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TIP OF THE DAY: Affordable Rose Bubbly For Valentine’s Day

Check the price of Champagne. Even the lowest-level brands are

Now look at our three recommendations for rose sparkling wine (once called “pink Champagne):

The first is $13.99; the latter are in the $18.99 range. Why is this a bargain?

These are sweeter styles, perfect to enjoy as an aperitif, with chocolates or desserts, even at breakfast. Some of our favorite pairings:

  • French toast with strawberries and cassis syrup
  • Bread pudding with chocolate chunks (or chocolate bread pudding)
  • Strawberries in balsamic vinegar
  • Chocolate cake, candy pie, pudding
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    Perpetual crowd pleasers, these wines should be served chilled (as with all bubblies).
     
     
    MARTINI: SPARKLING ROSÉ

    Martini Sparkling Rosé (photo #1—the brand was formerly called Martini & Rossi) is an Italian sparkler made from a blend of brachetto, malvasia and moscato bianco grapes from Northern Italy.

    The nose is delightful, a blend strawberry, rose and tropical fruit aromas.

    The wine is medium-dry, the palate is slightly sweet with ripe berry and peach flavors. The alcohol level is 9.5%.

    This wine also pairs well with seafood, and with cold meats and with creamy cheeses (although we love it with fresh goat cheese, too).

    And of course, serve it with fruit—especially with stone fruits like apricots and peaches, or a stone fruit salad with a dab of crème fraîche or mascarpone.

    You can serve it with light lunches and take it on picnics.
     
     
    BANFI: ROSA REGALE BRACHETTO D’ACQUI

    This delightfully spritzy, full-bodied sparkling wine (photo #2) is cranberry-red in color. The aroma (bouquet, nose) has hints of raspberries and strawberries plus rose petals. What could be more perfect for Valentine’s Day?

    On the palate you’ll taste fresh raspberries. The crisp acidity enables it to pair with the richest desserts, and the elegance makes it a good date for a plate of fine cheeses.

    It also pairs well with seafood and spicy fare.

    Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui gets its name because it’s 100% brachetto, a red wine grape; and the grapes are grownin vineyard located outside the town of Acqui in the Piedmont region of Italy.

    It has the lowest alcohol of the three, at 7.3%: You can drink more without losing the passion.

    Speaking of which, Brachetto has a legend: that both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony sent Brachetto wine as gifts to Cleopatra. Some suggest that Cleopatra fell in love with Caesar over her first sip of Brachetto (the still wine, since sparkling wine had not yet been invented).

     

    Sparkling Rose

    Banfi Rosa Regale Sparkling Red Wine

    Santa Margherita Sparkling Rose Wine

    [1] Martini Sparkling Rosé, pretty in pink. [2] Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, the color of red roses. [3] Santa Margherita Sparkling Rosé, another fine pink-hued sparkler. All three bubblies are from northern Italy.

     
    In turn, the queen had her lovers drink the wine to unleash their passion. Hence, Rosa Regale, which means royal passion.

    You can shop around for the best price. In our area, we can find a 750ml bottle for around $18.99. But don’t worry about spending a few dollars more: It’s worth it.
     
     
    SANTA MARGHERITA SPARKLING ROSÉ

    This Prosecco (photo #3) is from the Santa Margherita Winery in Trentino-Alto Adige, a hilly area in the province of Treviso, bordering Switzerland and Austria to the north.

    It’s a blend of glera (the process grape), chardonnay and malbec, which provides some of the pink hue.

    The aroma is floral, with what wine insiders call white fruits, plus delicate hints of red berry fruits (strawberries, raspberries).

    The flavor is delicate but vibrant, remaining on the palate (a.k.a. long finish). The alcohol level is 12%.

    For food pairings beyond sweets, look to Italian appetizers, seafood dishes, spicy foods, and the exotic seasonings of Asian cuisines.

    You may find it for $18.99, but we had no complaints paying $21.99 for our bottle.
     
     
    NOTE: These wines are meant to be drunk fresh.

