesting, and offer an experience of all the regions and varieties of France,” Chandiramani says.