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Archive for Wine

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Food Stains On Teeth, Hands & Fabric

If you’ve ever drunk more than a few glasses of red wine; eaten lots of beets, berries or carrot purée; you know that food can stain teeth, as well as the hands used to prepare it and the clothes worn to make or eat it.

Even white wine can stain: It has both acid and some tannins that make teeth susceptible to pigments in other foods.

According to Web MD, tooth stains are caused by:

  • Acids, which make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set in.
  • Chromogens, compounds with strong pigments that cling to tooth enamel.
  • Tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth.
  •  
    Red wine is a triple threat, with all three.

    Tea stains teeth more than coffee: In addition to the acid they both share, tea also contains tannins.

    Fortunately, there are remedies.
     
    TO REMOVE FOOD STAINS ON TEETH

  • Brush right away; use a paste with a bit of whitening agent. Keep a toothbrush at work.
  • Swish water around in your mouth if you can’t brush. It’s not as effective as brushing, but better than nothing.
  • Use a straw. The liquids are sucked to the roof of your mouth, so bypass your front teeth.
  • Get your teeth cleaned professionally. A professional cleaning and polishing helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. Regular polishing also helps to reduce the amount of staining.
  •  

    Baby Beets

    Orange Beets

    Except for the uncommon white beets, beets stain (photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON HANDS

  • Use a salt or sugar scrub. Some people buy them for skin exfoliation, but you can sprinkle coarse salt or sugar on wet hands and rub to exfoliate. You can also use olive oil instead of water. After rubbing, rinse off the scrub off and wash your hands with liquid dish soap. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Clean fingernails with baking soda. Make a rub by adding some lemon juice to the baking soda. Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Prevent them in the first place. Get a box of plastic food-prep gloves for a song: 500 gloves for $9.
  •  
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON FABRIC

  • Immediately blot, not rub, with a paper towel. Then use a laundry pre-stain stick or liquid detergent. Wash ASAP in cold water (the sink is fine).
  • Soak in cold water with chlorine or oxygen bleach if the stain persists.
  • Launder in cold water if needed.
  • Use a fabric-appropriate bleach: Chlorine bleach is preferable if it is safe for the fabric.

  • Get an adult bib from Dress Tiez. We have two and love them: They’re waterproof and easy to clean.
  •  
    MORE HELP

  • For red wine and other stains, we’ve had great success with Wine Away spray. It aso removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauces, red medicine stains, even pet stains. Try it on anything.
  • There’s also a pocket size for dining out.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Up Some Coolers

    Blackberry Cooler

    Peach Wine Cooler

    Watermelon Cooler Recipe

    Bottled Wine Coolers

    [1] Blackberry cooler (photo courtesy FreidaFroo.Wordpress.com). [2] A peach wine cooler (here’s the recipe from TasteOfHome.com). [3] Watermelon cooler with green tea and white wine (photo courtesy Serendipitea.com). [4] Commercial wine coolers: the lowest common denominator (photo courtesy Majestic Brands).

     

    WHAT’S A COOLER?

    Short for wine cooler, a cooler is a tall drink typically made with wine, fruit juice and soda water (you can use any glasses you have).

    It’s a less complex relative of sangria. Don’t like wine? Try the latest cooler incarnation, the beer cooler.

    Modern coolers are refreshing summer drinks that trace their ancestry to hot-weather countries in ancient times.
     
    HISTORY OF THE WINE COOLER

    Wine-based drinks have long existed in the Mediterranean, the birthplace of wine. The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production found to date has been in Georgia (c. 6000 B.C.E.), Iran (c. 5000 B.C.E.), Greece (c. 4500 B.C.E.), and Armenia (c. 4100 B.C.E.).

    The wine could be drunk straight or mixed with honey, spices or other ingredients, especially by the kitchen staff of rich households and at public drinking houses for the hoi polloi. It was a less sophisticated product than today’s wine, with no sophisticated fermentation or aging techniques. Thousands of years before stoppered glass bottles were invented, wine was stored in clay jars.

    Flash forward to the present: Wine coolers have been sold commercially since the early 1980s [Source]. Bartles & Jaymes, a brand of E & J Gallo Winery.

    The latter makes flavors dozens of flavors, including Strawberry Daiquiri, Fuzzy Navel, Margarita and Piña Colada.

    However delicious these may sound, they were formerly made with wine that Wikipedia calls “the cheapest available grade,” since most of the wine flavor in obscured by the sugar and the fruit juice. According to Lucas J. Meeker of Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, domestic wine coolers were largely made from a base of apple wine.

