I never saw myself ever having a mentor in wine. Mentorship was something that I never deemed necessary, when I first got into wine I was scrutinized. Either I was not authentic enough in my ambition toward the field(many believing I was in it for the wrong reasons) or to authentically AfroLatino to be taken seriously. Everything I wanted to attain I had to get on my own with very few peers to discuss wine with. Now that I finally have somebody who is in my corner (quite a few actually) I feel empowered and fruitful.
Every Monday at 7 am I am greeted by an e-mail with a list of questions. The purpose of these questions is to make me a more well rounded Somm by table side. Although I do have my certification from Sommelier Society of America I find these questions to be refreshing and humbling. When I answer the questions in our virtual chats I try to speak to him as if I were speaking to a guest at my table. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the theory of it all that e forget that we are supposed to be taking such a complex subject and being able to explain it to a five year old child.
Here are some of the questions from my weekly excerpts I hope it can be as much use to you all as it has been for myself.
When you walk through the door remember to always hold it open for the person behind you.
What Is Mencia? (MEN-THEE-AH)
A spicy grape native to the area around Bierzo; Galicia, in the Provence of Leon, in North western Spain.
Currently it is undergoing a small revival:
Descendientes de J. Palacios Pétalos
Guimaro Finca Meixeman
Bodegas Estefania Tilenus Pieros
Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas
Bodegas y Vinedos Luna Beberide Paixar Mencia
Mencia is also grown in Portugal’s northern half called the Dao region, where it is known as Jaen.
Bierzo, Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra are the three most renown regions for the production of Mencia
Grown throughout the Iberian Peninsula
Old Vines are cared on Schisty hillsides. This gave the grape vines more concentration grapes and more higher quality wines.
Dark fruit, Earth, flowers. Peppery earth driven palate (Schiopettino anyone? Cab franc anyone? Pinot Noir anyone?)
Many thought it was the descendant of cabernet franc.
Smoked Meats, Charred veggies, shit from the BBQ.
Over the years, Mencía has been known under a variety of synonyms including: Fernao Pires Tinta, Giao, Jaen, Loureiro Tinto, Mencin, Negra, Negro, Mencia Roble, Tinto Mencia and Tinto Mollar. It is known as Jaén colorado in León, not to be confused with Jaén blanco or Jaén rosado (both of which are variants of Cayetana) and Jaén tinto, from Huelva.Descendientes de J. Palacios
What is Currently happening in the South African Wine Industry?
South Africa. Is the only country to have imposed a ban on sales of alcohol during lockdown–and for five weeks, exports of South African wine were banned as well.
As in other countries, the government must aim to find a balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods.
Meanwhile, people in the restaurant and hospitality industries will continue with their protests and their campaigns for another week.
That delicate balance between lives and livelihoods will go on for much longer–in South Africa, but also across the globe.
Who is Gary Vaynerchuk?
- Created Vayner Media with zero formal marketing experience and went on to grow it to an 800+ person global ad agency powerhouse, counting dozens of Fortune500 brands as clients will cut the middleman by selling direct to consumers.
- Rose to fame when he helped catapult his father’s business Wine Library into one of the first and largest e-commerce wine retailers. Wine Library TV, hosted by Vaynerchuck was one of the internet’s first daily video blogs.
At its peak, more than 100,000 people a day tuned in for Gary’s eccentric-yet-educational wine reviews
Who won worlds best sommelier in 2018?
Marc Almert. Has a Hard on for Riesling
Youngest at the age of 27
From Germany, worked for a line of luxury hotels, Baur Au Lac. Two Michelin Star “Le Pavillon”
What is more important for a great sommelier: knowledge of wine, or the ability to deal with customers?
“A mix of several features makes a good sommelier. Of course, a profound knowledge of wine and other beverages is crucial. However, having an encyclopaedic knowledge and not being able to apply can be done by books to. A sommelier is a host, entertainer, coach and of course also a waiter – he or she needs to adapt to different kind of guests and their needs and tastes within mere seconds and then ensure they have a great experience throughout the entire evening.”
Chef Laurent Eperon
What is VDN?
VIN DOUX NATUREL
French wine term, means “Naturally sweet”
Wines made using ‘mutage’ : Added grape spirit to the grape must added before fermentation is complete. The spirit ends up killing the yeast and stopping the fermentation short and leaving residual sugar that causes the wine to taste sweet.
Wine, unfermented grape juice and added grape spirit.
“Muscat de petit grains” “Muscat de Beams de Venise’
Banyuls an appellation in Roussillon
Roussillion is the birthplace of VDN wine.
Name 5 Producers from Mount Etna:
Tenuta Delle Terre Nere
Estate located in northern slopes of the volcano.
55 hectares, divided into 4 crus.
One parcel having survived phylloxera is 130-140 years old.
600-1000 meters above sea level.
All wines are produced from local varieties, all are D.O.C Etna
Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso Prephylloxera; La Vigna de Don Peppino, Nerello Mascalese
Established in the early 1980s.
Salvatore and Vinzia Di Gaetano, Business couple
Guisepe Pellegrino and Giovanni Manzo, Enologist
Traditional winemaking style in Provence of Tropani
Later acquired Cavanera on Etna & Calamoni on the island of Favignana
Feudo di Mezzo winery in the heart of Etna viticulture. ( ROSSO)
(Eruzione) 1614 volcanic eruption is legendary, it lasted 10 years; the longest ever recorded
Dell’Etna - Cru
The eruption stopped short of the vineyards Scaranuova, the reason it is not DOC is because it lies outside the area of denomination at 850 meters above sea level. There fore it was turned into a Cru and Planeta even chose the name to represent the eruption and how it formed the entire shape of the vineyard.
