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Making wine fun and accessible with its own periodic table

Mondo! Wine Bar is the only one of its kind in Appleton

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February 24, 2023

APPLETON – Choosing a glass of wine to drink doesn’t have to be a difficult decision.

In fact, the folks at Mondo! Wine Bar aim to make partaking in vino drinking a fun and informative experience while patrons choose what best fits their taste buds.

After decades of working in the restaurant and wine business in big cities such as Chicago, Charleston and New York City, David Oliver said he and his wife, Jane, decided it was time to start their own business – something they’ve always wanted to do.

“I fell in love with wine,” he said. “And I had that sort of premise piece of the wine puzzle. But if we were going to open a retail wine shop and a wine bar to support it, I realized I would have to get some off-premises experience.”

To gain more experience, David said he worked at a retail wine shop in Skokie, Illinois, about a year before he and Jane moved to the Fox Cities.

The couple started planning for the business nearly two decades before they opened the doors to their own wine bar.

“I started writing the business plan for Mondo! in 2000,” David said. “Then, Jane got pregnant with our second child, and I realized, ‘If we are operating a small business, I will never get to see our children.’ There’s no point in having children if you’re not going to spend time with them, so we put it on hold for 17 years.”

During much of that time, David said he worked in wine distribution.
He also spent time working at Red and White, a former wine bar in Appleton, before pursuing Mondo! about a year and a half later. 
The wine bar officially opened in late December 2017.

The start of Mondo!
The couple said finding a brick-and-mortar location that was the perfect fit for the wine bar proved to be a hard feat.

“Finding a space that is appropriate and the right size for the right price was difficult,” David said. “We thought we had secured a location, but that was rented out from underneath us. And then we found the space we are currently in, and honestly, I think it’s a better space for us.”

Jane said the other challenge for the couple was securing funding.

“We decided early on not to get investors,” she said. “We wanted to own it ourselves so we would have total creative control.”
Jane said they took their business plan and began reaching out to banks for financing.

David and Jane Oliver, owners of Mondo! said they try to make wine as fun and accessible as possible. Submitted Photo

“A lot of banks wouldn’t even meet with us because it was a small business,” she said. “Some banks saw the word ‘bar’ and got scared to meet with us since… bars and restaurants have a high failure rate.”

Jane said luckily, the team at Johnson Bank met with them and have been great business partners ever since.

“They were excited,” she said. “So, they made it happen.”

A unique experience
When David began thinking about how to organize the wines on the retail shelves and on the menu, he said the idea of grouping them together with a periodic table came to mind.

Typically, he said wines are organized by grape, country and sometimes style.

“I had the thought of a periodic table of wine,” he said. “I immediately googled the term periodic table of wine, and there were some results.”

David said he found a book written by Sarah Rowlands titled “The Periodic Table of Wine,” purchased it, read it and embraced the concept – with some of his own tweaks to better suit Mondo! Wine Bar.

“I thought about creating one from scratch based on my many decades in the wine business,” he said. “I wanted it to be color-coded because people tend to be visual learners and often understand better if there is a visualization portion of it rather than reading something.”

The wine table, David said, is similar to the periodic table of elements.

“It starts with lighter wines in this case rather than elements,” he said. “The upper left corner is Moscato, then it’s Riesling and eventually moves down to where wines get heavier, richer and bolder.”

The table has a total of 91 squares – or wines – which David said is only a small percentage of the total number of wines and regions out there.

“We also pull out individual squares, so when you’re looking at our menu, you’ll see the corresponding square for the wine,” Jane said. “The squares also exist on our shelf tags. We wanted to make it as easy as, ‘I know I like this color.’”

Although the Periodic Table of Wine is meant to make choosing a glass of wine easy for Mondo!’s guests, Jane said they’re always there to help, too.

“We want people to shop and select with as much confidence as possible,” she said. “Of course, we’re here too, and we like talking to people about wine.”

The couple said they also offer Mondo! Matchups, which are blind tastings to help determine which wine customers prefer.

Since Mondo!’s customer base is comprised of people with varying experience and knowledge of the wine industry, David said they “always try to make wine fun.”

“If you’re a wine professional, most people don’t know as much as you do because it’s a complicated subject,” he said. “So, the other thing we like to do is have conversations with people about wine – if they’re interested. We don’t push it on anybody because sometimes people just want to come in and relax and have a glass of wine.”

Jane and David Oliver

For those who want to learn even more about wine, Jane said beginning in late spring each year, they host a wine camp, which happens one Saturday a month through the summer.

“It’s a private tasting/class people buy tickets for,” she said. “Each wine camp has a different theme. It’s a fun and easy way to learn more about wine so you can go somewhere else and feel more confident talking about it.”

Sticking to status quo
As the couple prepares to sign another five-year lease on Mondo! Wine Bar, David said the plan is to “maintain the status quo.”

“Having been in distribution and the restaurant business for so long, I have seen it happen so many times (where) people have some success, and they think, ‘Hey, let’s open a second location,’ – and that is their downfall for both locations,” he said. “We will probably stay as we are unless some extraordinary opportunity presents itself.”

To learn more about Mondo! Wine Bar, head to

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