The Rompel Report from Mexico

2012 is shaping up as the year that marked the end of the global financial calamity that started in 2007. Third quarter US growth has come in at 3.1% and unemployment is seriously down. As the Spectator noted yesterday “the global economic story for the foreseeable future will be dominated by the growing gap between a resurgent US and a sclerotic Europe” with a simple message for SA producers. Ignore Europe-fixated WOSA (with family and friends in the safe but economically stagnant UK) and focus on North America and of course the far east. Mexico is one destination that can benefit from SA wine exports as Andy Rompel reports. Here are a couple of Mexicans throwing themselves off a financial cliff of another sort.

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Apart from very spicy food, Mexico is also renowned for its silver jewelry. Being one of the largest producers in the world, they also manufacture jewelry, unlike South Africa with its gold production. One of the big silver hubs is Zacatecas, a province and city which is a one hour’s flight north of Mexico City. Since the gold price is at an all-time high at the moment and its jewelry borderline unaffordable, the much cheaper silver comes into play. Zacatecas’ very scenic ancient old city features an art centre for silver jewelry with about 20 little shops showing off their finest pieces. Unlike the usual drab and clumsily produced pieces we know from SA, you find real pieces of art here, and every shop has a different artist with his/her own style.

In the evening you have to dine at Los Dorados de Villa, a little restaurant in the ancient way perfectly fitting into the old city centre serving traditional fare. Hot if you like, but mainly rich in flavour, topped with cream and cheese (as always in Mexico). The Corona brewery is around the corner from Zacatecas, so one of their beers is the recommended drink, followed by a Mescal or Tequila for digestion. Tequila here in Mexico is not the favourite shooter at parties taken in with salt and lemon, but rather the aged (añejo) drink similar to a good Brandy.

Wine is not grown at its finest in Mexico, but should you end up in Pachuca, another silver producing hub to the north of Mexico City, then a visit to a Lebanese restaurant called Hayes is on the cards. Apart from Lebanese food with a hefty Mexican influence we ordered a Chateau Kefraya 2009, a Bordeaux blend produced in Lebanon. Not only was the price right at about R400 in the restaurant, but also the wine. If I had tasted it blind, it could have gone for a good Cru Bourgeois from a good year in the Bordelaise.

Once in Mexico you shouldn’t bypass Acapulco’s fantastic beaches. Unlike the more “in” Cancun, Acapulco has a stunning bay and a mountain range behind it, giving it the picture-perfect scenery for a dream holiday at coconut-palm beaches with a long-drink in your hand and the waves gently rolling in. Even better at night, the illuminated coast line around the bay makes for perfect postcards, if you were still sending these rather than emails or whatsapp messages.

A restaurant to visit in Acapulco is the Carmenère, named after the famous grape grown in Chile. Located at the touristy Costera de Miguel Alemán, the main drag along the coastline in Acapulco (with pelicans, see below), is frequented by Acapulceños and some foreigners who have been given the hint. The tourist masses do not come here. The food is a mix of Mexican and Italian food, and the wine list features bottles from around the globe. We chose a Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2009 from the Ribera del Duero, a Spaniard from the upstream of the Portuguese Douro River (where they make the reds for Port wine). It was a classic hot temperature wine, not too heavy and very agreeable with the seafood pastas and steaks ordered at the table.

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Other stonkers consumed over the holidays were the:

Torres Mas La Plana 2006, a Cabernet from Rioja, Spain, very dense, very elegant
Banfi, Brunello de Montalcino 2005, cherries, lighter in colour, perfect with poultry
Concha Y Toro, Terrunyo Carmenère, excellent expression of the famous Chilean grape
Protos, Crianza, another classic Rioja, hot climate, excellent with meat
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cantine Dragani 2008, easy drinking, cherries

The odd bottle of champagne was also opened on occasion:

Moët & Chandon, entry level bubbly, mass production, not my favourite
Veuve Cliquot, non-vintage yellow label, fresh, lemon-fruity, fantastic
Perrier-Jouët, non-vintage, pineapple flavours, also honey, also not my favourite.