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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
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Archive for Wine

TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Bottle Of Moscato Wine

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Roman author Pliny the Elder (23 C.E. – 79 C.E.) wrote in his Natural History: “The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes [in France] and its wine is remarkable.”

Call it Muscat in French or Moscato in Italian: Today is the first National Moscato Day, celebrating the “remarkable” wine. The holiday was declared by Gallo Family Vineyards, producers of excellent and very affordable Moscato.

By establishing National Moscato Day, the Gallo family hopes that you will raise a glass and get to know this delicious wine.

The wine is already on a roll: Moscato sales in the U.S. continue to grow faster than any other wine varietal, increasing by 74% in 2011 alone. You can pick up a bottle of Gallo Moscato for about $5.00. How can you resist?

*The Gallo moscato is so inexpensive because the grapes are grown in Australia, where land is plentiful and cheap.


Moscato (mow-SKAH-toe) or Muscat (MOO-skaht) is a white wine grape. The wines, slightly sweet and low in alcohol, are often served with dessert. However, their ability to pair with other foods—and Americans’ penchant for sweet beverages like soft drinks and White Zinfandel—is bringing Moscato to the forefront in the U.S.


The next time you want a glass of white wine, reach for the Moscato. Photo courtesy Gallo Family Vineyards.


According to, the Muscat grape is the world’s oldest cultivated grape variety. It may have originated in the sultanate of Muscat and Oman† on the southeast Arabian Peninsula.

The Muscat grape found its way to Rome and was brought by the Roman Legions to Gaul (encompassing present-day France). Over the centuries, it was planted in regions as disperse as the Crimea (Russia) and South Africa. Early Spanish and Italian immigrants brought it to America. In 1844, it arrived in Australia—the source of the grapes for the Gallo Family Muscato.

The Moscato grape is widely grown in Italy, where it is vinified into still and sparkling wines. Asti Spumante and its semi-sparkling cousin, Moscato d’Asti, are made in the Piedmont region, the northwest corner of Italy.

Moscato is light bodied and low in alcohol—meaning that most people can have a second glass without overdoing it. The wine’s perfumed nose and lush palate burst with the seductive flavors of peach, honey and citrus. The fresh aciditity and delicately sweetness enable it to pair well with a broad variety of foods.

†Muscat and Oman was a country that encompassed the present day Sultanate of Oman and parts of the United Arab Emirates.


Moscato with a dessert of fresh fruit and a mascarpone dip. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.



  • BRUNCH. If you’re looking for a brunch wine, look no further. Moscato pairs well with breakfast pastries, eggs, pancakes and other brunch foods.
  • COCKTAIL MUNCHIES. Charcuterie, prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks and olives provide a salty counterpoint to the slightly sweet wine. Simple bruschetta is also a perfect pairing.
  • CRUDITÉS. The crispness of raw vegetables pairs well with Moscato.
  • CHICKEN & FISH. Moscato is delicious with lighter chicken and fish dishes.
  • CREAM SAUCES. Mild cream sauces pair well with Moscato.
  • DESSERT. While moscato is far less sweet than dessert wines such as Muscat Beaumes de Venise or Sauternes, it has enough residual sugar to work with many desserts. We had it last night with cheesecake and the night before with sorbet. Be sure to try it with biscotti, creamy desserts and nut-based desserts.

