This elegant restaurant takes "catalan" as "a concept, not a hard-and-fast-rule," notes sommelier and partner Antonio Gianola, though the 350-selection wine list features plenty of Spanish selections. Prices are very fair (near retail): "We see wine as something that needs to be accessible and on the table," explains Gianola. There are dozens of wines for less than $60. At the upper end, the 2001 Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella, on Catalan’s list for $158, sells for $140 in stores. Gianola particularly relishes special, tightly allocated wines that may sell out quickly. Details 5555 Washington Ave.; 713-426-4260.
Best pairing The 2003 Nicolas Joly Savennières Les Clos Sacrés ($40) with chef Chris Shepherd’s Cockles with Chorizo, Garlic and Sambal Chile Broth. Says Gianola, "The wine softens the spicy notes of the chile, and it evolves and changes in a dramatic fashion over time."
Best value Nonvintage Gaston Chiquet Premier Cru Carte Verte Brut ($46). "You can taste the purity of the fruit in this top grower Champagne," says sommelier Gianola.