    Don’t lay them down, don’t look for older vintages. Drink ‘em if you got ‘em.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Three Wonderful Food Gifts

    Vinebox Valentine Gift

    VineBox Wines

    Ritual Chocolate Bars

    [1] [2] [3] The Valentine gift box from VineBox, with artisan chocolate bars from Ritual Chocolate.

     

    You could search all over town without finding wonderful Valentine’s Day gifts like these—one with zero calories!

    There’s no need leave home to get them. Just click below to order these online.

    1. FOR THE WINE DRINKER: A WINE & CHOCOLATE PAIRING

    VineBox is a monthly wine-by-the-glass subscription service; but for Valentine’s Day, it has teamed up with artisan chocolatier Ritual Chocolates to offer gift box that anyone can order.

    Three red wines have been paired with two different 75% cacao origin chocolate bars, from Belize and Madagascar.

    The wines include a Chianti from Tuscany, a Crozes-Hermitage from the Rhone Valley of France, and a Don Paolo from the Pompeii area of southern Italy.

    Beautifully packaged—you’ll want to repurpose the empty box or wine vials—the gift includes two separate boxes, with a total of

  • 3 different wines, 6 glasses total.
  • 2 small-batch chocolate bars, 2.12 ounces apiece.
  • Tasting notes and description.
  • A gift card.
  •  
    Both boxes are $69 at VineBox.com; shipping is included.
     
     
    For More Wine & Chocolate Pairings

    Check out THE NIBBLE’s favorite pairings, and our master pairing chart.

    Here’s a guide to pairing sparkling wines with chocolate.

    Here’s how to pair wine with chocolate desserts and other desserts.

     

    2. CALORIE- & CAFFEINE-FREE: LOVERS’ TEA

    This herbal blend from one of our favorite artisan blenders combines red rooibos, baby rose buds and petals, marigold petals, almonds and saffron (a well known aphrodisiac).

    Whether hot or iced, we guarantee the recipient will love it. A four-ounce tin is $16 at Tay Tea.

    The company has another rooibos blend we love, with bits of Belgian dark chocolate and peppermint, called Better Than Sex.
     

    3. ORGANIC TRUFFLE HONEY

    Many truffle-flavored products are flavored with a chemical approximation of truffle flavor and aroma.

    But this jar of Acacia honey, certified USDA organic, is flavored with real white truffle pieces.

    We love dipping it by the spoon from the jar; but more genteel uses include:

  • Cheese condiment extraordinaire, from blues to goats, to Parmesans and beyond.
  • Glaze a duck breast, lamb, roast ham, pork or turkey: just brush on top while the meat rests out of the oven. Ditto as a sandwich condiment with these meats.
  • Drizzle an earthy garnish onto vanilla ice cream.
  • Drizzle over bruschetta with fresh ricotta.
  •  
    Truffle honey turns something simple into something joyous.

    Get yours from Murray’s Cheese, $26.99 for a 4.25-ounce jar of heaven.

     

    Lovers Tea Herbal

    Truffle Honey Da Rosario

    [4] Lovers’ Tea from Tay Tea is an elegant herbal blend. [5] Honey in a perfect marriage with truffles, from Da Rosario.

     

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: White Chocolate Polar Bears

    White Chocolate Bears

    White Chocolate Polar Bears

    Mom, dad and the kids are adorable…but not too adorable to eat! Photos courtesy Woodhouse Chocolate.

     

    They may be too old for Teddy bears and Winnie The Pooh, but no one is too old for these chocolate polar bears from Woodhouse Chocolate of Napa Valley, one of our favorite chocolate artisans.