    Today, many bottled wine coolers have no wine. Because of a quadrupled excise tax levied on wine beginning in 1991, most brands replaced wine with cheaper malt. Bartles & Jaymes calls their revised product line a “flavored malt cooler.”

    The malt, according to Meeker, renders the result more like beer but still largely the same: “a largely flavorless base beverage is combined with flavor and color additions, then carbonated and bottled.”
     
    WINE COOLER RECIPE TEMPLATE

    Blend your own recipe to find create your signature wine cooler. To develop your recipe, use a shot glass to combine 1/3 each of wine, juice and sparkling water.

    Choose one from each group:

  • Wine: red, rose, white
  • Fruit juice: cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, pineapple, etc.
  • Fizzy water: club soda, mineral water, seltzer, flavored seltzer (alternatively, Ginger Ale, 7-Up, Sprite)
  • Optional sweetener: agave, honey, simple syrup, superfine sugar
  • Optional: splash of fruit liqueur (adding spirits turns the drink from cooler to cocktail)
  • Optional garnish: berries or other fresh fruit, mint or basil leaves (tip: you can use frozen fruit, which will help keep the drink cold)
  •  
    Here’s a recipe for a green tea cooler from fine tea purveyor Serendipitea:

     
    RECIPE: GREEN TEA WATERMELON COOLER

    Ingredients For 4 Tall Drinks

  • Seedless watermelon or 1.5 cups watermelon juice
  • 1.5 cups dry-yet-fruity white wine*
  • 1 cup Dragon’s Well China Green Tea (or substitute), brewed and chilled
  • Optional garnish
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the watermelon and run it through a fine mesh sieve (yield about 1.5 cups juice).

    2. WARM a teapot with a little hot water, discard, place the tea leaves in the pot, allowing heat of the pot to release the bouquet of the tea leaves.

    3. HEAT water to below boiling (approximately 180°F). Steep 1 teaspoon (2.5 g/8 oz. cup) up to 3 minutes & refresh cup as desired. Vary the time according to taste with this caveat: steeping tea leaves beyond 3 minutes does not give you more flavor, only bitterness.
     
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    *Try Albariño, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, Pinot Gris/PinotGrigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

      

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    PRODUCTS: For Summer Sipping

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sipping some new water and wine products, with happy results.
     
    LILA WINES: QUALITY IN CANS

    We haven’t had much success with canned wines. They’re too sugary-sweet, more like soft drinks.

    But Latitude Beverage Company has introduced what they say is the first-ever premium wine collection in pull-top cans (top photo). Selecting good wines from wine regions that are well-known for the varietals, we can finally respond, “Bring on the cans!”

    The three varietals are just right for lighter summer fare: with a sandwich, some cheese, a pasta salad. Lila suggests these pairings:

  • Pinot Grigio, made with grapes from Delle Venezie IGT—the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy. Enjoy it with corn on the cob, crab cakes with lemon aïoli, olives and other “cocktail nibbles.”
  • Rosé, made with grapes from Provence, in the south of France. Pair it with shellfish, sandwiches with summer tomatoes, Caprese salad, pasta salad.
  • Sauvignon Blanc made with grapes from Marlborough, New Zealand. Pair it with oysters, avocado salad, grilled chicken, grilled fish with cilantro and lime, grilled vegetables, seafood salad sandwiches or turkey.
  •  
    So grab a can and head for the backyard, pool or the great outdoors. Attractively “dressed” in colorful graphics, these wines are ready to join the party.

    The 8.4-ounce cans come in four-packs with an MSRP of $12.99 (more at e-tailers). The four cans combined contain 33% more wine than the standard 750ml wine bottle.

    We stuck them in the freezer to partially freeze. They kept cold for quite a while outside in the heat; and since each can holds two servings, when it was time for the second, the wine was nicely chilled.
     
    ZERO WATER: HOME & PORTABLE WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM

    Zero Water* turns your tap water into purified water—more pure, the company says, than the leading brand (Brita).

    Even if your municipality could clean your tap water to remove almost all the total dissolved solids (TDS), the water can pick up chemicals on its way from the treatment plant to your faucet.

    Zero Water’s unique filter removes 99.63% of all TDS. The filtered water tastes crisp and refreshing. Pitchers are available in 6, 8, 10 and 12 cup sizes; in a 23-cup countertop model; and in a 26-ounce travel tumblers. The 10-cup model shown in the photo is $32.99.

    You can see the entire line at ZeroWater.com.

       

    Lila Wine Cans

    ZeroWater Pitcher

    Zero Water

    [1] Lila premium wines in 8.4-ounce cans (photo courtesy Latitude Beverage Company). [2] [3] Zero Water, with a patented filter that removes virtually all dissolved solids from your tap water, is available in home units and portable tumblers (photos courtesy Zero Water).

