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Discovering the World of Wine: Meet your Sommelier

Do you have a question about wine or would you like a recommendation for a particular dish? Javier Moreno, the Grand Residences Sommelier is your guide as you explore the world of wine.

Originally from Mexico City, Javier moved to Cancun four years ago and joined Grand Residences as the Sommelier. He explains how he fell in love with the world of wine. “I was studying Tourism for my Baccalaureate and was invited to visit Hacienda San Lorenzo in Parras, Coahuila. This is the home of Casa Madero, Mexico’s oldest vineyard, founded in 1597. Quite simply, I was fascinated with every aspect of wine making, from the cultivation of the vines and their harvest to the production process and the cellars full of huge oak barrels. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more and I enrolled in a one-year Sommelier diploma course at Centro Culinario Ambrosia in Mexico City. After 10 years working as a Sommelier, there is always something new to learn and I know I will never stop! In fact, I am studying the second level of four as a certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommelier Americas. This international body sets the global standard for excellence in beverage service in the hospitality industry.”

Sommeliers learn about geography, geology, grape varieties, history, the winemaking process, blends, wine tasting and pairing. Each country has its own distinctive grapes, cultivation, production techniques and wine regions. The study of wines lasts a lifetime, it is a passion and an art and one in which Javier is a master.

Each winemaking region or district, even a particular vineyard, has its own terroir, a term that encompasses the climate, humidity, hours of sunshine, wind direction and strength, the land, soil, ecosystems and even the plants that grow around the vineyard and give a wine its distinctive personality and notes. For example, some wines have citrus notes and this may be because there are orange groves near the vineyard, others have a hint of fig, cherry or plum or the scent of rosemary and other herbs.

Javier says, “At Grand Residences we have 150 wines in our cellar and we pride ourselves on the fact that we serve the finest wines, carefully selected to include a balance of well-known vineyards and smaller winemakers. Our commitment to quality has received industry recognition; we have been Wine Spectator award winners four years in a row.

When I look for new wines to add to our wine list I ensure that balance is maintained between the different countries and the wine regions that we showcase, “ Javier explains. “I decide which grape variety I want to include. I look for quality, value for money, talk to suppliers to see which wines they have in stock and then arrange a tasting, paying special attention to pairings with dishes on the menus. It is a complex process.”

Perfect pairings

We asked Javier for some of his recommendations to order or serve with different dishes and this is what he had to say:

Seafood
“Paco & Lola is a Spanish wine from the Rias Baixas region that is the perfect pairing for seafood. Made from Albariño grapes, it is very citrusy and floral.”

Pastas
“I would go for an Italian red for the acidity, a Sangiovese Rosso di Montalcino Castello Banfi.”

Meat
“I recommend a Mexican wine from Bodega de Los Cedros in Coahuila, it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, which gives it lots of body and an intense flavor.”

Poultry
“I have several recommendations here. You could go with a Pinot Noir like Avant-Garde Domaine Carneros, which is light and very fruity or choose a white wine. The J. Lohr Paso Robles Chardonnay aged in oak barrels is a good option; it is drier and has buttery notes.”

Cheeses
“This depends on the type of cheeses you are serving: creamy and mild or mature cheeses with a stronger flavor. Jackson Triggs Ice Wine from Canada is a sweet wine that goes well with cheese or you could opt for a light white wine or a red. Another Mexican wine called Megacero, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend from Bodega Encinillas in Chihuahua, is good with mature cheeses and for mild cheeses try the Kendall Jackson Merlot from California.”

Desserts
“The perfect pairing for the chocolate sponge we serve in El Faro Grill is a port called Royal Oporto 10 years, but obviously it depends on the dessert. Crème brûlee goes well with a Gewürztraminer.”

On the subject of new wines that he likes, there’s one Mexican wine that immediately springs to his mind. “Laberinto from San Luis Potosi,” he replies. “It is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo blend and is very reasonably priced. I also like French wines from the Bordeaux region like Château du Val d’Or Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion A.O.C., which is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and excellent quality. Another wine I love is a white wine from Austria called Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau area. It has fragrance of stone fruit such as peaches and of citrus fruit and as it evolves it develops honey notes.

 

Mexican wines

Although Mexico has the oldest vineyard in the Americas, winemaking in the country was not constant during the Colonial period or after Independence in the 19th century and there were long periods of inactivity. Javier explains that the last 25 years have seen an awakening in the national wine industry and something of a boom.

