Wine enthusiasts can indulge in an all-you-can-drink wine tasting celebrating the wines of Portugal at Smith & Wollensky tomorrow, Wednesday, October 10. The Tejo Wine Tasting offers 100 distinct wines from Portugal's Tejo region, a hilly place around the River Tagus.
Tejo offers quite a variety, from easy-drinking reds, roses, and fruity wines, to more complex finishes from the drier parts of the region. In anticipation of the event, we spoke with David Bernard, founder of the Miami International Wine Fair, about the Tejo Wine Tasting, trending wines, and the eternal conundrum -- to chill or not to chill.
Follow the jump for our Q&A with Bernard.
Short Order: Can you give us a little background on yourself and how you came to be involved in the wine industry?
David Bernard: I have been involved in the wine industry for nearly 12 years. I founded the Miami International Wine Fair in 2001 and that led to the creation of Vinamericas in 2004. Vinamericas is a wine import and marketing company dedicated to helping wine producers from around the world penetrate the U.S. market.
Before my wine industry immersion, I was an analyst for an international consulting firm based in New York City where I lived for ten years before moving to Miami in 2000. I studied Industrial Engineering at Columbia University, but I was born and raised in northern Spain.
How did the Miami International Wine Festival (MIWF) come about and what is its purpose?
It was created to help family owned and operated wineries from around the world find new distribution channels for their products in the United States. We initially focused on attracting Florida-based buyers, but quickly expanded our efforts to become a trade show attracting buyers from around the country.
We tried some Romanian wine at the MIWF and prior to that had no clue that Romania even produced wine. What else do you think might surprise people about wine and winemakers?
Romania is actually one of the largest producers and consumers of wine. They drink over 25 liters per capita, compared to the 11 we drink in America. Another interesting fact is that every single state in America produces wine nowadays. Wine is one of the most fascinating consumer products because it offers such an incredible range of options. There is no other category in your local supermarket boasting literally thousands of brands to choose from.
Vines are fascinating plants because of their ability to survive and thrive in the most extreme weather and soil conditions, and their need to suffer in order to produce the very best grapes they can. Unlike other alcoholic beverages where human labor plays a decisive role in their production, when it comes to wine, the winemaker can certainly play around with a wide variety of variables, including fermentation temperature, microoxigenation, oak aging process, and so on, but 70 to 80 percent of the wine's potential is achieved through the work performed in the vineyard during the previous 12 months. A lot of hard work from the vine, the vineyard manager and the winemaker goes into a bottle of wine.
Which wines, vineyards, or wine-producing regions are currently trending?
This is the eighteenth year in a row for wine consumption growth, reaching over 32 billion dollars in sales. Interesting new categories have had explosive growth including, sweet red, moscato, and even more creative items such as chocolate wine.
Imports from Australia and Chile have contracted significantly while wines from Spain, France, Italy and Argentina had very healthy growth; experiencing double digit increments in consumption. Malbec and Pinot Noir continue capturing new fans. Chardonnay from anywhere in the world is still the most popular varietal. Tempranillo and Garnacha are becoming ubiquitous on retail shelves around the country. Dry reislings have had a very healthy summer and Italy as a whole continues to lead the market with a 32% market sale when it comes to imported wine sales.
Do you have a particular favorite?
In addition to Spanish wines, I'm a big fan of French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Argentinian, Chilean and New Zealand wines. I also enjoy Australian wines on occasion and California wines less often than I'd like to. The other night at the Newark airport I treated myself to a flight of Pinot Noirs from Oregon, California and France, all of them delicious. I do think that Spain offers the greatest selection and overall quality in the $10 to $20 range though.
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Are there any new products or events that you're excited about?
Yes, always! We have a great tasting of nearly 100 Portuguese wines from the region of Tejo, right outside of Lisbon (Portugal) this Wednesday at Smith & Wollensky in South Beach at 6 p.m.
And finally, chilled or room temperature?
Definitely chilled, the question is how chilled. Sixty degrees Fahrenheit for reds and 42 degrees Fahrenheit for whites does the job for me.
Sample Portuguese vinos at the Tejo Wine Tasting this Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Smith & Wollensky (1 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach). Tickets cost $35 per person and can be bought online at tejotasting.eventbrite.com.