4. Azienda Agricola Frank Conelissen (Action Bronson wine)
Etna, Northern Valley. produces wine and olive oil since 2001
Munjebel *wine of note Bold, slight orange tint, smells like Mandarin spiced tea, mangoes and ash.
50/50 Grecanico &Carricante. 40+ year old vines. IGP wine
Sourced from Calderara, Borriglione & Picciolo vineyards.
Susucaru (Rose) Nerello Mascalese,Cattaratto,Moscatel, Malvasia
5. Alberto Graci Estate
- Graci Etna. Bianco
Northern Slope of Mt. Etna Passopisciaro, ancient viticultural area.
Many of the vines are on their own roots, dating back Pre Phylloxera.
Olives and apple trees planted in vicinity
Graci uses large wooden well used wooden barrels.
Likes to reflect the different personalities of the vineyards and difference between different harvest.
Carricante and Cattarratto can produce wines that feel very much like Chablis the coming from the higher elevation vineyards.
Lively acidity,fresh crunchy vibrant fruit. Good length and a splash of funk and spice.
Name 3 different types of wine closures.
Cork:Made from bark of Quercus suber, or cork oak tree. Pros: Renewable resource, Tradition good for age worthy wines.
Cons: Susceptible to taint, 1 in 10 bottles are corked. Fragility and cost.
Screw cap: ‘Stelvin’ made from aluminum cap lined with plastic.
Consistency, no TCA. Longevity Some say they don’t age at all some say they age beautifully just more slowly. Affordability. Easy to open.
Cons: Shitty for the environment and hard to recycle. Prone to reduction (rotten egg/ onion aromas)
Synthetic Cork: Petroleum based plastic or plant-based materials.
Pros: Consistency not prone to TCA taint, tight immovable seal. Durability, don’t degrade or dry out. Wont break apart.Cheaper then screw caps and regular corks.
Cons: Hard to put cork back into the bottle. Chemical odor. Negative environmental impacts.
Describe the Stylistic Differences between Cognac and Armagnac
Both are Brandy, both from western France. The Cognac appellation is situated north of Bordeaux. Armagnac is situated further to the south, close to Pyrenees.
Cognac is more popular and famous but Armagnac is the oldest.
Big producers rule over cognac more then 90% comes from Hennessey VSOP, Remy Martin, Martell and Courvoisier.
In Armagnac you will find smaller family owned houses, who grow the grapes and produce the spirits themselves.
Made in cognac region, in chalky soil with mild temperature
Armagnac 100 mi south of cognac. Soil is sandy and the weather is warm
Made with 98% Ugni Blanc grapes
Uses Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard and Bacco grapes..
Law requires cognac twice distilled in a pot still. Result is arch 70% ABV
Distilled once in a column still, to around 52% ABV
Aged in oak from Limousin & Troncais forest
Aged in oak from local (Gascon) or Limousin forest.
%ABV reduced to 40% before bottling
No water is added
Usually a blend of several vintages, rarely a single vintage
Commonly given a vintage date, sometimes blended
More sophisticated, nuanced taste.
Sold at 40% ABV
Typically higher in price
Peak at 30-40 years in age
Stronger, rustic raw flavor
Not diluted or altered with flavor or color enhancers
Typically lower in price
Peak at 20-30 years in age
If you prefer more mellow, rich and heavy flavor try Cognac.
If you prefer more tertiary and wily style try the Armagnac.
Who is Robert Mondavi?
- Born in Virginia, Minnesota in 1913
Purchased Napa Valley Charles Krug winery in 1943
Robert was in charge of business and marketing while his brother Peter was in charge of wine making, but after a huge fight Robert was fired in 1965, which prompted him to start Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville six miles to the south.
Believed California wine deserved to be in the same conversation as the great wines from all over the world.
Created first global joint venture with Baron Phillipe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild to form Opus One and create a single Bordeaux style blend based in Napa.
Constellation brands launched take over in 2004 for the price of 1.36 billion in cash, and assumed the wineries debt.
Who is Michel Rolland?
One of the first wine consultants, has worked with over 150 wineries on four different continents.
Responsible for Harlan in Napa Valley, Ornellaia in Italy, Lapostelle in Chile and Grover vineyards in India.
His wines tend to have ripe fruit and a plush character, some argue that his wine all taste the same, but consumers gravitate toward his wines.
Has played a huge role in global transfer of information, and technique.
“A REALLY INTERESTING LIFE, BETWEEN VINE AND WINE. BUT NOW I RARELY HAVE THE TIME TO GO ON HOLIDAYS AND I HAD TO LEARN SPANISH AND ENGLISH. MY TIMETABLE IS RATHER COMPLICATED – FAR TOO MANY HOURS WASTED IN CARS AND AIRPORTS, FOR EXAMPLE – BUT IT IS ENTIRELY DEVOTED TO WINE – MY PASSION – TO AN EXTENT I WOULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED. OH, I ALMOST FORGOT - A MESSAGE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN LUCK. YOU NEED TO HELP IT ALONG, HAVE LOTS OF ENTHUSIASM AND CURIOSITY AND ABOVE ALL DON’T FORGET TO WORK A LOT… !!”