The Austin Food + Wine Festival hit its stride this year. Logistics went smoothly, lines moved quickly, food and beverage seminars drew top quality talent, and the grand tasting had a revamped layout that made it easier to navigate. Even Mother Nature got in on the act and provided decent weather.
The seminars were particularly informative. Here are six important things we learned about drinking at this year’s fest.
1. Pair wine with spicy food
“This town is loaded with spicy food, with everything from Tex-Mex to Korean to Cajun,” says wine personality and author Mark Oldman. He recommends selecting wines with bubbles, as sparkling wine naturally cleanses the palate. Choose wines with moderate acid, like Spanish Albariño; slightly sweet wines, like Riesling, that take the edge off the heat; and fruity wines, like rosé, to calm the flames and bring them to life.
2. There is more to sparkling wine than just Champagne
“My goal is to be successful enough to enjoy rosé Champagne every day at lunch,” says Vilma Mazaite, director of wine at laV. Until we’re all filthy rich, she recommends we try other styles of sparkling. Mazaite suggests Prosecco from Italy, sparkling Gruener Veltliner from Austria, California sparkling wine, Cremant de Loire from France, and slightly sweet sparkling Brachetto from Italy.
3. Rosé wine is appropriate year-round in Texas
Nothing beats a glass of lovely pink wine on a warm day. Master Sommelier and global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market Devon Broglie led festival attendees through a tasting of seven rosé wines. He recommends Bollinger Rosé Champagne, McPherson Les Copains from Texas, Charles & Charles Rosé from Washington, Regaleali from Sicily, Artazuri from Spain, Whispering Angel Rosé from Provence, France; and Chateau d'Aqueria Tavel Rosé from Rhone, France.
4. Texas wine can take on the world
Food & Wine magazine executive wine editor Ray Isle and Master Sommeliers Craig Collins and Devon Broglie led a blind tasting of wines to see how well four Texas wines compare to others from around the world. Overall, Isle declared Texas the winner in this competition. Texas wines included: 2012 Duchman Family Winery Trebbiano, 2012 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero, 2014 McPherson Cellars Les Copains Rosé and 2012 William Chris Vineyards Syrah.
5. There are five ways to screw up a margarita
In one of the most spirited sessions of the fest, David Alan of Tipsy Texan described the proper way to make a margarita with only three ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. Oh, and perhaps a touch of sugar. He also exposed the five ways to screw it up:
- Bad tequila: Avoid anything that does not say 100 percent agave on the label.
- Too skinny: The trend of “skinny” margaritas takes out the sweetness of the classic by adding lots of water. Skip it.
- Margarita mix: The premade mixes are loaded with all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients, but absolutely no lime juice. Yuck.
- Not cold enough: Put it on ice and shake it like you mean it.
- Crappy lime garnish: There is nothing worse than a hard lime that is brown around the edges. Throw it out.
6. It’s easy to taste wine like a pro
Ray Isle was an absolute wine neophyte in early adulthood. He has learned a lot over the years and passed along his wisdom to demystify wine. To get the most out of tasting, Isle shared a few easy tips:
- Swirl: Swirling wine in your glass leaves a thin coating of wine inside the glass, which allows it to give off more aromas and makes it easier to smell.
- Sniff: Now that you’ve swirled it, stick your nose in the glass and think about what it smells like.
- Slurp: Taste has everything to do with smell. Slurping wine and swishing it around your mouth allows the vapors into the nasal passages. That helps you taste a lot more of the flavors in the wine.
Time to practice what we preach. See ya at the wine bar.