George Mendez got into wine in 2002. He went to Hunter Valley, which is a great area for wine in Australia. While on the trip George got to experience a wide variety of wines and learned how they were made. Since his trip he took that knowledge and brought it back home. Now he has been traveling to learn about the wines made in the United States. George first obtained an Intermediate Certification in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Now he has an Advanced Certification from WSET. From that certification he got a position selling wines to many restaurants and wine shops throughout New York City area.
Art Eddy: Recently you came out with the book called, “The Right Bottle: A Simple Guide For Selecting Wine.” What inspired you to write that book?
George Mendez: I like wine. And if I can share that interest with others, even better. But as I would speak to people on the topic of wine, I realized that many of them liked wine, but admitted to not knowing much about it. They wanted to learn. So I began teaching friends and family in the form of a class. Since it was new to me, I started writing everything down as if I was speaking to a group of people. Then I found myself writing more and more. At which point I started thinking, “Hey, I might have enough here to write a book.” Then I just kept on writing. And now, I’m available on Amazon.com.
AE: Do you think people make it too complicated when they are trying to find the perfect bottle of wine?
GM: I just think that some people feel overwhelmed by all the options available, and even more so, with the descriptions of all the wines. Therefore, they tend to stick to buying the same bottles, or get discouraged all together. Ironically enough, so to avoid complication, many people also develop buying habits, to help them simplify their selection. In “The Right Bottle,” I elaborate on a few of the concepts I often tend to hear. Now, I am not calling them mis-conceptions because there are reasons why they came to be and why so many people follow them. But by sticking with certain buying habits, I feel some people are just cutting themselves short. I believe my approach is a truly “A Simple Guide For Selecting Wine” as the subtitle reads, and it puts you in control of the selection process. Simply put, know what you are looking for and ask the proper questions. This way you’re just going by someone else’s decision, nor are you buying something with putting little or no thought into it. That’s what puts you in control, and will raise your confidence when deciding which wine to choose.
AE: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone about pairing a wine with either dinner or dessert?
GM: Break it down. Both the food and the wine, you just need to break it down. What I mean by that is you want to match the qualities of the food with the qualities of the wine. Heavy with heavy, light with light, sweet with sweet. We use words like salty, sweet, oily, fatty, and intense; all of these are terms used to describe food. You need to recognize that, in order to know which characteristics to look for in a wine. The acidity in wine also plays a big role, here. Chapter 6 of “The Right Bottle, Matching & Pairing”, makes it clear and simple on what you need to know. There are several principles to follow, and it shouldn’t be too hard to grasp. As written, “…there are eight matching guidelines, but half of these are as easy as matching blue with blue.” The other half explains how the components of food and wine interact with each other. Hence the acidity, I just mentioned. “The intent is so that one complements the other. Or, equally as important, one does not overpower the other.” That is why you want a light-bodied wine to complement a light meal. Likewise, you want a heavy, full-bodied wine to stand up to a heavy dish. If you don’t know which wines have those qualities, at least now you will know what to ask for.
Plus, you can always refer to my Facebook page, Facebook.com/LocalSpotPublishing. There, I’ll be answering questions and giving pointers, picking bottles for review, looking for those bargain wines and I’ll do the same with restaurants too. I will have plenty of advice to give.
AE: When my wife and I were in Napa Valley for a trip we did a sensory test at a vineyard. After that experience I had a better understanding about wine and respected wine a bit more. What got you into wine?
GM: Similar to your story. At first, I was used to simple, dry wines; the kind you usually get at a wedding or on the lower end of the price scale. Then while doing my study abroad in Australia, my friends and I took a trip to Hunter Valley wine country. That’s where I was taken by all the different varieties and styles wine came in. I brought that enthusiasm back home with me, and a few years later, decided to study wine in greater detail. Then, like you, I had a better understanding and respected wine more.
There’s a great quote in my textbook from the “Wine & Spirit Education Trust”, where I got my certification from. It says, “Tasting wine, rather than simply drinking it, increases our appreciation of the wine by allowing us to examine it in detail. By learning to understand something, we learn not only to appreciate it, but to enjoy it.” I agree with that statement so much, I quoted it in my book.
When you learn something, anything, you are better able to assess it. You have a better understand of what the final outcome should be, and furthermore, you can appreciate each producer’s individual craft on the product. It almost inspires you to create your own product; in this case, wine.
AE: Do you have a favorite bottle or vineyard?
GM: I don’t necessarily have a favorite bottle, more than I have more memorable experiences. Whether it’s at a vineyard or winery, or at an event. It’s when I interact with the people who work directly for the brand, and in some cases, the winemakers themselves. I love speaking with the winemakers. Now that I understand the process, I get to hear how they go about it. They tell me how they put their own personal touch, so to create their own personal product. It’s personal to them, and you can sense that as they tell you. I respect that. It’s those experiences that will keep me loyal to a particular wine.
AE: Do you have an all-time favorite meal? If so what type of wine do you pair with it?
GM: Well, I love shellfish. You name it crab, lobster, shrimp, and scallops; it’s hard for me to choose. If I had my choice of wine to pair with any of those meals, I would like a nice Chardonnay; namely one from Burgundy. A white Burgundy would make a nice match on multiple levels. Shellfish can be rather heavy. Likewise, it can be a bit salty and even sweet. Chardonnays are rather heavy, full-bodied wines, and those from Burgundy usually have a good level of acidity. Acidity is the main thing here, I should say. The acidity in a wine will interact with both the saltiness and sweetness of the food, helping to enhance its flavors. Now, a white Burgundy that has spent time aging in oak will also give you hints of buttery and creamy flavors. And we know how well butter and shellfish go together. Now, we’re matching flavors in both the food and the wine.
It’s important to note, though, and I explain this in “The Right Bottle,” that there is not just one perfect wine to pair with a meal. As long as you put into consideration the different factors involved, you should be able to find a good match. And just in case, I even include a little cut-out guide at the end of the book. It’s part of Chapter 11, “Something To Take With You.”