By Matt McGinnis
When you walk into a wine shop or even the wine aisle at a grocery store and stare down thousands of varieties of wine, it is evident that it takes a lot of learning to become an expert on the subject. Fortunately for wine cognoscenti in Texas, the world’s largest sommelier education conference is held right here in our great state. The Texas Sommelier Conference, aka TEXSOM, wrapped up its ninth annual event in August with 33 Master Somms and nationally acclaimed experts teaching sessions for more than 500 attendees at the Four Seasons Resort & Club Las Colinas in Dallas.
The conference was packed with seminars for wine professionals. Some of my favorite sessions were on traditional-method sparkling wines, wines of Bordeaux, Australian wines, a varietal focus on nebbiolo and one session on the iconic producer Klein Constantia Vin de Constance.
Between these sessions, the tasting breaks, the wines at lunch, the hundreds of wines poured in the hospitality suites and the Grand Tasting, I came away with a few new favorite wines to drink this fall.
Matt’s Top 10 Wine Selections
Roger d’Anoia Cava: Spanish Cava is made in the same traditional method as Champagne, but is affordable enough to pop open every day. It has bright lemon, crisp green apple and toast flavors with solid minerality. Texas barbecue loves Cava. The zingy acidity and frolicking bubbles lick up the beef fat and dance with the sauce. It runs $10 at Whole Foods Markets.
Champagne Godme Brut Reserve: When you want to kick it up a notch to French Champagne without breaking the bank, try Godme. It’s complex with aromas of white flowers and apple, ripe pears, apricots and buttered fresh bread flavors. The energetic effervescence and bright acidity make it a great dance partner for almost any food. It is a bargain going for $43 at East End Wines.
Domaine du Closel “La Jalousie” Savennieres 2011: I’m a huge fan of this chenin blanc from the Loire Valley of France. It’s pear, tangerine and dried apricot tastes are bolstered by almond, honeysuckle and chamomile tea flavors. It has laser-focused acid and weighty alcohol to make it a sexy companion to Camembert and foie gras. Pour it at dinner with roasted chicken or rich fish. You can pick it up at East End Wines for $24.
William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis 2011: If you think chardonnay is only oaky, buttery and from California, give this Chablis from Burgundy, France, a try. It’s not aged in oak, letting the tart green apple, lemon zest and stony minerality shine through. This light, crisp little number will play well with ceviche, sushi or anything your date orders on a hot night. Swing by Urban Wine + Liquor on Congress and grab this for $24.
Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rosé Sainte Victoire: I can’t get enough rosé in the warm weather. The Provence region in Southeastern France is known for its vivacious, crisp and dry rosés, and this one from Houchart fits that bill. Serve it well chilled to bring out the strawberry and white peach flavors. It’s perfect to drink on the porch swing before dinner. You can buy it for $11 at The Austin Wine Merchant.
Getariako Txakolina Gañeta Rosé 2012: This Txakoli from Northern Spain has a hint of effervescence and slightly lower alcohol that makes it perfect to drink by the lake. This wine has zippy citrus, strawberry and the brine of crushed oyster shells in a sparkly mouth of fun. Txakoli goes well with shellfish, but I like it with queso manchego and Spanish chorizo as an afternoon snack. You’ll find for $18 at Whole Foods Market.
Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco 2009: Just outside the famed Barolo and Barbaresco neighborhoods in the Piedmont region of Italy, the Langhe area produces some of the best value and stunningly delicious nebbiolos on the market. The cool climate is perfect for the nebbiolo grape, yielding a light-bodied yet bold and tannic wine. Layers and layers of flavors unfold with cherry and dried plum intertwined with tea leaf, clove and menthol. I love this wine with grilled lamb. It’s a steal at $22 at the Austin Wine Merchant.
Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme Haut-Medoc 2005: Cabernet sauvignon is still the king of red wines. And Bordeaux is still the king of cabs. One nose of the glass and one deep sip lets you know why. Violets kiss blackberries, black cherries and plums in an orgy atop beds woven from sage, green bell pepper, mint and tobacco. It’s a great wine with a bloody, hot steak. Pick it up with promises of breakfast in bed the next morning for $20 at the Austin Wine Merchant.
Chambers Muscadelle “Rosewood Vineyard,” Rutherglen: Some people like chocolate cake after dinner. I prefer to drink my desert. Sweet wines are an amazing treat and should be a part of your wine collection. The Chambers family has been making this fortified wine in Australia with raisined muscat and muscadelle grapes since 1858. It is opulent with loads of honeycomb and earl grey tea flavors. A delicious way to end the night. Snag it for $16 for a 375-milliliter bottle at the Austin Wine Merchant.
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2004: Established in South Africa in 1685, Klein Constantia is so damn old that Napoleon used to be its biggest customer, and the oldest bottle still in existence was made the same year as his death. This storied sweet wine is made from late-harvest grapes that ripen in the sun until they begin to raisin. The lush liquid languishes on the tongue like a velvet smoking jacket made of apricots, peaches, honey and insinuations. Wear slippers when you drink it. You can order it for $48 from wine.com.
Now you are set up to do your own mini-TEXSOM wine tasting. Enjoy!