Wine pairing continues to evolve in the hospitality industry as sommeliers continue to find ways to add creativity to the experience. The latest trend: pairing wine with Mexican food.
At Red O Restaurant in Newport Beach, Calif., which just opened at the end of 2013, groups can experience Master Chef Rick Bayless’ Oaxacan-influenced cuisine paired with wines from the restaurant’s 400-plus international wine collection. The entire restaurant can be reserved for groups up to 300, or meeting planners can host smaller groups in the private and semi-private dining rooms.
Red O’s Sommelier Christopher Janz is available to highlight wines and varietals that pair best with the Mexican cuisine. He offers specific examples from the menu and general tips on how to recreate those flavor profiles when entertaining at home, while also giving insight on what is currently trending in Latin wines. Prevue spoke with Janz about the emerging trend and its influence on the traditional wine pairing concept.
Why is pairing Mexican food with wine an emerging trend?
Janz: Well, Mexican food is evolving from what the American diner thought was traditional Mexican cuisine, that being Tex Mex style. People forgot about the influence of seafood in the Mexican culture and the influence of the islands from the Caribbean side of Mexico. The European culture has also had a tremendous impact on the cuisine in central and southern Mexico. In many of the traditional dishes, chilies are used as flavor not as heat. Then as you get into Oaxaca, the moles get to be dishes of more complex flavors. This adds to the need for something complex such as wine to enhance the dining experience. The need for balance is important. Wines with ripeness and good acidity contribute fruit and freshness to go with chilies and balance earthy components of certain sauces.
What about this trend stands out compared to other wine pairing options for groups?
It is exciting and different. First of all, it is showing people different aspects of dining. When there is a group, it is a chance for the person or company to take their clients somewhere different not just as a location, but to a different part of the world, opening their customers’ eyes to something out of the box.
How many attendees can you accommodate for a wine pairing?
We have two different event spaces—the first being our atrium, which can accommodate a sit-down dinner for up to 75 guests or can be divided in half for smaller groups. Second, we are building an 80-seat pavilion, which will be available at the end of April. This could host a myriad of events—such as Chef Bayless or a winemaker skyping with the group— with interactive media involved. As for the size of a wine pairing event, it is very organic and completely depends on the complexity of the event. It can be as easy as a white and red that works with the family-style menu or as complex as having a 6-course meal individually plated and paired with its own wine.