The Pleasure of Drinking Wine in Puerto Vallarta
Published Nov 1, 2009 - (Updated Aug 30, 2013)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2009 issue.
Enjoying a glass of wine with your dinner at a Puerto Vallarta restaurant some 15 years ago could be boiled down to a basic, often crude choice: red or white. How fortunate we are that a handful of pioneering restaurateurs paved the way for the extraordinary selection we can savor in town today!
It’s easy to take an interesting wine menu for granted in Puerto Vallarta today. After all, thanks to globalization, most fine wineries are well represented at many local gourmet restaurants. But this wasn’t always the case. “Fifteen years ago, there were excellent choices in Mexico City, but no wine distributor would offer credit, so purchasing in quantity was not possible,” remarked Café des Artistes founder Thierry Blouet recently. Blouet, who opened his doors to the public 19 years ago, offered a basic selection of wines at the time and eventually became the first wine distributor in Puerto Vallarta, as a matter of personal necessity.
Jan Benton, who opened Mark’s Bar & Grill in Bucerías 12 years ago, contributed to this notion: “Our waiters used to ask, ‘Why do we have more than one white and one red?’ We often asked ourselves that question. With no refrigeration, we didn’t think many people would want to drink wine in this heat.” Trio, which also opened 12 years ago, had a similar situation. “Clients were more interested in drinking hard liquor, whiskey and tequila, for example,” said co-owner Bernard Guth, who also developed his own wine distribution company over time.
As these and other restaurants began developing more sophisticated menus, their clientele began expecting equally sophisticated wine choices. And today, these restaurants, along with many others, maintain a well stocked cellar and devote considerable resources to training their wait staff so that they can, in turn, offer trustworthy advice when it comes to pairing a good wine with your own menu selections, according to your taste or budget.
You might think that wine would be more popular in Mexico. After all, Casa Madero began producing wine in the town of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, in 1597, making it the oldest winery in the Americas. Unfortunately, such is not the case, largely thanks to the high taxes imposed by the Mexican government on alcoholic beverage importing, exporting and manufacturing.
Have you ever wondered why you see so many affordable Chilean wines on the market today? The answer is simple: the government instituted a zero-tax policy for wine manufacturers. “Why bet on one bottle of Mexican wine when you can get two bottles of equally wonderful Chilean wine for the same price?” lamented Blouet, recalling convenience stores all over Santiago de Chile where wine choices in quality and quantity invariably outnumber other alcoholic beverages, such as beer or hard liquors.
Several Mexican wineries have persevered, however, and continue to produce excellent, affordable wines, to the amazement of many foreign visitors, who don’t expect to find them in the first place. Casa Madero in Coahuila continues to thrive today, along with Monte Xanic in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, where other smaller labels are leaving a good taste in the mouths of those who enjoy a good glass of wine.
So, what is the bottom line when it comes to enjoying wine? Probably the best and most fundamental piece of advice comes from Trio's Bernard Guth: “If wine makes you smile, it’s good. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.”
Great Wines Available Locally: Trusted Opinions
You will certainly be in capable hands when it comes to pairing a good wine with your dinner at any of the restaurants mentioned above or, for that matter, most gourmet restaurants in town. But what about for your own home? Here are some of the experts’ choices. All are fairly affordable, available at local supermarkets or through wine distributors in town.
About Savoring Wine: Interesting Facts
A Screw-Top Bottle Does Not an Inferior Wine Make
Even though there is enough cork growing in Portugal for another 100 years worth of winemaking, many high-end wineries are switching to plastic corks and screw tops. Given the fact that natural cork allows up to 10% of bottles to go bad, a wine can no longer be judged solely by its corkage.
Understand Your Hrapes
The most important factor in determining the taste of wine is the grapes used to produce it. You already know most by name: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc for whites, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Shiraz for reds. Savoring wine by grape variety will help you understand its flavor.
A Good Wine Glass is a Sound Investment
Guth suggests fine, thin, clear crystal goblets such as those manufactured by Riedel, widely available in town. Tasting the same wine in different types of glasses for comparison is also a good way to appreciate the difference in flavor and aroma.
Chilling Your Reds is a Good Idea ... here!
Drinking red wines at room temperature may work well in other places in the world, but local room temperature can change drastically from season to season. Blouet recommends chilling reds year round, allowing the bottle to rest 10 minutes or so before opening. A small wine refrigerator is another option to consider.
Taste the Tannin
You may be wondering what tannin, a term used frequently in wine circles, is all about. If you have ever bitten into a grape seed accidentally and experienced a woody taste, you’ve tasted tannin. Tannins are added to wine during the aging process, serving as an antioxidant and natural preservative and giving wine dimension and texture. Wines expected to age longer require more tannin. As the wine ages, the tannin softens and becomes less noticeable.
Think of Wine Like Music
Sometimes all you need is background music to keep you entertained. Sometimes you wish to pay undivided attention to what you are listening to. Such is the case with wines. Enjoy the difference between wine you drink on a regular basis and that carefully chosen pairing with a special meal.