     
    Bonus: You can use Zero Water in your iron and other devices instead of purchasing bulky gallons of distilled water. The only difference between distilled and purified water is the process: distillation versus other purification processes such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange and Ozonation, among others.
     
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    *We used a Zero Water system we received from the manufacturer, and did not test it against other systems. There are numerous online articles that compare the major brands.

     

    Define Fruit Infusing Water Bottle

    This model of Define water bottles is ideal for infusing fresh fruit (photo courtesy Define Bottle).

     

    DEFINE WATER BOTTLE: BEST FOR FRUIT INFUSION

    We love “spa water”: plain water infused with fresh fruit. We’ve tried half a dozen water bottles with fruit-infusing options, and the Define Bottle Sport Flip Top is our favorite.

    The superior freezing mechanism, the detachable lower canister, gives you options:

  • Basic: add fruit to the bottom cylinder and add cold water to the entire unit.
  • Colder: Freeze the fruit, then add to the unit with cold water. As the fruit defrosts, it will keep the water colder.
  • Coldest: Freeze the fruit and water in the base cylinder.
  • Fruit-Free: Don’t feel like fruit? Use both cylinders for water. Even better, you can freeze water in the bottom cylinder and enjoy ice-cold water for 4-6 hours.
  •  
    Remember that water expands when frozen, so leave a half inch of space at the top.

     
    We drink the water quickly, but if you freeze the bottom part, you can keep adding new water and it will chill down.

    The bottle is made from Tritan, the standard in quality plastic food and beverage containers. The total capacity is 16 ounces. The bottle disassembles for easy† cleaning and the cylinders are dishwasher safe.

    There are other bottle designs and colors. See them all at DefineBottle.com. You can purchase this bottle on Amazon.
     
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    †We noted some complaints online about the difficulty of cleaning the strainer and gaskets. We keep a toothbrush with a rubber tip along with the scrub brushes at our kitchen sink. It, along with our faucet sprayer, did the trick.

      

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    RECIPE: Red, White & Blue Sangria

    July 4th Sangria Recipe

    Yankee Doodle Brandy: Combine white wine and Grand Marnier orange brandy for July 4th (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs).

     

    This fun and arty sangria recipe is from caterer Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs (www.elegantaffairscaterers.com):

    RECIPE: JULY 4TH SANGRIA

    Ingredients For 1 Large Pitcher

  • 2 bottles dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 cup triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 1/2 cup berry-flavored vodka (cherry, raspberry, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Optional: ice cubes
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    The Fresh Fruit

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1-1/2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1-1/2 cups pineapple stars (use a star shaped cookie cutter to cut stars from slices of fresh pineapple) or starfruit slices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: Boil 1/2 cup water, then add 1/2 cup granulated white sugar. Turn the heat to simmer and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool.

    2.COMBINE all ingredients except the fresh fruit (but including the simple syrup) in a large punch bowl or pitcher. Stir well and add the fruit. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

    3. SERVE well-chilled with a good scoop of fruit floating in each drink. If you plan to serve over ice, consider making star-shaped ice cubes.
     
    FOR A MOCKTAIL

    Here’s a mocktail option for kids and adults who don’t drink:

  • Substitute a 64-ounce bottle of Sprite/7-UP or Diet Sprite/Diet 7-UP for the wine.
  • Replace the triple sec with 1 cup white cranberry juice.
  • Option: Use 1/2 cup orange juice instead of the lemon or lime juice
  • Eliminate the simple syrup.
  • Optional: Add blue food color to make blue star ice cubes.
  • Use the same fresh fruit as for the sangria recipe.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Rosé Wine Tasting

    Sancerre Rose Wine

    Rose Wine For Summer

    Top: Rosé is a style of wine, not a particular grape varietal or wine region. This photo shows a Sancerre, a wine made in the eastern Loire Valley of France in the area around Sancerre, an ancient hilltop town. While white Sancerre is made from the [white] Sauvignon Blanc grape, red Sancerre and rosé Sancerre are both made from the [red] pinot noir grape (photo Thor | Wikimedia). Bottom: Some of the different hues of rosé wines (photo JoTot.com).

     

    In France, more rosé wine is sold than white wine [source]. Rosé is also a popular warm-weather wine, and a great pairing with grilled foods and picnic foods.

    So with Memorial Day at hand, how about a rosé tasting party? There are as many different styles of rosé wines as with other varietals. A tasting is an opportunity to get to know the different producers and identify some favorites.

    Here’s how to have a wine tasting party, although you can simply set out the bottles and let people do their own thing.
     
