Friday, April 8, 2011

Steve’s Wine - European wines on Mineral Point Road: Dominique Taquet– Part II of II

MadisonWineScene (MWS) recently interviewed Dominique Taquet of Steve’s Wine Market ( at 8302 Mineral Point Road, 608-833-5995.

Dominique has worked for 10 years for Steve’s Wine Market and prior to that worked for 10 years in Paris for a Japanese company buying wines, gourmet food and luxurious tableware. He has a BA in English and Japanese, studied wines at l’Institut d’Oenologie de Paris for 1 year, and tasted thousands of wines since!

A previous post discussed Steve’s wines from France.  This post will discuss Steve’s wines other parts of Europe.

MWS: What about other European wines that are available at Steve’s?
Dominique: I learned about Italian wines after coming to the US.  The French are very protective and they think that French wines are the best.  But with Italian wines there is so much diversity it is pretty amazing – hundreds of different grape varietals, different traditions of cooking and making wine.

Unfortunately there is now the “world palate” and the big importers go to the winemakers and asking for a certain style of wine which any one can make – cold-soaking, carbonic maceration – to bring out more fruit and flavor and that is crushing and erasing the flavors of the soil.  But Italian wines overall offer a lot of acidity, a lot of earthy tones and are a great complement to food.

MWS: Which Italian wines do you carry?
Dominique: We are strong in Tuscany – the Sangiovese grape -- and also strong in Piedmont – the Nebbiolo based wines – but those are expensive – Dolcetto and Barberas, and wines like Barbaresco and Barolo also require a lot of aging.  Chiantis from Tuscany are available for under $10 but other Sangiovese-based wines like Brunello can be quite expensive.

MWS: What about German wines?
Dominique: We have all four regions represented – the Mosel, Rheingau, Nahe, Saar. Mosels tend to the profile of pear, apple, little bit of peach and the other regions will have a little more fruit or more acidity and minerals. They are mostly white.  They do have some reds – they do grow Pinot in Germany but it is pricey.  Even Switzerland has some good Pinots.

MWS: Spain is the largest remaining producer of wines that we have not talked about.
Dominique: We have a good representation of Spanish wine.  There is a lot of US money – importers investing in Spanish wineries – trying to match a “world palate” asking for winemakers to make wine in such a way that it matches US consumer demands.  For example, the best-known Spanish wine is Rioja but they have started using American oak barrels to bring in a lot of vanilla and toasted flavors to please the market. Just as an aside, there is also a lot of American money invested in French wineries, for example in Bordeaux, so that when there was a boycott of French wines a few years ago, some American investors got hurt.

MWS: What wines do you recommend to your Madison customers?
Dominique: I ask them what they like.  If they like plump and oaky wines I would probably recommend an inexpensive wine that has been heavily marketed – Parker’s points are pretty good for that – Parker likes those kinds of wines.

MWS: Are your wine customers influenced by points awarded by wine reviewers?
Dominique: The ones that do not know a sales person, and do not want any help usually are.

MWS: The Bordeaux ‘09 wine vintage has received great reviews. Are you investing?
Dominique: This is a business and there are reviews of the vintage and so people will come in and ask for it, so we need to be there.  But not only that, when we decide to put a wine on the shelf and are not afraid to invest, it is because we know it is a good vintage and it will last forever.  So ’09 is a vintage which is structured, and has fruit which will please a lot of people, so we know that if we sit on it for hopefully not too many years, we will be able to sell it, so then we start investing. So with ’09 we are investing.  Whatever we can find, whatever we can get hold of – if it is not too expensive. If there is a good vintage coming in – not just France but anywhere in the world – we have to go deep and reach as far as we can into a vintage.  We know that we will sit on the products for a while but that is not a big deal.

MWS: On buying days – Tuesdays – how many wines do you taste?
Dominique: Usually about 30 wines.  I try to taste American wines too because I need to compare and know what is going on.

MWS: What are you looking for in these wine tastings?
Dominique: I look for a wine that delivers a lot for as little as possible.  Always keeping – because European wines are food wines – keeping in mind some food. How the wine will match.  

For me the wine needs to complement a food.  It is a different tradition of drinking – Europeans do not drink wines the way that Americans do. It is not an aperitif – it could be, but most of the time it is not -- and it is not an after-dinner drink, it is mostly complementing the food. So going in the direction the food offers and the wine is there to promote a special flavor.  

So when I try a wine I am thinking about the kind of food I would be matching with it.  I am not thinking about the food first and then the wine – I am going the other way – what food would be interesting to match with that wine. So I try to see what I am picking up in the wine and thinking about recipes – maybe picking up some spices or herbaceous tones as well as the fruit -- but the fruit should not be too strong or too powerful.  

I try to be exposed to as many different types of cooking and I am very curious about spices – I have a memory for their aromas.

A customer came in today and he was making a beef soup and he took pride in mixing a lot of ingredients and he wanted a red wine. Since it was a soup I wanted a grape that would not be too overpowering so I went for a grape that I would probably have never bought if I hadn’t thought about food when I first tried it.  It was a Trousseau from the Jura [Domaine Rolet-Arbois] and it is a wine that has nice fruit but a little bit of earth in the back that I thought it would be subtle, and would make the dish shine, and not be too boastful.  

So when I taste wine, that is what I think about mostly, I think about food.

MWS: How much do you talk to your wine customers about that?
Dominique: As much as I can, trying to gauge a customer’s palate each time. We have a lot of knowledge and experience and are so eager to share and help! Most people like bolder flavors, but people who love to cook are really open to recommendations.

European wines are really about elegance, subtlety, and depth, in order to enhance, flatter or even contrast people’s dishes!

1 comment:

  1. I really didn't know there was such expertise available - thanks MWS!