Emphasis on Texas beverages at Austin Food and Wine Fest

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Tipsy Texan's David Alan talked enthusiastically about the margarita, a quintessential Texas drink that has lost some of its luster in recent years. He wants to recover its former tequila-soaked glory.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Tipsy Texan’s David Alan talked enthusiastically about the margarita, a quintessential Texas drink that has lost some of its luster in recent years. He wants to recover its former tequila-soaked glory.

This year’s Austin Food and Wine Festival, which kicked off Friday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon, is shining the spotlight on Texas beverages. The three panels I attended today, including master sommelier Devon Broglie’s look at rosé wines,  all emphasized either Texas-made or Texas-favored drinks — and they also included helpful tips to enjoy these products in your own home.

Devon Broglie’s “Rosé By Any Other Name”

Although rosé wines were once perceived as the sweet, low-budget blush wines that no self-respecting wine aficionado would dare touch, winemakers all over the world are making award-winning rosés that are not only easy on the wallet but especially suited for sipping in this steaming Texas weather. Broglie, a global beverage buyer with Whole Foods, is a staunch supporter of them and offered up some of his favorites for tasting.

Tips for finding that perfect rosé: Just like whites and reds, rosé wines have an array of flavor profiles based on the grapes they’re made from, so select ones you know you’re partial to. Plus, they don’t have to be fancy. All of the ones Broglie selected for his talk had screw-tops, making them easy to stash in a cooler for a summer barbecue or a day poolside, he said, and the most expensive one (from Provence) clocked in at an affordable $20 to $24. Among his selections was a rosé from Texas’ McPherson Cellars, the 2014 Les Copains Rose, a blend of Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Viognier grapes so well done that the 2013 version was included in Texas Monthly’s top Texas wines list at the end of last year.

Ray Isle’s “Texas Two-Sip”

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The Austin Food & Wine Fest this year featured Texas wines prominently, most specifically in a blind tasting panel.

Photo by Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. The Austin Food & Wine Fest this year featured Texas wines prominently, most specifically in a blind tasting panel.

The wine editor of Food & Wine magazine teamed up with Broglie and another local master sommelier, Craig Collins (who was the subject of my recent Austin Food & Wine Fest preview piece), to bring fest-goers a fun blind tasting to compare how Texas wines can compare to their global counterparts. The trio selected one Texas-made wine to compete against one from another wine region, with four total rounds featuring white, rosé and red grapes.

Tips for creating your own blind tasting: Make sure to pair up wines with the same grape varietals and a similar price point, Isle said, who found the other wines to compare against the Texas versions that Broglie and Collins cultivated. Make sure they also run the gamut in varietal, from Trebbiano to Cinsault to Syrah, as the wines in the Texas Two-Sip. Also taste the lighter wines first, or their more delicate notes will get obliterated by the richer ones.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to pick out some wines from Texas — as the tasting proved, they can hold their own in a competition.

“Really great wines are coming out of Texas and I don’t think the rest of the world knows that yet,” Isle said.

David Alan’s “Rescue the ‘Rita”

With his characteristic flair, Tipsy Texan’s David Alan started off the panel bluntly: “I’m angry,” he said. “The sacred institution, the rarefied holy water that is the margarita” has become a cheapened version of its former tequila-soaked, Cointreau-accented self. As simple as it is, it’s become messed up over the years by mixes and “skinny” 100-calorie versions that are either too sweet or too watered down to count as the cocktail that Texans have adopted as their drink of choice just about any time of year. (Cinco de Mayo’s coming up, but you certainly don’t need a reason to down a margarita, he said.)

Tips for making the perfect margarita: Avoid the mixes. Also avoid the cheap mixto tequila that isn’t 100 percent blue agave, as this stuff was probably the reason you woke up with so many bad hangovers and a story to tell for years to come during your college days (which Alan is very interested in hearing, by the way). In addition to good tequila, use Cointreau, freshly squeezed lime juice and some simple syrup for a touch of sweetness — that’s all you need for the margarita that he said is worth preserving.

Having a mariachi group to serenade you while you shake all those ingredients together with ice, as Alan had, certainly doesn’t hurt, either.


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