    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Unlike Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other grape varietals, there is no “rosé grape.” Rather, a rosé wine can be made from any red wine grape*. White Zinfandel, for example, is a sweet rosé wine, also called a blush wine. Most rosé wines, however, are dry wines. First:
     
    ROSÉ WINE TERMS

  • The term rosé does not refer to the type of grape or the vinification process, but to the pink color. A rosé wine can be actually be made by blending red and white wine together; however this is not a common process.
  • Most rosés are dry wines made from red wine grapes. The pink color comes from limited skin contact with the red grape skins during vinification. Rosé’s color is actually a hue of what would become red wine with longer skin contact.
  • The juice pressed from red wine grapes is the same color as the juice from white wine grapes: clear. Red wine color comes from extended skin contact during the early stages of winemaking, a process known as maceration†.
  • Pink wines, a term that encompasses rosé, blush, and anything else with a pink hue, can be any shade from pale pink to deep rose. It depends on the grape used and the length of skin contact (from one to three days).
  • Blush wine is an American term that refers specifically to pink wines made from red wine grapes, with only enough skin contact to produce a “blush” of red color. The term first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1980s, as a marketing device to sell pink wines. At the time, Americans were not buying rosé wines, while White Zinfandel, with its pink hue, was flying off the shelves (at one point it was the largest-selling wine in America). There weren’t enough Zinfandel grapes to meet demand, so winemakers had to use other red grape varietals.
  • Pink wines made from other grapes could not legally be called “White Zinfandel,” so a new category name—blush—was created.
  • American pink wines, whether from Zinfandel or another grape, are typically sweeter and paler than French-style rosés. The term “blush” began to refer to not just to pink wines, but to those that were made on the slightly sweet side, like White Zinfandel. These days, all three terms are used more or less interchangeably by people outside the wine-producing industry.
  •  
    ALSO TRY SOME…

  • Rosé Sangria
  • Rosé Champagne & OtherSparkling Rosés
  •  
    ______________
    *“Red grape” skins can be black, purple or red, depending on the varietal. A rosé can also be made by blending red and white wines, although this is less common.

    †The skin contact phase of winemaking is known as maceration. In this phase, the phenolic materials of the grape—tannins, coloring agents (anthocyanins) and flavor compounds—leach into the must (the newly-pressed juice) from the grape skins, seeds and stems. Maceration is a food and wine term that means to soften by soaking. Here’a more about maceration.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Malbec

    Glass Of Malbec In Riedel Malbec Glass

    A glass of Malbec in the specially designed Riedel Malbec glass. Photo courtesy Riedel.

     

    Celebrated on April 17th, World Malbec Day is the perfect opportunity to open up a bottle of the wine that is Argentina’s claim to varietal fame.

    Malbec is a black grape that produces red wine—a deep purple-red in color and nearly opaque, similar to Syrah and Mourvedre.

    The original Malbec rootstock came from France, where it was widely planted in the Cahors region in the Midi-Pyrénées region of south-central France, with some in the Loire Valley of central France. Argentina now has 75% of the world’s Malbec acreage.

    Argentine Malbec is very different from its French parent. As is true among all wine grapes (and some other crops), planting the same vines in different terroirs* yield different results.

  • Argentine Malbec is fruit forward, with notes of black cherry, black plum and currant. They have lower acidity, more tannins, and fuller body than French Malbec.
  • French Malbec has moderate tannin, higher acidity and flavor notes of black pepper and spice. Because of their moderate tannin and acidity with lower alcohol, French Malbec wines tend to age longer.
  •  
    World Malbec Day commemorates April 17, 1853, when President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina launched a mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry. To start that endeavor, a French soil expert bought grape varietals from France, one of which was Malbec. During the experiment period, which planted different wines in different terroirs, Malbec proved to be a star. It flourished in the Mendoza region of Argentina, in the northwest part of the country at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
     
    Malbec Is A Very Well-Priced Red

    As a result of the volume produced and the economics of wine production in Argentina, Malbec also proved to be a bargain. It’s a well-priced alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. You can find many good Malbecs for $10 a bottle or less.

    You can also find bottles at twice that price, and even pricier—for example, $95 for a bottle of Cheval des Andes, a joint venture between Bordeaux’s great Chateau Cheval Blanc and Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes.

  • Some Argentine Malbecs, like the latter, are blended with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Petit Verdot—classic grapes of Bordeaux, to give some Bordeaux style to the wines.
  • But there’s a fifth Bordeaux grape: Malbec is also grown there as a blending grape. Because the varietal has poor resistance bad weather and pests, it never became a top French varietal like Merlot and Caber.
  • Some vintners blend in a bit of Petit Syrah instead. Petit Syrah, now grown largely in Australia and California, is a cross that originated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
  •  
    Three Favorite Malbecs From Argentina

    Our wine editor, Kris Prasad, has a fondness for Altos Las Hormigas and Alamos (one of the wines with Syrah, depending on the vintage). Both can be found for $10 or less, although special bottling (e.g., certain vineyards) cost more.

