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Wine and Dine

This week: Colombian

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Matching wine to cuisines it isn't traditionally drunk with--Caribbean, Latin American, Asian--is the focus of this periodic feature,in which we pick a BYO restaurant, sample a few dishes, and recommend some bottles.

Las Tablas

2965 N. Lincoln

773-871-2414

Empanadas 1

$1.75

Aborrajado (sweet plantain with guava paste and melted cheese) 1, 3

$2.50

Chorizo con Arepa (chorizo with cheesy corn cake) 2

$3.50

Pulpitos al Carbon (grilled squid in garlic sauce) 2, 3

$14.95

Churrasco 4

$14.95

Lomo de Cerdo Asada (seasoned, grilled pork chops) 5

$13.95

A typical meal at Las Tablas is short on green vegetables and long on South American staples like plantains, yuca, potatoes, and grilled meat. Besides the classic churrasco (marinated New York strip) and carne asada (rib eye), there's a melt-in-your-mouth chicken (pounded flat and marinated in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and spices), shrimp, squid, and two pork dishes. Most of the meats are seasoned with achiote and cumin plus a good dose of salt, the last of which tends to accentuate the alcohol in wine, making it feel hot on the palate. Lower-alcohol wines work best with this food, as do highly acidic ones that can cut through the generous quantities of oil in most dishes. Starchy sides like fried plantains, yuca, and potatoes also call for acidity and a moderate amount of sweetness. The consulting expert on this trip was Bob Bansberg, sommelier at Ambria and a wine educator at Kendall College.

1. Marques de Monistrol Masia Monistrol Cava Brut (Penedes, Spain), $7.99. Spanish cava is sparkling wine produced in the French methode champenoise, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle. Winemakers in Spain--the second-largest producer of sparkling wine in the world--traditionally mix macabeo, xarello, and parallada grapes to make the bubbly, resulting in a light, fruity, perfumed beverage. This cava has hints of herbs and nuts and a toasty yeast flavor on the finish. Its effervescence and moderate sweetness make it a versatile food wine; it matches especially well with the deep-fried emapanadas, cutting the fat and bringing up the flavors of the mildly seasoned meat filling. With the rich cheese on the aborrajado it serves as a palate cleanser, while enhancing the sweetness of the slightly tart guava paste. (Sam's)

2. 2001 Marques de Caceres Dry Rose (Rioja, Spain), $5.49-$8.99. This coral-colored rose comes from one of the larger bodegas in Spain, making it abundant and reasonably priced. It's made from the tempranillo grape, the predominant varietal in this region of north-central Spain. Often overlooked in the U.S., roses are popular in Spain and France, where they're considered more flavorful than most white wines and more refreshing than most reds. Meant to be consumed when young, this one is extremely acidic, making it a fine food wine and a good match with the chorizo con arepa: the acidity both enhances the corn flavor of the arepa and tones down the spice of the chorizo. The wine also has enough body to stand up to the bitter charred taste of the squid. (Armanetti, Binny's, Fox & Obel, Sam's, Trader Joe's, Wine Discount Center)

3. 1999 Martin Codax Albarino (Rias Baixas, Spain), $11.99-$14.95. Rias Baixas is one of the five denominaciones de origin in the Spanish region of Galicia, just north of Portugal. This straw-colored wine is made from albarino, a low-yielding, high-quality white grape widely grown in Spain and Portugal (where it's known as alvarinho) but not often seen elsewhere. Its aromas of peaches and pears give way to acidic notes of lemon and lime, rounded off by hints of honey, walnuts, and apples. Albarinos have a natural affinity with seafood, and this one, though only medium-bodied, is big enough to contrast nicely with the grilled squid. Drunk with the aborrajado, its acidity cuts the richness of the cheese and complements the guava's tartness. (Binny's, Fox & Obel, Galleria, Que Syrah, Sam's, Whole Foods)

4. 2000 Penley Estate Hyland Shiraz (Coonawarra, Australia), $19.99. This rich, fruity, deep crimson wine comes from the southeast coast of Australia, just below two of the better-known wine-producing regions, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Like the rose, it's best drunk young, from one to three years old. The complex aroma includes a touch of white pepper and an abundance of red berries, while the flavor is soft, with a hint of oak and an only mildly tannic finish. The dominant fruit makes this smooth wine full-bodied enough to stand up to the medium-rare beef of the churrasco; drunk with this dish, the wine tastes even smoother, while diffusing the bite of the cumin and achiote used to season the meat. (Sam's)

5. 2000 Gustave Lorentz Riesling (Alsace, France), $9.99-$14.99. This floral white is one of the most elegant wines produced in the Alsace region, bordered on the west by the Vosges Mountains and on the east by the Rhine River. The wine's aromas of green apples and flowers are balanced out nicely by an earthy mineral note. The pork chops are seriously salty, which tends to enhance this wine's sweetness; at the same time the wine makes the meat's flavor livelier. This is a good value for a Riesling. (Armanetti, Binny's, Evanston First, Galleria, Sam's, Whole Foods)

Armanetti Liquors 515 N. Western, 312-226-4600

Binny's Beverage Depot 3000 N. Clark, 773-935-9400

Evanston First Liquors 1019 Davis, Evanston, 847-328-9651

FoX & Obel Food Market 401 E. Illinois, 312-202-0003

Galleria WINE & LIQUOR 1559 N. Wells, 312-867-7070

Que Syrah Fine Wines 3726 N. Southport, 773-871-8888

Sam's Wines and Spirits 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

Trader Joe's 3745 N. Lincoln, 773-248-4920

Whole Foods 1000 W. North, 312-587-0648

Wine Discount Center 18261/2 N. Elston, 773-489-3454

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