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Archive for Wine

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
  •  
    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
  •  
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    *“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.
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    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!
     
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    *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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