    He also likes Tinto Negro “Limestock Block,” pricier at around $15. He calls it an “interesting wine”; it is two-thirds Malbec. We haven’t had it, but we do love the label, with part of the name spelled backwards (see the photo of the label above).

     

    PAIRING MALBEC WITH FOOD

    Steak—of which Argentina has a bounty—is a classic pairing (give us a T-bone, please!). But Malbec is much more flexible than a pairing with beef. Try it with:

  • Any grilled red meat or pork (serve with some Argentine chimichurri sauce).
  • Duck and other dark-meat poultry like game birds.
  • Full-flavored fish such as salmon and tuna.
  • Braised short ribs.
  • Burgers and barbecue.
  • Pasta and pizza.
  • Blue cheese, washed rind and other strong cheeses.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Dishes with earthy or smoky flavors.
  • Dishes spiced with clove, cumin, garlic, juniper berry, smoked paprika or sumac.
  •  
    Serve it instead of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Syrah and other full-bodied reds.

    For an even bigger celebration, put on some tango music—which developed in Argentina—and dance!
     
    ___________________________
    *ABOUT TERROIR: The same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors; for example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit notes—or neither. Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH, is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat that affect a crop’s qualities. It includes climate, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system.

     

    Los Altos Malbecs

    Malbec Label

    Top: Look for Los Altos Las Hormigas Malbecs, a favorite of our wine editor. Photo courtesy Los Altos. Bottom: The quirky label of another favorite Malbec, Tinto Negro.

     

      

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    TIP: Wine For A Wedding Shower

    Tissot Trousseau Amphore

    Le Cigare Volant Label

    Goat-Roti Wine

    Marilyn Merlot

    Top: A bottle of Trousseau wine from Stephane-Tissot.com, rated 91 by Robert Parker. Second: The seminal fanciful label from Bonnie Doon Vineyards. Follow the red line to the flying cigar. Third: Goat-Roti, punning on the Rhone wine Côte-Roti and the classic Rhone label style. Photo courtesy FancyCellar.com. Bottom: Need you ask? It’s Marilyn Merlot from Marilyn Wines. Different vintages have different photos of Marilyn.

     

    We received a news release right after Valentine’s Day, for a red wine called Trousseau from the Jura region in eastern France. The grape variety itself is called Trousseau or Trousseau Noir, an old variety. It is grown in small amounts in Europe, with the the largest vineyards found in Portugal (it is one of the grapes blended into Port). It is now being grown in California.

    Although the timing was coincidental, we thought: Valentine’s Day…wedding proposals…wine to serve at showers or weddings. Let’s suggest wines with fanciful names.

    First, a bit on Trousseau:

    We have no idea how the grape was named Trousseau. The original meaning of the French word means “a little bundle,” and refers to the clothes, linens and other items collected by a single woman in anticipation of marriage.

    A girl and her mother would start gathering items for the daughter’s trousseau years before the anticipated event—years before she might be of the age to be courted!

    In the days when most people had little extra to spare, the mother might tuck away items when she could: a set of extra bed sheets, blankets, dishes, and other items.

    As disposable income grew, the wares could contain bridal items, jewelry, fine linens, china, silverware, clothing and lingerie and much more.

    So: Did some vintner, centuries ago, put aside wines for his daughter? Did that wine become known as Trousseau? The record is mute—at least so far as we could research it in English.
     
    HOW WINES AR NAMED

    For most of their history, wines were named after the region or grape varietal: Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy or Pinot Noir, for example. The bottle labels followed a classic design. The name (title), contents and bottle shape were/are usually regulated by law.

    Some 40 years ago, some modern vintners began using fanciful names and contemporary label designs as a marketing tool. The innovator was Randall Grahm of Bonnie Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, California.

    Graham, a maker of quality wines, became the talk of the wine world in 1984 with the release of “Le Cigare Volant” (the flying cigar), a red Southern Rhone blend. The label spoofed a classic Rhone label of a vineyard, but look closely: a large cigar (think blimp) flies over the vineyard. The brand continued with other fanciful names, including our favorite, “Thanks, Semillon.”

    You may have encountered some of Grahm’s legacy: Bored Doe, Goats Do Roam and Goat-Roti from Fairview Winery in South Africa and Marilyn Merlot from Marilyn Wines in Napa Valley, and others. California’s Topolos Winery was acquired by Russian River Vineyards, which [sadly?] discontinued its popular Stu Pedasso Zinfandel. Here are more wines with names of questionable dignity.

