Mezcal Secrets with Mezcal Expert Miguel Angel Quiroz

capella-ixtapa-month-agave

This month at Capella Ixtapa we are celebrating a very traditional Mexican plant – agave.  Throughout the Month of Agave we are having agave related activities; we are hosting mezcal and tequila experts, who share their secrets about these two popular spirits, we offer tequila and mezcal tastings, margarita making classes, tequila and mezcal pairing dinners, exhibitions, and more.  Sommelier and mezcal expert Miguel Angel Quiroz from Ixtapa Zihuatanejo was kind enough to take a couple of minutes after his guest appearance at our events last week, and we chatted about agave and mezcal.

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Miguel Angel, can you give us a short history about mezcal?  

Mezcal is a prehistoric drink, produced from cooking and fermentation of agave.  Its origins are in the American continent, our ancestors were fermenting the drink, but it wasn’t until the Spanish colonies arrived that we learned the distillation technique brought from Spain.

How many varieties of mezcal exist? And what is its relation with tequila?

There is three types of mezcal, white or young, reposado and añejo (like in tequila).  Mezcal and tequila have a lot in common and at the same time very little in common.  Both are obtained from the agave, but from different types;  tequila is produced from one single kind of agave (tequilana Weber or agave azul), while mezcal can use more than 20 different kinds of agave except for azul or tequilana Weber, which is exclusive for the creation of tequila.  Both are harvested in a similar way, they are cooked, fermented and distilled.   Today, due to its international popularity, tequila has become more industrialized, while mezcal is still artisanal in its produtcion.  The cooking of agave for tequila is done in steel ovens and the cooking for mezcal is done underground in clay ovens with mezquite wood logs.

How would you define a good mezcal?

A good mezcal can be identified just by looking at it: shake the bottle to check for the formation of bubbles, or “pearls”; the finer these are the better the quality, and if they last longer it also means it’s a high quality mezcal.  On the palette a good mezcal should be balanced, elegantly smoked, and with an interesting spectrum of smells.  I recommend you to taste it with small sips (we call them kisses) and find the different aromas and flavors that it offers.

Capella Ixtapa Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Mezcal Expert Miguel Angel Quiroz at our Month of Agave Festival

Capella Ixtapa Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Mezcal Expert Miguel Angel Quiroz at our Month of Agave Festival

What is the story behind the Mezcal worm?

The worm was frequently used in the first days of Mezcal mostly to give it an identity of its own and to generate expectation among consumers, today less and less mezcals use the worm, partly because the spirit is already perfectly recognizable by the consumers.  The myth that if mezcal doesn’t have a worm than it isn’t mezcal is completely false.

Can you tell us some other myths and rituals of Mezcal?

There are two most common myths about mezcal, but both are false; If it doesn’t have a worm it’s not a good mezcal; and If you eat the worm you won’t get drunk.
One of my favorite rituals is savoring the mezcal: Drink it by kissing it, little by little, with thirds of orange and worm salt.

What are the most traditional and what are the new trends in enjoying Mezcal?

The most traditional way to drink it is to have the entire glass in one sip.  But as I mentioned, these days it is suggested (and I recommend that as well) to enjoy mezcal little by little and savor it, try to find all its flavors and aromas, with the thirds of orange or even with bitter chocolate.  If you want to pair it with food, try it with typical Mexican snacks – they go along perfectly!

In your personal opinion which region in Mexico produces the best mezcal?

I think the best mezcal for each person depends on their tastes, but without a doubt Oaxaca is today the largest and most important producer of great mezcal in Mexico.  Personally I love the ones from Oaxaca and Guerrero.

Which are your favorites?

I like Mezcal Katrina, which is a mezcal from Guerrero and it’s created with 3 different agaves, it is an intense, elegant and delicious blend.  From Oaxaca I like Mezcal Amigos Reposado with 9 years of aging in glass containers.  This is a reposado with a very crystalline look, a strong smoke and very interesting overall.  As a digestive I would recommend you to try Mezcal Amigos Añejo, aged 3 years in cherry barrels with delicious notes of fresh red fruits.

These sound amazing, I can’t wait to try them! For the end, can you tell me are all mezcales done in an artisan way?

Yes, until today all mezcals are created in an artisan way – and I hope it stays that way [smile].

Thank you very much Miguel Angel!

It is my pleasure!

Meet Juan Carlos Flores, The Best Sommelier in Mexico

Best Sommelier In Mexico

I might seem biased to claim that Capella Pedregal’s Wine Director Juan Carlos Flores is the best sommelier in Mexico, but that is actually the title that Mexico’s Wine Association awarded him with!  I met with Juan Carlos just a couple of days after he returned from the World’s International Sommelier Competition in London, where he represented Mexico and finished in semifinals!  Yes, he is that good!  Despite his flashing awards, Juan Carlos is very humble, pleasant to talk to, and very passionate about what he does.  Here is my interview with Juan Carlos about his passions and plans for Capella Pedregal’s wine program:

Best Sommelier In Mexico

Welcome back from London!  I would love to hear about your trip.

