Water for Chefs—Matthew Rudofker, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, New York City

The diaries of chefly oenophiles.

December 7, 2015 ● 2 min read

Chef Rudofker is a culinary kingpin in the ever-expanding David Chang empire, keeping the gears oiled and the Sriracha flowing at the original Chang HQ. "I feel like my beverage choices are very mood-driven,” he says. Visit him at the 2nd Ave institution for a mouthful of pork buns and a glass full of bubbles. 

Would you call yourself a wine drinker? 

I would call myself a consumer of beverages. At Momofuku — and Ssäm Bar in particular — we aim to provide a selection of wines, beer, sake, and cocktails that pair well with food but are delicious on their own. When you dine somewhere that gives you those options it makes the experience more exciting.  

Paint the whole picture of your bangin'-est wine experience, real or imagined. 

Very simple equation.  Sun, lounge chair, beach or poolside, sparkling rosé, good book.  Easy.

If you could choose the ultimate wine mate for the food you specifically cook, what would it be? 

A lot of the food I make — both personally and for the restaurants — has a range in flavors, textures, temperatures and techniques.  For me, a great go-to is sparkling wine.  Usually old world.  Most frequently Champagne, because, well, it's Champagne. Champagnes provide good acidity, and the effervescence adds another dimension to a pairing.  It can help cut through fatty or rich dishes and cleans the palate for the next bite.  

Have you experience a wine pairing that you felt truly elevated food? 

Instead of one pairing, I’m going to choose an experience. I had the privilege of dining at Osteria Francescana a few years ago. The food is obviously amazing, but one of the things that truly elevated the experience were the pairings by Giuseppe Palmieri. Whether it was wine or cocktails, it was unique.

If you could drink one wine RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT, what would you want? 

This is really just random to this moment, but anything La Stoppa. I love her wines. 



La Stoppa ‘Ageno,’ Emilia-Romagna, Italy

The wines of Emilia-Romagna have been dominated by the cult of Lambrusco for years, for better or worse. Joyously fizzy reds being what they are, there's not a lot of room for another vinous personality to land the podium — it’s hard to compete with pure pleasure. So when Elena Pantaleoni stepped into the ring in the late 90s with her deeply complex, brooding cuvées built from earth and a serious expression of ancient terroir, the wine world shook off its Sorbara haze and took note. While Elena’s oeuvre is definitively red-heavy, Ageno lands in that white-wine-for-red-wine-drinkers realm of skin-contacted orange, and it’s an incredible expression of the rustic wilds of Eastern Italy. Pop a bottle of this alongside a full spread of charcuterie and never look back.