    And here’s a sampling of other whimsy: fancifully-named wines that won’t offend Grandma.

    Anyone with a special event on the horizon can design their own wine label. Just do an online search, and you’ll come across them.
     
    ABOUT TROUSSEAU WINE

    Trousseau, which is planted in Europe, California, even Australia, is called “paradoxical”: light-bodied and pale red, but with intense aromas and a firm tannic grip. You may come across producers from the Jura in your wine store (Jacques Puffeney, Jean-François Ganevat, Michel Gahier, and André et Mireille Tissot as well as from Californi (Arnot-Roberts and Copain).

    We proffer our own suggestions for wedding wine: Cloud 9 Cabernet, Just Married Merlot and Wedded Bliss Sauvignon Blanc.

    Feel free to contribute your own.

     

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sparkling Wines For Gifting & Drinking

    Brachetto d'Acqui Banfi

    Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui: a wine that says “Be My Valentine.”

     

    If you’ve taken a look at Champagne prices, you’d like a recommendation on which way to go.

    Our recommendation: Steer away from Champagne and look at other sparkling wines. Here are two of our favorite affordable bubblies for Valentine’s Day. Both are crowd pleasers. One is a perfect dessert wine or an apéritif; the other can be enjoyed anytime, with any course.

    Drink them yourself or give them as gifts. As with all sparkling wines, serve them chilled.
     
    BANFI ROSA REGALE BRACHETTO D’ACQUI

    This sweet sparkling wine from the Piedmont region of Italy is a vivid rose red. The color is natural!

    It’s made from the Brachetto df’Acqui grape, which grows in the area of Acqui Terme in rocky, calcareous soil (tough soil makes better wines).

     
    The bouquet is very aromatic, with hints of raspberries, strawberries and rose petals. You’ll taste hints of fresh raspberries, with crisp acidity.

    In addition to dessert—cakes, tarts, ice cream—it pairs well with seafood, cheeses, spicy fare and yes, that box of Valentine chocolate.

    One of our friends calls this wine “love at first sip.” It’s pretty romantic stuff.

    The price: $17-$20 per bottle. The pronunciation: bra-KET-toe d’AH-qwee.

    There’s more on the brand’s web page.
     
    YELLOWTAIL BUBBLES SPARKLING ROSÉ

    A recent Top Pick Of The Week for the holidays, this sparkling wine from Australia makes everything more festive—at just $10-$11 per bottle. It’s not a sweet wine, but crisp and refreshing, so it can be paired with anything.

    The fragrant nose promises cherries and strawberries on the palate. Unlike the deep red of Brachetto d’Acqui, it’s a pale pink color, similar to a rosé Champagne.

    Depending on the retailer and promotion calendar, the bottle may come with a resealable, plastic cap that allows you to seal in the bubbles for the next day. If not, and if you don’t have one, pick up a Champagne resealer. It’s inexpensive, and really does keep that wine sparkling for days.

    And it can be the part of the gift that remains, when the wine is long gone.

    Here’s our full review of the wine.

    And here’s the Yellowtail Bubbles Rosé web page.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Buying Champagne For New Year’s Eve

    If you’re headed to the store to buy Champagne for New Year’s Eve, there are a lot of choices. Where should you start?

    We’ve written a lot about lower-cost sparkling wines like Asti Spumante, Cava, Crémant and Prosecco. Our Top Pick Of The Week is Yellow Tail from Australia. All are delicious bubblies, worthy of toasting the new year.

    But if you want to toast the New Year with Champagne, here are some money-saving tips.

    You Don’t Need To Purchase A Vintage Champagne

    There are two categories of Champagne: vintage and non-vintage. By law in the Champagne region of France, a vintage year can be declared only when the grapes contain a specific level of sweetness, which varies from year to year. Even in a given year, the sugar levels (called brix) can vary from vineyard to vineyard.

    With a vintage bottling, the year will prominently appear on the label. Otherwise, no year is given, and the Champagne is nonvintage.

  • A vintage year means that all the grapes used to make that wine came from that particular year’s harvest.
  •   Champagne Flute

    For a classic toast: a flute of Champagne. Photo courtesy Champagne flute.

  • Vintage Champagne represents only about 10% of the total production of the region. On average, producers will declare a vintage in three out of every ten years. Each producer declares for its own house; there is no “regional decree.” In great-weather years, almost every house can declare a vintage.
  • When no vintage year is declared, the Champagne is known as nonvintage wine, although a more accurate term would be multivintage, since wines from different years are blended to create the signature house style (le style de la maison, a consistent taste from year to year). Nonvintage Champagnes are not inferior to vintage ones; they’re just different.
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    Vintage Champagnes Are More Expensive Than Nonvintage Champagnes

    Of the Champagnes shown below, Pol Roger (puhl roe-ZHAY) nonvintage is about $40 a bottle. The current vintage on store shelves, 2006, sells for more than $100. Big difference!

