Cheers September

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 27 of 51 28 Cheers • September 2014 Take Portugal as an example. Portuguese wines, which started to take off in the U.S. before the great recession, offer "very American-palate-friendly characteristics," says Arthur Hon, sommelier at Chicago's Sepia restaurant. "A beautiful extraction, but also a natural acidity and minerality makes them a great bridge, like a gateway to Old World wine for those not as familiar with the great French and Italian wines." Sepia recently featured two whites and two reds from Portugal at the head of its extensive international wine list. Hon praises them on the menu: "Their audacity and passion for the new and experimental combined with Portuguese diverse viticultural climates created bottles that really hit home with the contemporary palate." T h e c o u n t r y ' s c o n t i n u i n g modernization of winemaking practices are yielding vintages with more polish without signifi cant price increases, Hon says. And with more wines—especially whites—now appearing from southern Portugal, it's a new region to discover. Straw Valley Food & Drink in Durham, NC, recently added a Portuguese white to its by-the-glass list; co-owner and Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer says that his staff is excited to offer the wine to guests. Wines from so-called emerging regions offer both operators and customers a variety of benefi ts, he says. Value is important, but so is the opportunity to offer underrepresented or even unknown wines to guests. "We call our food 'new American,' so I get license to match international fl avors on a wide palate compared to, say, a steak house or an Italian restaurant," Dexheimer says. "And with a pricing structure that allows people who are willing to experiment at $40 to $60 per bottle to explore, we're willing to take on a lot of emerging wines from these regions in that range." BEYOND BURGUNDY It's not that Hon and Dexheimer ignore classic regions: the wine lists at both Sepia and Straw Valley are rife with Burgundy, Chianti and the like. But Dexheimer, for instance, features numerous wines from the vast production area in Southwest France—two Jurancon Sec whites and Madiran and Irouleguy reds—as well as bottles from France's Savoie and Ardeche regions. These bottles offer value, quality and simultaneously intrigue his customers. White-wine-drinking guests take to the Jurancon for the exotic tropical fruit and honey qualities in the dry white, Dexheimer notes. And he gets a great response from drinkers of big reds when he brings them a Madiran that offers the weight and texture of a big cabernet. Hon agrees regarding the growth of wines from southwest France. "Price- wise, you can get a lot more quality wine that averages at a much lower price. Producers from this and other emerging regions can't market their wines much higher, so they offer great value, and are really approachable wines at mid- and lower price points." Fo r M a x 's W i n e D i v e , w h e r e the mantra is "Fried Chicken and Champagne?… Why the Hell Not?!" the wine lists at the 13 locations vary by as much as 30%. But there's an emphasis on taking some risks on emerging wine regions or unfamiliar styles. One Max's unit carries a white grenache, for example, while others feature a colombard from Gascony. The appeal of wines from regions along the Mediterranean coast, for example, includes lower cost that can be passed along to guests, says Jacob Fairchild, one of the Houston, TX-based company's leadership and development managers. "There are lots of varieties like The wine wall at Straw Valley Food & Drink in Durham, NC. Fred Dexheimer of Straw Valley seeks out unique, aromatic wines.

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