Every year, thousands of wines are entered in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. This year, the competition was held in Valladolid, Spain as 9080 wines from 50 countries competed while 320 jurors tasted (and yes, I would love to be a juror). Of the 79 entered from Mexico, a remarkable 18 walked away with medals, 6 with gold and 12 with silver. That’s not bad for a country whose wines are almost unknown outside of its own borders.

There were victories by small Mexican boutique wineries and by the wineries I call los tres grandes as Casa Madero and Monte Xanic were awarded one medal each and L.A. Cetto won a phenomenal four medals, a feat that positions it with some of the world’s most notable winemakers.

We recently celebrated L.A. Cetto’s victories with a wine pairing dinner at Vinos y Tapas in San Miguel de Allende.

There are two reasons why wineries like L.A. Cetto enter Concours Mondial…well, other than to write off a business trip to one of the best Spanish wine regions. The first is that it gives the winery the ability to place a foil sticker on the bottle announcing their victory. It’s difficult to measure the exact impact of that little metallic sticker but one estimate says it increases retail sales by about 40%. The other reason for entering is the publicity. In the national press, the Mexican victory was big news and most of the articles I saw listed each of the winners.

There is one downfall to winning at Concours Mondial, however. It can make your wine very popular and you may soon have to start apologizing for your wine being out of stock; that was the case with the first (but only the first) wine we tasted at the dinner. The silver medal winner was L.A. Cetto Sauvignon Blanc. Sommelier Irvyn Chavez’ substitute was L.A. Cetto Chardonnay.

There are two styles of Chardonnay and two types of Chardonnay drinkers. The first prefer Chardonnay that’s been aged in oak barrels with aromas and tastes of butter, caramel and ivanilla. The second prefer unoaked Chardonnay with a light, lemony, zesty profile. I like both. Don Day’s Wife prefers the unoaked which is L.A. Cetto’s style.

The very innovative Stefania Chavez, chef/owner of Vinos y Tapas paired the Chardonnay with an apple and pumpkin cream with seasonal spices and then a winter salad with an assortment of greens, nuts and fruits.

Sommelier Irvyn from L.A. Cetto said, “I don’t think you could find a better match than what Stef paired with the Chardonnay; I especially like how it works with the citrus fruits in the salad.”

Next up was L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah, a wine that I consider one of the very best bargains on La Europea’s shelves and one that often finds a home in the little spot under the stairs I call my cellar. The wine had aromas of both blueberries and raspberries plus hints of chocolate and black pepper. Petite Syrah is a somewhat rare grape, grown with the most success in California. There are obvious similarities with the climate and terrain there and in the Valle de Guadalupe where L.A Cetto grows theirs.

The pairing was another good one by Vinos y Tapas: baked brie cheese with a cranberry conserve. I’ve never been a big fan of cranberries; I was a big fan of these.

The Mexican wine industry has been going through a learning curve determining what grapes grow best in each of the different terroirs we have in this country. One that appears to have a solid future is Nebbiolo.

We stepped up from L.A. Cetto’s standard line to their Reserva Privadas with the next bottle. Chef Irvyn told us the Nebbiolo had spent 14 months in oak barrels adding spices and leather to the aroma of raspberries and blackcurrants.

It is an ideal pasta wine and Vinos y Tapas took advantage of that by serving a gnocchi with wild mushrooms in a beefy juice. L.A. Cetto was one of the first Mexican wineries to plant this Italian grape. Their first Nebbiolo harvest was in 1986 and they’ve now had 30 years to continually improve the wines they create from it.

Next was the main course, a medallion of beef in lavender butter. The best friend beef has ever had is Cabernet Sauvignon and L.A. Cetto’s Reserva Privada was a friend indeed. I had never tried the Reserva Privada and Sommelier Irvyn, a guy whose opinions I quickly came to trust, had told me earlier, “When you taste the Cab Reserva Privada, you will love L.A. Cetto.”

Irvyn was right. With 18 months in oak barrels, the wine has aromas of cherries and pepper plus a hint of violets and cloves. The L.A. Cetto could rival Cabs that are twice the price.

Red wine and dessert are a natural to me and we continued drinking the Cabernet with Chef Stefi’s homemade egg nog ice cream with a sea-salted caramel rim.

The quality of Mexican wines was acclaimed at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. It was confirmed at Vinos y Tapas. It has taken me many years to become a frequent Mexican wine drinker but my appreciation level continues to grow. L.A. Cetto wines are not just worthy of international awards, they are worth the price you pay for them. Three of the four wines that were served fit into my personal everyday drinking budget (retailing at less than $250) and the Cabernet Sauvignon is just over my ceiling). Next year, the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles will be held in Beijing. I am predicting there will be even more medals for Mexico, not to mention another award winning celebration at Vinos y Tapas.

A limited quantity of the award-winning wines of L.A. Cetto will be available again at Vinos y Tapas at their Jazz Night scheduled for the evening of November 25. Vinos y Tapas is located at Insurgentes #63 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Thursday, 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday, 2:00 pm to Midnight; Sunday, 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm. For reservations, call 415 152 2563 or email reserva@vinosmastapas.com.

For a complete list of Mexican wines that won at Concours Mondial, go to http://results.concoursmondial.com/index.php then put Mexico in the country selection and hit search.

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