    Give just one bar or the whole family—all with your choice of red or blue snowflake medallions around their necks:

  • Five-inch tall chocolate bear, $12.00
  • Ten-inch tall chocolate bear, $32.00
  •  
    To get a bear, point your mouse to WoodhouseChocolate.com

    John Anderson of Woodhouse Chocolate was a vintner for 20 years before he became a chocolatier. So next up:

    WINES TO SERVE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE

    From California

  • Fruity Chardonnay
  • Muscat
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    From Europe

  • Gewürtztraminer: (Alsatian and German varieties have more sweetness than American versions
  • Liqueurs: cream liqueurs, creme de cacao, or fruit liquer
  • Mas Amiel: Vintage Blanc, from southwestern France
  • Muscat: (French) or Moscato from Italy
  • Riesling:: Alsatian (late harvest) or German Riesling: Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein (ice wine)
  • Sherry: Amontillado, Brown, Cream or Pale Cream, East India, Moscatel, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez (PX)
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    DON’T FORGET THE SWEETER BUBBLIES

  • Asti Spumante, a sweeter sparkler from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy
  • Brachetto d’Acqui, an Italian sparkling rosé from the Piedmont region Italy
  • Champagne labeled sec, demi-sec or doux
  • Prosecco and Valdobbiadene from the Treviso area of northeast Italy
  • Other Italian sparkling wines labeled dolce or amabile
  •  
    If you need assistance in the wine department, don’t hesitate to ask one of the staff. That’s what they’re there for.
     
    CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE ON PAIRING WINE WITH CHOCOLATE.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine & Cake For A Dessert Party…Or Just Dessert!

    Want a dessert party that’s different?

    How about a wine and cake tasting? As with any other food and wine, the right pairings enhance the enjoyment of both components.

    So as not to stress the budget, you can make it a co-op party, assigning different cakes and wines to the participants.

    Select five or so pairings for a group of 10-12; more for a larger crowd. We made all of the cakes as sheet cakes, easy to cut into squares or slivers. It’s tough to cut thin slices of layer cakes.

    Place each cake on a platter with a place cards or index cards to identify them and provide cake/pie servers so people can help themselves, and further cut the squares for smaller tastes.

    We set everything on a buffet: the cakes with the matching wines and wine glasses behind them, plus serving plates, forks and napkins.

    Re the cake/pie servers: It’s nice to have a server for each cake. You can borrow from friends, use metal spatulas and other items you already have, or buy this inexpensive set of five for $11.99.

    These pairings were created by Alice Feiring, an award-winning wine writer and book author; and sent to us by Amara.com, an elegant lifestyle website.

    Alice has provided explanations for why these pairings work (the “Why,” below). If your crowd is interested, you can print the information index cards underneath the name of each cake and wine pairing.

    CAKE & WINE PAIRINGS
     
    1. APPLE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Off-dry sparkling wine, such as a demi-sec Vouvray from the Loire region of France.
  • Why: Off-dry sparkling wines with a hint of apple or lemon are a perfect pairing.
  •  
    2. CARDAMOM CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Pear cider (an off-dry hard cider also called perry).
  • Why: Pears and cardamom accent each other so well in recipes; the same pairing translates to wine. You can also try this pairing with other spice cakes.
  •  
    3. CARROT CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Ice cider, similar to ice wine, but made with apples instead of grapes.
  • Why: Carrot cake has spicy flavors and creamy frosting, both of which pair well with the intensity, acidity and honey notes of ice cider.
  •  
    4. CHEESECAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Aromatic wine, spicy and exotic, such as Gewürztraminer from the Alsace region of France or from Germany.
  • Why: Aromatic wines stand up to dense cheesecakes. The low alcohol level is right for the creaminess.
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    5. COCONUT CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparkling, white, gently sweet desert wine, such as Moscato d’Asti from Italy.
  • Why: The light sweetness of a sparkling desert wine complements the less sweet coconut.
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    6. FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Oxidized, fortified wine such as Madeira from Portugal.
  • Why: Fortified wines that have been exposed to heat develop a complex muted, caramel-like saltiness—think toffee, dried fruit and orange rind—which complement the ground nuts in the cake.
  •    

    Carrot Cake

    Cheesecake

    Coconut Cake

    Flourless Chocolate Cake

    [1] Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and filling (photo courtesy Harry & David). [2] A classic cheesecake (photo courtesy Cinderella Cheesecake). [3] Coconut layer cake (photo courtesy Taste Of Home). [4] Flourless Chocolate Cake (photo courtesy David Glass).

