Ray Isle teaches to taste wine like a pro

Ray IsleEven the executive wine editor of the venerable Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle, was an absolute wine neophyte in early adulthood. “I grew up in a household in Houston where my dad drank beer and occasionally Bourbon. I didn’t have any experience with wine.” He has learned a lot over the years and passed along his wisdom to demystify wine in the session, “Become a Wine Expert in 45 Minutes” at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival,

The first way to become a wine expert is to taste the wine rather than just drink it. The difference is that when you taste it, you actually think about what you smell and taste. Seems straightforward enough. To get the most out of tasting, Isle shared a few easy tips:

  • Swirling wine in your glass leaves a thin coating of wine inside the glass, which allows it to give off more aromas thereby making it easier to smell.
  • Now that you’ve swirled it, stick your nose in the glass and think about what it smells like.
  • Taste has everything to do with smell. When you slurp a wine and swish it around in your mouth, the vapors are able to better get into the nasal passages. That helps you taste a lot more of the flavors in the wine.

Pairing wine with food can be daunting, but not with Isle’s expert advice.

  • Match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Light foods go better with crisp, light wines. Big foods are better with big wines, regardless of whether they are red or white.
  • Any food that you would squeeze lemon onto, like fish, will go well with Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Avoid pairing sweet foods with highly acidic, tart wines.

According to Isle, the three worst food and wine pairings on earth are:

  1. Wedding cake and Champagne
  2. Oily fish and tannic red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Artichokes and any wine. “Artichokes are born thinking, ‘I’m going to find some wine and fuck it up.’”

Drink like a pro

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Raucous rita party with the Tipsy Texan

David Allan

Taking a long drink from his margarita, David Alan, founder of the Tipsy Texan consultancy, cooed, “Tastes like childhood.” In one of the most spirited sessions of the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival, Alan described the history, ways to mess up and proper ways to make a margarita in “Rescue the Rita.”

A proper margarita has only three ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur such as Cointreau and lime juice. Oh, and perhaps a touch of sugar. According to Alan, there are “five ways to fuck up a margarita:”

  1. Bad tequila. Avoid anything that says “gold” or is does not say 100 percent agave on the label.
  2. Sweeten it. The trend of “skinny” margaritas takes out the sweetness of the classic by adding lots of water. Skip it.
  3. Margarita mix. The premade mixes are loaded with all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients, but absolutely no lime juice. Yuck.
  4. Not cold or diluted enough. Put it on ice and shake it like you mean it. Make sure that shaker makes noise.
  5. Crappy lime garnish. There is nothing worse than a hard lime that is brown around the edges. Throw it out.

The crowd was provided with a shaker, a juicer and all the ingredients to make their own classic rita. While they were shaking things up, a spirited mariachi band marched onto stage to end the festivities in style.


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Texas wine takes on the world

Texas 2 SipTexas wine has impressed many wine drinkers and critics with its quality. Despite piles of recent awards and accolades, some people still wonder if it tastes as good as similar wine from other regions of the world. Food & Wine Magazine executive wine editor, Ray Isle, and Master Sommeliers, Craig Collins and Devon Broglie, led people through a blind tasting of wines in the “Texas Two Sip” session at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival.

The session pitted four Texas wines against four similarly priced wines from elsewhere to see if the crowd could pick which was from Texas and to take an informal poll of which they preferred. The matchups included:

The crowd was typically divided on deciding which wine was from Texas and which wasn’t. Overall, Isle declared Texas the winner in this competition.


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Rippin through the rosé with Devon Broglie

Devon BroglieNothing beats a glass of delicate and lovely pink wine on a warm day. Master Sommelier and global beverage buyer for Whole Foods, Devon Broglie, led a packed house through a tasting of seven rose wines in his session, “Rosé by Any Other Name,” at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival.

Broglie started his session by using the Champagne saber left by Mark Oldman to slash open a bottle of Bolligner rosé to the delight of the crowd. After the Champagne, attendees were treated to a range of wines from Texas, Washington, Sicily, Spain and the holy grail of rosé, Provence. The bold Artazu from the Navara region of Spain was a standout, with big, bold flavors.


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The ever effervescent Vilma Mazaite

Vilma M Sparkling Wine“My goal is to be successful enough to enjoy rosé Champagne every day at lunch,” says Vilma Mazaite, director of wine at laV. The bubbly Advanced Sommelier introduced 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival attendees to a lovely selection of interesting sparkling wines in her session, “Surprising Sparklers.” Her recommendations included Prosecco from Italy, sparkling Gruener Veltliner from Austria, California sparkling wine, Cremant de Loire from France and slightly sweet sparkling Brachetto from Italy.

With the grace and elegance of the finest Champagne she quipped, “A magnum is the perfect size bottle for two people; especially when your partner is not drinking.”

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Spicing things up with Mark Oldman

Mark Oldman“This town is loaded with spicy food with everything from TexMex to Korean to Cajun,” says Mark Oldman, wine personality and author. In his “Heat Seekers, Best Wine for Spicy” session at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival he recommended sparkling, white and red wines that can take the heat.

The ever entertaining showman kicked off his presentation with his signature stunt, inviting an audience member on stage to saber open a bottle of Champagne. Watching an amateur slice the top off of a bottle with a huge sword is always a crowd pleaser.

Oldman’s tips for pairing spicy food with wine include:

  • Pick bubbles. Sparkling wine naturally cleanses the palate while eating spicy food.
  • Choose wines with moderate acid, like Spanish Albariño, that gives the wine a refreshing lift.
  • Slightly sweet wines, Riesling, can take the edge off the heat.
  • Fruity wines, like rosé, calm the flames and brings them to life.
  • Lighter style red wines, like Pinot Noir, are spicy foods best friend.

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