Castellar Brut Cava ($10) Spain
The wine business is in flux, with forces dragging it in all sorts of directions. Will prices go up, or will they continue at near decade lows? Will consolidation continue on the producer and retail side of the business, and what will happen to prices if they do? Will Texas wine continue to be better made and more easily available? And what’s with the tremendous increase in the popularity of sweet red wine?
The good news for consumers, despite this uncertainty, is that the wine most of us drink will still be well priced, and we’ll have more places than ever to buy it. What’s happening here, with the addition of Spec’s, Total Wine and the soon-to-arrive Trader Joe’s, is happening elsewhere in the United States. And, yes, sales of sweet red wine are approaching levels never seen before — ask anyone who tells you that their favorite wine is Cupcake’s Red Velvet or E&J Gallo’s Apothic.
This month, three wines that reflect what’s going on:
• Much Spanish sparkling wine, or cava, is being sold close to cost, thanks to increased competition in Dallas and a recession in Spain that has cut demand there. Cheap cava doesn’t get much better than Casteller (around $10), which makes brut and rosé. Both have lots of tight, firm bubbles and long mineral finishes.
• Everyone, save for the Wine Spectator and the Texas Legislature, seems to think that local wine is a good idea. Texas growers and producers, who may have had the best harvest ever in 2012, are demonstrating their skill with wines like Llano Estacado’s Viviano (about $26), a red blend that includes sangiovese and has gotten better with each vintage.
• Bogle, perhaps the best cheap wine producer in the United States, continues to hold the line on price. Ryan Bogle, whose family still owns the winery, told me earlier this year that they want to make sure their customers get their $10 worth. Check out the sauvignon blanc (about $9), with its citrus and tropical fruit flavors, and you’ll see what he means.
With your Wine: Everyday Lentil Soup
Lentils, unlike most other dried beans, don’t require pre-soaking or hours to cook. You can get the entire thing done in less than hour, which includes chopping the vegetables. If you want a heartier soup, consider adding sliced smoked sausage or browned Italian sausage. Red wine would pair best, but any wine you like should work.
6 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 c lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1. Brown the vegetables in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, bay leaf and cumin and mix well.
2. Add the stock, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the lentils are done, 30 to 45 minutes. Check for salt just before the lentils are cooked. And, if the soup is too thick, add more stock.
Makes 6 cups, takes about 1 hour
Ask the wine guy
Q. Do wine glasses make a difference?
A. Surprisingly, they do. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend $100 on a wine glass, but the better quality the glass, the more you’ll taste of the wine (including any flaws). One rule of thumb: Spend $1 on a glass for each $1 you spend on wine, so that if you drink $10 wine, use glasses that cost $10.
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