     

    Strawberry Shortcake

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Nacho Cheesecake

    [5] Strawberry shortcake (photo courtesy G Bakes). [6] The retro Pineapple Upside -Down Cake (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [7] A savory cheesecake (Nacho Cheesecake photo from Taste Of Home; the recipe link is at #12).

     

    7. LEMON POPPY CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Apple mint vermouth (look for Uncouth Vermouth Apple Mint)—semisweet and fragrant.
  • Why: The bitter from the vermouth accents the almost fruity snap of the poppy seeds.
  •  
    8. OLIVE OIL CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparking white wine, like a slightly sweet Malvasia Dolce Frizzante from Italy.
  • Why: The aromatic lightness of a slightly sweet sparkling wine matches the dense olive oil without being overpowering.
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    9. ORANGE-CHOCOLATE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Dry amber (orange) wine, spicy with notes of orange blossom. Look for amber wines from France, Italy and Australia—they’re relatively new in the U.S.
  • Why: The juicy, slightly tannic wine supports the strong cake flavors without undoing the power of the chocolate orange combination.
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    10. PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sweet white wine such as a Jurançon Moelleux from France—unctuous with good acid and lemon/peach notes.
  • Why: The tropical flavor from the grape, petit manseng, especially from the Jurançon, marries the syrupy fruit. Its extreme acidity keeps the match fresh”.
  •  
    11. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Sparking rosé.
  • Why: The berry fruitiness of sparkling rosé echoes the fragrant strawberries in the cake.
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    12. SAVORY CHEESE CAKE & WINE

  • Wine Type: Savory cheesecake is an appetizer or first course rather than a dessert; or it can stand in for the cheese course or a dessert for people who don’t like sweets! Look for a Carignan, Grenache, Syrah or blend. Check out these savory cheesecake recipes:
  •  
    Blue Cheese Cheesecake
    Basil, Lobster & Tuna Cheesecake Recipes
    Nacho Cheesecake Recipe
    Provolone & Corn Cheesecake

  • Why: Deep red wines are a great match for the sharp cheese flavors.
  •  
    MORE DESSERT & WINE PAIRINGS

    Here are THE NIBBLE’s recommendations for:

  • Pairing Desserts & Wine: everything from crème brûlée to mousse to pie
  • Pairing Ice Cream & Wine
  • Pairing Chocolate & Wine
  •  
    HAPPY NIBBLING!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Champagne Alternatives

    Whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, Champagne is a tradition in holiday homes; that is, holiday homes with means.

    Champagne, by far the most famous sparkling wine in the world, is in the highest demand. But can only be produced on limited acreage, the region of Champagne, in northeast France.

    The worldwide demand for Champagne has been increasing since the 1990s, as affluent consumers in Asia, Russia and elsewhere joined the demands in Europe and North America. Last year, about 312 million bottles were sold.

    While that may seem a lot, worldwide, 3.2 billion cases of wine were produced (2013 figures). That’s 38.4 billion bottles (54%, red wine, 37% white, 9% rosé). The number one country for volume of wine purchased is the U.S. See more wine statistics below.

    The demand for Champagne and the limited ability to produce more of it has upped the prices. The most affordable bottles are non-vintage Champagnes (blends of juice from multiple grape harvests), which make up the bulk of the market. It isn’t less good than a vintage Champagne; in fact, it best shows off the house style, since vintage Champagne by law can only include grapes from that vintage.

    Not all years produce great grapes (not sweet enough, too sweet, etc.), so instead of creating a vintage Champagne, vintners reserve those wines and blend them them to create the precise flavor they seek.

    You can buy good nonvintage Champagnes for $35 to $45.00. Our favorites are Louis Roederer’s NV Brut Premier and Champagne Pol Roger Brut Reserve.

    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.
     
    HOW ABOUT BUBBLY THAT ISN’T CHAMPAGNE?

    By law, only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne. This AOC designation ensures consumers that the food has been made in its original region, with specified ingredients and traditional techniques. It delivers a taste consistently and true to its nature.

    Every other wine that bubbles is called “sparkling wine.”

    These other wines offer bubbles at lower prices; and every non-expert wine drinker will be thrilled that its bubbly, from wherever. (Experts also enjoy these other sparklers.)