    This is due to key factors in both marketing and production. The first is supply and demand. There are more than three times as many nonvintage years as vintage years. Vintage bottlings are considered more prestigious, creating greater demand.

    Production factors also justify the higher price for vintage Champagnes. For nonvintage Champagnes, the law requires a minimum aging time of 15 months after the commencement of the second fermentation (where the bubbles are created by added yeast that eat added sugar). For vintage years, a minimum of three years of aging is required.

    However, in vintage years, most Champagne houses will age their wines even longer. Riper grapes have longer aging potential; aging develops more layers of flavor and complexity. The wine still needs to age after it’s bottled (see the next section). It costs more to finance and manage the inventory, and that expense is reflected in higher prices, along with supply and demand.

     

    Pol Roger Champagne Label

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pol roger vintage2000 230

    TOP PHOTO: The label of nonvintage Pol Roger Champagne. BOTTOM PHOTO: The
    label of vintage Champagne, in this case the
    2000 vintage, which, due to the need for
    longer aging, should be drinking very well in
    2015.

     

    An Important Note About Aging

    Vintage Champagnes typically need to be laid down for at least 10 years, and ideally for 15 or 20 years, to develop their great nuances. The vintner constructs the wine to last for the long run.

    While the vintage wines can be drunk when they’re released for retail sales, knowledgeable buyers don’t plan to drink a current vintage anytime soon.

    For all the celebrities and others who spend big at restaurants and clubs on newly-released vintages of Roderer Cristal or Dom Pérignon, for example: This is wine infanticide. The wine is drinkable to be sure, but much more simplistic than it will be when fully developed. It’s better to enjoy a nonvintage wine than a too-young vintage,

    Nonvintage wine, on the other hand, is ready to drink as soon as it is released. Yes, it will develop more with a few years of bottle aging, but don’t hesitate to pop the cork right now.

     
    Don’t Be Afraid To Buy Champagnes You’ve Never Heard Of

    Smaller Champagne houses don’t spend money on marketing and cost less than the “name brands.” However, a Champagne you’ve never heard of can be even more delicious to you than the brands you know.

    A number of years ago, on a recommendation from wine expert Robert Parker, we purchased and went crazy for a $35 bottle of Egly-Ouriet, a smaller producer we’d never heard of. Most buyers have still never heard of it, and it remains very well priced.

    You may find that “unknown” Champagne houses—Betrand Devavry, Jacques Selosse, Paul Dethune and Vilmart, for example—are sparkling treasures.

    If you have style preferences—for example, if you prefer a fuller bodied Pinot Noir-based Champagne rather than a lighter “blanc de blancs” made only with Chardonnay grapes—let the wine clerk make a recommendation.

     
    Only True Connoisseurs Can Tell The Difference Between Vintage And Nonvintage

    Only Champagne connoisseurs—those who drink a lot of it and have the expertise to analyze what they’re drinking—can tell you if a glass of Champagne served blind holds a vintage or a nonvintage.

    We still remember when we were taken to dinner years ago, by a Wall Streeter who ate and drank “the best” almost nightly. He ordered a bottle of vintage Veuve Cliquot, but the waiter returned with a bottle of the nonvintage and apologized that they were sold out of the vintage.

    My friend scoffed and snorted at the thought of nonvintage Champagne, and chose another brand with a year on the label. Net net, a little learning is a dangerous thing. If you like Veuve Cliquot, you like vintage and nonvintage alike.

    So the final word is:

  • If you know what you like and want to save money, buy the nonvintage version.
  • If you don’t know what you like, ask the wine clerk to point out the great values.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Vermouth & Tapas, For Brunch & Cocktails

    Vermouth is enjoying a renaissance. Vermouth (ver-MOOTH) is a fortified wine—one that includes a base spirit—flavored with a proprietary mixture of botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices).

    A glass of sweet red vermouth with an orange slice or twist was long a fashionable apéritíf for café society*. In Barcelona today, vermouth and tapas are a hot duo after mass, both at home and at the vermuterías that have popped up to serve them.

    Today’s tip is to try a bit of café society at home. Turn it into a brunch or cocktail party with tapas. Use the occasion to get to know vermouth, trying the different styles.