Thank you!  It was very exciting and challenging. This is my third time representing Mexico at the World’s International Sommelier Competition, and as each time, I loved being surrounded with world’s best sommeliers.  I am so honored I get to compete with legends— many of whom were my teachers when I was still in school.  It was a great honor and an amazing experience.  I am already preparing for the competition in 2015 where I am aiming for the finals!

How did you find your passion for wine and how did it become a career?

Originally I studied hotel management in Mexico City, and during my last 6 months of school we started having wine classes, which I loved.  I received a scholarship to work in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where I noticed that the Food & Beverage area of the hotel was among the most important functions.  We worked the most important events in town—from Formula 1 to Tennis Monte Carlo.  We even provided special services for Prince Rainier and Princess Caroline!  I realized then that I wanted my engagement in hotel industry to be where the action is, not in the background.  But it wasn’t until I worked at the 3-star Michelin restaurant Le Louis XV, that I developed a true passion for wine and decided to pursue it as a career. 

What does it take to be a successful sommelier?

I believe you have to have a passion for terroir— that is the elements that reflect the characteristics of a specific place.  You have to have a passion for tasting and smelling different aromas.  My passion is not only for the wine itself, but for all the aromas – be it wines, coffee, teas, food or perfumes!  My other passion is travel, so I always try to explore new and different wine locals.

What are your plans for Capella Pedregal’s wine program?

Our guests are both well traveled and have discerning palates.  I love talking with them and sharing wines that they have tasted on their trips to Europe, South America or in the States.  I am dedicated to building a wine selection with wines from the entire world.  I also make an effort to surprise them with some wines they may not be as familiar with.

I heard you are working on an exciting and new experience for our guests. Can you tell me more about it?

Absolutely!  You probably know that the more the wine breathes, the better it is.  That is why I am preparing a wine list with recommended breathing times, so for example when you make your dinner reservation, you can already choose the wine, and on the basis of your choice we will open the bottle at the recommended time, so that when you come for dinner, the wine is already at its optimal taste.  Our Executive Chef Yvan Mucharraz and the team will help us pair that bottle of wine with food as well.  This is something completely new in the industry, and I am looking forward to introducing it to our guests and hearing their feedback on it.

What would you recommend to our guests who would like to pair their wines with food when dining at home?

Think of wine as just another ingredient of a meal.  If your food is missing acidity, don’t add it to the food itself, but complement the dish with a more acid wine.  The vertebral column of wine is its acidity.  A well-balanced acidity is very important, it brings freshness and cuts the fat.  Never discard any wine until you taste it with food.

FInally, how do you choose your wine, and what other beverages you like besides wine?

I choose the main bottle of the night based on the day, the company, and the occasion, but I always recommend starting the evening with a glass of champagne.  Besides wine I love drinking beverages with great aromas, like coffee, tea, tequila, single malts, and I enjoy preparing different versions of gin and tonic.

Thank you Juan Carlos!

It is my pleasure!

Conoce A Juan Carlos Flores, El Mejor Sommelier En México

Best Sommelier In Mexico

Posiblemente seré tendenciosa al asegurar que Juan Carlos Flores, Director de Vinos de Capella Pedregal es el mejor sommelier en México, sin embrago ese es exactamente el título que que la Asociación Mexicana del Vino le otorgó sólo algunos días después de que volvió del Concurso Mundial de Sommelier Internacional en Londres, donde Juan Carlos representó a México y llegó hasta las semifinales!  Así es, el es así de bueno! A pesar de sus reconocimientos y premios, Juan Carlos es muy modesto, agradable, y muy apasionado de su profesión. Aquí les presento mi entrevista con Juan Carlos acerca de sus pasiones y los planes para el programa de vinos de Capella Pedregal:

Best Sommelier In Mexico

Bienvenido de vuelta de Londres! Me gustaría escuchar cómo te fue en tu viaje.

Gracias! Fue un viaje muy emocionante y un gran reto para mí. Esta fue mi tercera ocasión representando a México en el concurso World’s International Sommelier, y como las veces anteriores, me encantó estar rodeado de los mejores sommeliers del mundo. Me siento tan honrado de poder competir con leyendas del ramo -muchos de ellos incluso fueron mis profesores cuando aún estaba en formación. Fue un gran honor y una experiencia inolvidable. Ya me estoy preparando de hecho para la competencia del 2015 donde quiero llegar a las finales!

Como es que encontraste tu pasión por el vino y como es que se volvió tu profesión?

Originalmente estudié administración hotelera en la Ciudad de México, y durante mi últimos semestre tuvimos clases de degustación de vinos, las cuales me encantaban. Recibí posteriormente una beca para trabajar en Monte Carlo, Mónaco, donde me di cuenta que el área de Alimentos & Bebidas del hotel estaba dentro de las funciones más importantes. Trabajábamos para los eventos más importantes en la ciudad -desde la Gran Premio de Formula 1 hasta el torneo de Tennis de Monte Carlo. Incluso dimos servicio para el príncipe Rainier y la Princesa Carolina! Me di cuenta entonces que quería relacionarme en las actividades del hotel donde está la acción y no tras bambalinas. Pero no fue hasta que tuve oportunidad de trabajar en el restaurante Le Louis XV con tres estrellas Michelin, que pude desarrollar una verdadera pasión por el vino y decidí perseguir esta profesión.