    Head to your nearest wine store and check the prices. Don’t hesitate to ask the clerks for their favorites. Consider:

  • Australian Sparkling Wines, such as Yellowtail Bubbles (our favorite is the Yellowtail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé), and other brands (around $10).
  • California “Champagne”: Champagne-style wines made from California grapes by French Champagne houses (Chandon from Moet et Chandoon, e.g.) are pricier, but look for All-American bottlings like Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut and Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon (about $10.00).
  • Cava from Spain (for $8.00, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet is $12.00).
  • Crémant From France’s Loire Valley: This wine is made in France with the same method, just not in the Champagne region. Crémant de Bourgogne, for instance, is made in the Burgundy region ($12.00-$15.00 for many bottles).
  • Prosecco from Italy (many around $9.00-$10.00).
  • Sekt from Germany.
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    Sweet Sparkling Wines

    For dessert, go for a sweeter sparkling wine, such as:

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy.
  • Asti Spumante from Italy (it’s sparkling Moscato).
  •  

    Sparkling Cocktail

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cranberry kir royale oceanspray 230sq

    Freixenet

    Glass Of Cava

    [1] Sparkling wines are made all over the world (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] Check out the rosé and red wine bubblies (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] freixenet-cordon-negro (photo courtesy Freixenet). [4] Cava, from Spain, is a popular, affordable sparkler (photo courtesy Food & Wines From Spain).

  • American sparklers, such as Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California. There are sparkling wines produced from coast to coast. There’s also Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington State.If you want to celebrate with American wines on Thanksgiving (we always do), see what your store has to offer.
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy.
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne but also from other regions).
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy (in wine terminology, “Dry” is a tad sweeter than “Extra Dry,” which is sweeter than “Brut)”.
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain.
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    WHO DRINKS ALL THE WINE?

    According to International Wine & Spirit Research, Europe and the U.S. consume the most volume, with 2013 statistics showing the big drinkers by volume to be:

  • U.S., 339 million cases
  • France, 296 million cases
  • Italy, 288 million cases
  • Germany, 274 million cases
  • China, 144 million
  • U.K., 133 million cases
  •  
    Per capita wine consumption shows the really big drinkers. In order, they are Italy, France, Switzerrland, Portugal and Austria.

    The biggest sparkling wine drinkers are the Germans, who drank 46 million cases of fizz in 2014. France came in second, at 30 million cases; and Russia, traditionally a large market for Champagne since the wine was created†, consumed 26 million cases. The U.S. was fourth, with 18 million cases, and the U.K. fifth, consuming 11 million cases—incredible given the difference in population of the two countries.
     
    HISTORICAL NOTES ABOUT CHAMPAGNE

    The region now called Champagne was settled by the Gauls around 500 B.C.E. When the Roman legions conquered the area in 56 B.C.E., they bestowed upon the land the name Campania (Champagne) because of the similarity between the rolling hills of that area with the Roman (now Italian) province of Campania (the word campania itself means “open country”).

    In the Middle Ages Champagne was a duchy, then a country. In 1284, Champagne was brought under French rule when Jeanne, Queen of Navarre and Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre married the future King Philippe IV (she was 11 years old). When Philippe’s father died the following year, Jeanne became Queen of France at age 12.

    The wine grapes grown since Roman times were made into still wine†. In the 17th century, the process for making champagne was discovered and the vintners have been making bubbly since then.

    The best grapes are grown where a Tertiary period chalk plain overlaps a vast Cretaceous chalk plain that lies underneath the soil layer (it’s the same huge basin that creates the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun. The unique terroir creates the unique creamy, toasty flavor of Champagne wines.
     
    ________________
    †The original wines of Champagne, made since Roman times, were still wines. The first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally, when pressure in the bottles caused the corks to pop and sometimes, the bottles to explode. It was first called “the devil’s wine,” le vin du diable). The technique to master modern Champagne began in the 17th century, with Le Veuve Cliquot, the woman who did it. It was pricey, and became popular with royalty and nobility. The emerging middle class wanted their share, too.

      

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