    You don’t have to try them all in one day. We’ve turned our monthly Sunday friends-and-family brunch into a vermouth and tapas event, trying different vermouths and tapas each week. So it doesn’t get burdensome, participants are assigned to bring a bottle (for those who don’t cook) and a variety of tapas (for those who do).

    And we have a great time!

     
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF VERMOUTH

       

    Red Vermouth

    An apéritif of red vermouth. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     
    Vermouth evolved from a 16th-century practice in Northern Italy and Germany, where apothecaries would blend extracts of herbs and roots to blend with wine and brandy. This was the way to make bitter medicines more palatable. (Virtually all spirits were first developed for medicinal reasons.)

    The original recipe for red vermouth, and possibly even the name “vermuth,” was invented in Torino, Italy in 1786 by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. The red vermouths of subsequent producers like Cinzano were based on Carpano. Carpano is still a major brand in Italy, perhaps best known today in the U.S. for its Punt e Mes (“Point And A Half”), a sweet and bitter style.

    In the late 19th century, bartenders began to make cocktails with vermouth. The Manhattan and Negroni, made with sweet vermouth, and the Martini, made with dry vermouth, are three that remain popular today. A plain glass of sweet vermouth is still enjoyed as an apéritif in Italy, France and Spain, the three largest producing countries.

    There are a number of different vermouth styles: sweet and dry, red and white, amaro (with added bitters), chinato with added chinchona (quinine) and often gentian (a root), alla vaniglia with vanilla, and others. Vermouth houses typically make a variety of styles.

    While many vermouths are regional and not imported, familiar names in the U.S. include:

  • French vermouths Noilly Prat, Boissiere
  • Italian vermouths Cinzano, Martini & Rossi
  • Spanish vermouths Lacuesta, Canasta Rosso
  •  
    Other countries have gotten on the vermouth bandwagon. There are a number of American brands (Atsby, Gallo, Imbue, Ransom, Sutton Cellars, Vya from Quady), along with vermouths from Australia, Germany and elsewhere.

     

    vermouth with tapas

    Trade the Mimosa and omelet brunch for vermouth with tortilla española and other tapas. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

     

    VERMOUTH & TAPAS

    After Ferran Adría closed the famed El Bulli temple of molecular gastronomy, he opened a vermutería in Barcelona: Bodega 1900, that serves different vermouths and tapas.

    In Barcelona, the trendy food capital of Europe, vermouth is now the midday fashion on weekends. It’s called “la hora del vermouth” (vermouth hour, after “cocktail hour”): good food and drink, good conversation, a good time hanging out with friends and family.

    It’s easy to create your own “la hora del vermouth” for brunch or an all-vermouth-and-tapas cocktail party.

    EASY TAPAS

  • Fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar (or you can grill them)
  • Fried green plantains
  • Green olives stuffed with piquillo peppers and anchovies
  • Grilled shrimp with olive oil and lemon juice
  • Marinated peppers and anchovies
  • Manchego cheese with serrano ham
  • Mussels with vinaigrette
  • Oysters and/or clams on the half shell
  • Potato chips, homemade or artisan
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Serrano ham
  • Tortilla espanola, an omelet with onions, peppers, potatoes and sausage (substitute a frittata or quiche)
  •  

    For brunch, add a green salad, with fruit salad for dessert (you can marinate the fruits in a bit of sweet vermouth or orange liqueur). If someone wants to make flan, by all means!

    Here’s what the menu at a tapas bar looks like.

    We promise, you’ll love this new approach to brunch and/or cocktails.
     
    SPANISH ANCHOVIES

    Many Americans recoil at the thought of anchovies, tough, bristly and way too salty. But these are cheap anchovies, typically served by diners and pizzerias. You must try fine Spanish anchovies—practically another species.

    Tender Spanish anchovies and boquerones, white anchovies, are imported canned and available fresh in May and June.

    They are a classic Spanish tapa. Boquerones are lightly pickled in vinegar and olive oil. Lightly salted and smoked anchovies are only distantly related to the over-salted anchovies too many of us have had.

    They are truly delicious. Try them: La Tienda is an importer of fine Spanish foods, and the photos of anchovies on their website will change your mind, even before the first bite.

     
    *Café society was the precursor of the jet set, and what more recently has been called the “beautiful people.” Beginning in the late 19th century, these wealthy individuals and celebrities gathered in fashionable cafés and restaurants in New York, Paris, and London. As a social group, they attended each others’ private dinners and balls, vacationed at the same elegant resorts, and so forth. In New York City, café society would hang out at El Morocco, the 21 Club and the Stork Club. American journalist Lucius Beebe (1902-1966) is generally credited with creating the term “café society” in his weekly column in the New York Herald Tribune, which ran in the 1920s and 1930s.

      

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