  • FRUIT. A snack or dessert of fresh fruit—or a fruit pie—is an occasion for Moscato. Peaches are a perfect match with this peachy wine.
  • HAM. Here’s another fine sweet-and-salty pairing, whether it’s a baked ham dinner, a ham sandwich or ham-based canapés.
  • PICNICS & POOLSIDE. Moscato is an ideal wine to sip poolside or relaxing at a picnic.
  • SALADS. Want a glass of wine with your lunch or dinner salad? Grab the Moscato.
  • SHELLFISH. Sweeter wines like Moscato are a favorite pairing with crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops and a raw bar.
  • SPICY FOODS. Gewürtztraminer and Riesling have long been recommended wines for spicy foods. The slight sweetness complements the heat and spice. Now, add Moscato to the list, to pair with Asian, Indian and other hot cuisines, along with spicy Western dishes such as Spaghetti Arrabbiata.
  • WINE & CHEESE. Uncork a bottle to serve with cheese. The peach and citrus flavors are a great match for soft or hard cheeses, from Brie (including baked Brie) to Pecorino Romano. Serve it with the dessert cheese plate: Brie and figs with a glass of Moscato is simple yet sophisticated.
    Do you have a favorite way to serve Moscato? Let us know.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Different Red Wine: Rioja

    We look forward to trying different types of wine, especially those that are less familiar. As a result of our explorations, we now drink far less Chardonnay and much more Gewürtztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.

    In the red wine arena, we’ve begun drinking more Rioja (ree-OH-ha), a wine produced in the La Rioja region in north-central Spain. The region also makes white and rosé wines, but the red wines are the most noteworthy.

    Rioja is a fruity red wine with hints of spice and sometimes, coffee. Classic Riojas have the aging potential of Bordeaux; yet they’re more drinkable when young. They can be as satisfying as Bordeaux, at a half the price.

    Like vintage Champagne, the best Rioja wines—reserve wines called reservas and gran reservas—are only made in great vintages. So, unlike with other reds, you don’t have to know whether the bottle you’re considering is a “good year.”


    Get Mom a bottle and a book: The Wine Region Of Rioja.


    Riojas are aged in oak barrels, and then further aged in the bottle before they are shipped from the wineries. When you find them in stores, you can drink them immediately—or lay them down to continue aging.

    You can find the excellent 2001 vintage at retailers now. If you’re looking for a change of pace—or a Mother’s Day gift—pick up a bottle. Riservas can be bought in the $30 range (non-reserve Riojas for everyday drinking can be found for $10).

    For a Mother’s Day gift—or for your own edification—combine the bottle of wine with the newly published book, The Wine Region Of Rioja. You may be tempted to take your next vacation there.

    Gran Reserva Rioja

    If you like Rioja reservas, you can graduate to the gran reservas: wines that are aged for six years at the winery (called a bodega in Spain). They then need to be put down to age for for 20 years after the vintage. They’re a treat for those who have the time to wait.

    At age 20 or older, the black cherry and raspberry flavors of Rioja wines evolve to reveal secondary notes of leather and truffles. Mmm!

    If you decide to buy a gran reserva gift, put a small label on the back of the bottle, such as “For Mother‘s Day 2012: Enjoy in 2025. From Beth and Tim.”

    Two decades from now, they’ll thank you again!



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mother’s Day Gifts

    Looking for something special for Mother’s Day?

    Of the products we’ve tried recently, here’s what we’re selected for our mother, aunt and other special moms:

  • Georgie’s English Scones. The scones arrive frozen, along with delicious lemon curd. You can also send ready-to-bake shortbread in the hard-to-find, festive petticoat tails (triangle) shape.
  • Kimberley Artisan Vinegars. Handcrafted in California, these organic vinegars have a depth of flavor and richness that’s different and delightful.
  • Clase Azul Reposado Tequila. The most exciting Tequila we’ve ever had, in a stunning reusable majolica earthenware carafe.
  • The Corksicle. Forget the ice bucket: This is the best way to keep your wine chilled on the table.
    See the full review for details.

  • The history of scones
  • The history of shortbread
  • The history of Tequila
  • The history of vinegar

    Scones, fresh from the oven, are a treat for Mom. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Green Beer, Champagne Or Ginger Ale For St. Patrick’s Day

    Even if you have nothing planned and no time, you can still do something special for St. Patrick’s Day:

    Drink Green

    Make green beer, sparkling wine, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda (7-Up, Sprite) or club soda.

