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Where to drink at the Austin Food and Wine Festival

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com

In today’s Statesman, I wrote about Food Network wine columnist Mark Oldman, who is making his third appearance at the Austin Food and Wine Festival this weekend with three panels about wine. (Read the story online behind the paywall here.)

His three panels — “Outsmart the Wine List,” “Hunt for the Next Malbec” and “Bubbly Worth Savoring” — essentially cover his main points about wine. He’s a big believer in finding reds and whites (and rosé and bubbly wines, too) that don’t break the bank and also might be an unusual variety or from a place not normally considered an acclaimed wine region. It’s these overlooked wines, he says, that often deliver the best value.

If you can make only one of Oldman’s talks, “Hunt for the Next Malbec” at 11 a.m. on Sunday might be your best bet because you’ll be able to expand your palate and sample some of the lesser known wines around the world possibly on the brink of stardom, like the Argentine Malbec once was. Knowing what’s going to become popular is important, Oldman says, so that you can start enjoying them now. “Finding the band before they play the stadium is what everyone wants to do,” he said.

But he isn’t the only booze specialist at the festival. I’m also looking forward to checking out Vilma Mazaite’s “Tour de Femme,” all about the wine industry’s most creative females. She’s certainly one of them. The advanced sommelier at East Austin’s la V — which carries more than 1,200 wine labels — Mazaite has become an expert on wine and has met some of winemaking’s female trailblazers through her world travels. “Tour de Femme” is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Another informative (and tasty) panel worth checking out is “Wine Pairing 101” at 1 p.m. Sunday. Ray Isle, the executive wine editor of Food & Wine magazine, will lead a talk on something that isn’t so intuitive for everyone: how to pair wine and food. You’ll try cheeses, charcuterie and other raw foods with the wines that complement them.

There are also panels about beer and spirits. “Hops Aboard!” at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday will gather some of Austin’s brewers to talk about the growing and dynamic local community of beer lovers who helped to push the milestone state legislation last summer allowing breweries to sell beer onsite. And “To Mix or To Mingle?” featuring Tipsy Texan’s David Alan, La Condesa’s Nate Wales and Drink.Well’s Jessica Sanders asks an interesting question about bartending: Is it all about the craft, or is it really about the charisma? That’s at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

Don’t forget the Grand Tasting, the two-day event showcasing more than 50 beverages from around the U.S., including Dripping Springs Vodka, Simi Winery and Gekkeikan sake. Plus, at Friday night’s Taste of Texas, all that culinary goodness from Texas’ all-star chefs will come with beer, wine and signature cocktails.

For more information about the Austin Food and Wine Festival, visit the festival website.