Wine is meant to be shared with friends, family – and cheese.
“Once you pull that cork, the stopwatch starts. You should be drinking wine immediately – and you should be drinking it obviously with friends,” says El Paso sommelier Chris Lane.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has all but shuttered large wine gatherings – including the 8th annual El Paso Wine Fest typically held in October – you can still enjoy a great variety of wines from area wineries, stores or even online retailers from across the globe this fall.
Whether you plan to gather (safely, of course) with a small group of friends or have a virtual wine party, Austin Davies, a Level 2 sommelier and a wine distributor, says you can learn about wines online before making your selection.
As for his recommendations, Davies says you should treat your pallet to something new each time.
Dethrone the king
“Cabernet is king in Texas and especially in El Paso,” Davies says.
Instead, he recommends a Brut style Prosecco – light-bodied, delicate and on the drier side.
“Everybody should try Prosecco if they have not tried it. Try it – and do not compare it to Champagne,” he says. “It is not Champagne’s Italian cousin.”
For those who are strictly about the red, Davies recommends a wine from the Italian region, Piedmont, specifically Barbaresco. It has sharp acidity, great balance and goes with everything from steaks to tortas.
An active member of the Rotary Club of El Paso who typically assists with the El Paso Wine Fest, Lane recommends pinots or Cru Beaujolais from the Gamay grape, especially around the fall holidays.
“It’s really uncanny how it just kind of goes with everything; it’s red, but it’s a light red,” says Lane, who is studying to be certified as a Level 2 sommelier.
Don't forget the cheese
But don’t wait until the holidays for some great pairings: Grab a bottle and make or order a charcuterie board to go with it.
“A charcuterie board depends on the person and their taste,” says Samantha Bencomo who opened Fig + Brie with her business partner Lynda Macias early this year.
Fig + Brie offers a variety of different charcuterie packages, many designed after the pandemic shattered their plans to cater big parties and events. Among them is a picnic box for up to two people that includes Genoa salami, pepperoni, peppered salami, Brei, colby jack, grapes, berries, almonds, chocolate, honey and jam.
“In El Paso, the palate is very different,” Bencomo says, “so we use more imported cheeses, stronger than typical cheddar or Monterey Jack.”