The most famous winemaking regions are the Valle de Guadalupe near Ensenada in Baja California, Parras, Coahuila and wines are also made in Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and even Michoacan.

“In Mexico there is no wine appellation or denomination of origin as there is in France and Spain, this enables wine makers to innovate, experimenting with blends of grapes and the time periods that the wines are stored in oak barrels. They are not bound by strict rules on the varieties of grapes that can be used in each wine as they are in Europe but it also means that there is no authenticity. You can distinguish wines from regions such as Bordeaux or Rioja but not so in Mexico, except perhaps for the Ensenada wine region where the mineral notes come through due to the proximity to the sea.

“Nevertheless, Mexican wines are now making a name for themselves. Don Leo, a wine from Coahuila recently won a global award as the best Cabernet Sauvignon for its 2013 vintage. Some small independent vineyards are producing small amounts of very good wines and are winning prizes. Three of my recommendations are Apogeo Cava Maciel, a Nebbiolo from Ensenada; the Bodega de Los Cedros rosé, which is a blend of Malbec and Shiraz grapes, and the Legat Viña de Frannes Sauvignon Blanc from the Valle de Guadalupe.”

Old World wines versus New World wines

Javier explains that wines from France, Spain and Italy have more earthy notes, with hints of leather, wood, smoke, spices and minerals such as graphite. In contrast, New World wines are fruitier, with a stronger taste of alcohol and more fragrance. The flavors and scent of fruit such as cherries and plums in red wines, are concentrated almost like jam, and citrus fruit notes in the case of white wines really come through.

And when it comes to grapes grown by different wine producing nations or regions, Javier gives us a quick tour:

France
“The three most famous wine regions in France are Bordeaux where the wines are made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes; Burgundy, which is characterized by white wines made with the Chardonnay grape and reds made with Pinot Noir; and the sparkling wines of Champagne made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Menieur and Chardonnay grapes.

Italy
“The country produces incredible wines with Nebbiolo (Barolo DOCG) and Sangiovese (Chianti DOCG) grapes.

Spain
“The emblematic Tempranillo grape is grown widely in the Ribera del Duero (D.O) and Rioja (D.O.Ca) regions and the country’s Cava sparkling wines are famous.

Chile
“The Carmenere grape predominates in the wine producing valleys of Chile.

Argentina
“The country produces excellent Malbec grapes in Mendoza, its famous wine region.

United States
“The highlights are Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and Sonoma Pinot Noirs.

Mexico
“In Baja California, Ensenada wine country, centered around the Valle de Guadalupe, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo red grapes and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc white grapes are grown. In central Mexico, vineyards in Queretaro specialize in Freixenet sparkling wines.

Australia
“The Shiraz grape suits the Australian climate and soils perfectly, for example in Barossa Valley.

New Zealand
“I recommend the crisp fresh flavors of Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough and the central Otago region produces great Pinot Noir wines.

South Africa
“The Stellenbosch wine region produces good red wines made with Pinotage grapes.”

Javier sometimes organizes wine and tequila tastings at Grand Residences and is always ready to answer guests’ questions about a particular wine or winemaking in general. He recommends Pinot Noir as a good starter for someone who has never tried wine before.

“When I recommend wine pairings I begin by asking what the diner has ordered for dinner. The idea is that they enjoy a new experience, a wine that is easy on the palate, enjoyable, and with flavors and notes that they have not experienced before.” Javier explains, “If they are ordering seafood I recommend a white or sparkling wine and red wines to accompany meat dishes.

“My message to our owners, members and guests is to try wines made in Mexico and support this growing industry. Wine is much more than a drink made with fermented grape juice; it is about lifestyle and culture too. I hope that during their stay at our beautiful resort they will take time out to discover our wine list, including our exclusive selection of Mexican wines.” And because we are in September and celebrating all things Mexican, we asked Javier for some wine pairings for two classic dishes at Flor de Canela:

Chiles en Nogada
“Serve with a white wine or rosé. Casa Grande Chardonnay complements the creamy sauce and a rosé brings out the flavor of the pomegranate garnish.”

Mole
“Amado IV de Viñas de Garza is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Zinfandel from the Valle de Guadalupe with spicy notes of chocolate and caramel that enrich the complex flavors of mole.”

To toast Mexico, you’ll need a glass of tequila and Javier recommends Clase Azul Reposado.

Ask your Concierge for information about arranging a Wine or Tequila tasting with Javier.