Que se necesita para convertirse en un sommelier exitoso?

Creo que necesitas tener pasión por el terruño -ese es el elemento que refleja las características de un lugar específico. Debes tener una pasión por probar y oler diferentes aromas. Mi pasión no es sólo por el vino en sí, sino por todos los aromas -ya sean vinos, café, té, alimentos o fragancias! Mi otra pasión es el viajar, así que a donde voy siempre estoy tratando de explorar nuevos y diferentes vinos locales.

Cuáles son tus planes para el programa de vinos de Capella Pedregal?

Nuestros huéspedes tienen tanto un paladar educado como un sin fin de experiencia en viajes. Me gusta hablar con ellos y compartir vinos que ellos hayan probado en sus viajes por Europa, America Latina o en los Estados Unidos. Estoy dedicado a juntar una selección de vinos con vinos representativos de todo el mundo. Así también estoy haciendo un esfuerzo por sorprender a nuestros huéspedes con algunos vinos con los cuales probablemente no estén familiarizados.

Escuché que estas trabajando en una nueva y emocionante experiencia para nuestros huéspedes. Me puedes decir un poco sobre esto?

Claro que si! Probablemente ya sabes que mientras mas respira un vino, mejor es su sabor. Es por esto que estoy preparando una lista de vinos con tiempos recomendados de oxigenación, para que por ejemplo al hacer tu reservación a cenar, ya puedes elegir el vino, y basados en esto podemos abrir la botella con el tiempo recomendado, para cuando te sientes a cenar el vino esté en su punto optimo de sabor. Nuestro Chef Ejecutivo Yvan Mucharraz y todo el equipo nos ayudarán a maridar esa botella de tu elección con la comida perfecta para ella. Esto es algo completamente nuevo en la industria, y no puedo esperar a ver la reacción y escuchar los comentarios sobre esto de parte de nuestros huéspedes.

Que les podrías recomendar a nuestros huéspedes que quieren maridar sus vinos y alimentos en casa?

Que piensen en el vino como otro ingrediente de la cena/comida. Si a su comida le falta acidez, no se la añadan a la comida, sino que complementen el platillo con un vino más ácido. La columna vertebral del vino es la acidez. Una acidez bien balanceada es muy importante, añade frescura y elimina las grasas. Nunca deseches un vino hasta que lo pruebes con alimentos.

Para finalizar, cómo es que eliges tus vinos, y que otras bebidas disfrutas además de los vinos?

Elijo la botella principal de la noche basándome en la fecha, la compañía y la ocasión, pero siempre recomiendo iniciar la velada con una copa de champagne. Además del vino me encantan las bebidas con fuertes aromas, como el café, el té, el tequila, la malta, y me encanta también preparar diferentes versiones del gin & tonic.

Muchas gracias Juan Carlos!

De nada, es un placer!

 

 

Getting To Know Capella Singapore’s Gabriel Danis

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Famous author and lover of all things French, Julia Child, once declared, “Wine is one of the agreeable and essential ingredients of life.”  Indeed, these words could not ring more true for Capella Singapore’s new Restaurant Manager and Sommelier of The Knolls Restaurant, Monsieur Gabriel Danis.

Originally hailing from Roanne, a commune in the Loire region in central France, Gabriel has spent just over 14 months in sunny Singapore.  Indeed, it is fitting that coming from one of France’s most renowned wine regions – he is now half-way round the world sharing his passion for French wine.

Starting from a humble beginning in 1995 as a commis waiter in Troisgros, a world renowned three Michelin-star restaurant in France, Gabriel learnt all the basic skills of fine dining service at the highest level.  Since then Gabriel has continued to grown restaurant knowledge, working in premier locations throughout the world.  During that time, Gabriel developed a special passion for wine and in 2000 he earned the highest level of certification in wine education from Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

Wanting to learn more about wine, I followed Gabriel around to observe his duties and walk in the shoes of a wine sommelier for a day.  Apart from running wine tasting information sessions and offering expert advice and service to guests, Gabriel also manages wine procurement, wine storage, and wine cellar rotation.  Working along with Capella Singapore’s culinary team, Gabriel has also created wine pairing to complement each and every dish.

After an interesting afternoon, the charismatic and gentlemanly sommelier left me with three useful tips to for even the most novice wine lover:

  • Don’t be shy to ask the restaurant to pack up your wine bottle, especially if it is one that you thoroughly enjoyed. Remember to keep the label!
  • Decanting is not always necessary, as the wine will get plenty of air in the larger wine glasses while we swirl.
  • If you do not own a wine refrigerator, find a place in your house which is dark with a fairly constant, moderate temperature.