  • Beer: Add 5-6 green drops of green food color to a 12-ounce stein; pour in the beer.
  • Sparkling Wine: Add 2 drops of food color to each flute before pouring in the Champagne.
  • Soft Drinks: Use 6 drops of food color per eight-ounce glass prior to adding the soda.

    ANOTHER TIP: Pour any effervescent beverage down the side of the glass, rather than into the center. It preserves more bubbles.


    It’s easy being green on St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by MBPhoto | IST.


    Eat Green

    Color dips, condiments and other creamy foods green. Use 10-12 drops green food color per 1/2 cup of:

  • Blue Cheese Dressing: for chicken wings or salad
  • Mayonnaise: for a sandwich spread or dip for fries
  • Onion Dip Or Ranch Dressing: for chips, veggies, potato wedges
  • Sour Cream: For your baked potato or any favorite use
  • Plain Or Vanilla Yogurt: for any reason
    On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s easy being green.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Substitutes For Wine In Cooking

    Uh oh, no wine? Pick a substitute. Le Creuset French oven available at


    Sometimes when you’re preparing a recipe, you discover that you you don’t have wine, or find out that a guest does not consume any kind of alcohol.

    There are a number of substitutes for both red and white wine; although, advises chef Louis Eguaras, you need to be sure that the sweetness level of the substitute is appropriate to the dish (i.e., grape juice may not work in every dish).

    Red Wine Substitutes

  • Beef stock with apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Red grape juice diluted with water
  • Red vermouth
  • Red wine vinegar
  • A dab of tomato paste with the juice from canned mushrooms

    White Wine Substitutes

  • Chicken stock with apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • White grape juice or lemon juice diluted with water
  • White vermouth
  • White wine vinegar with juice from canned mushrooms

    Keep A Supply Of “Cooking Wine”

    To be sure we always have wine, we take the last few ounces from a bottle of wine and fill up small repurposed bottles with tight caps—eight or sixteen ounces, one for red wine, one white. The limited amount of air keeps the wine usable for months and the small bottles tuck into the back of the fridge. You can keep topping off the “cooking wine” bottle: It’s O.K. to mix different wines.

    Never buy anything called “cooking wine”: It’s the dregs!



    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Oysters & Champagne

    Oysters and bubbly are not just for New Year’s Eve. Oysters on the half shell are a favorite in Ireland. While they’re popular bar food with a beer, you can create a real celebration with sparkling wine.

    Whether with Champagne or the lighter and more affordable Cava and Prosecco sparklers, invite friends over to toast to St. Patrick’s Day.

    Alexandra Shapiro, owner of the Flex Mussels restaurants in New York City, offers these tips:

  • Pair body with body. Meatier oysters complement full-bodied sparkling wines.
  • Briny oysters like drier wines. Crisp, dry sparkling wines, such as Cava and Prosecco, pair well with more briny oysters.
  • Avoid sweeter sparkling wines. Save the Asti Spumante and sparkling rosé for desserts.
  • Skip the cocktail sauce! Sipping bubbly with oysters will cleanse your palate so you can truly taste the oysters’ subtle flavors.

    Champagne and oysters. Photo courtesy
    Champagne Bureau.


    The best oysters we know are from Willapa Oysters, which are harvested to order and overnighted to you.

    With an abundance of protein and minimal calories, the bubbly-bivalve combination is much healthier cocktail party option than, say, sugar-laden Margaritas and fat-laden nachos.

    Forget the old wives’ tale that oysters are best when there’s an “r” in the month. This advice came from the days before refrigeration—much less overnight shipping—when oysters spoiled more quickly in the warmer months.

    Everything you need to know about oysters.

    Top off your knowledge of sparkling wines.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sparkling Rosé Makes It Special

    Sparkling rosé wine—be it Champagne or from another part of the world*—isn’t a great idea for Valentine’s Day just because it’s pink. The color is an added bonus for Valentine festivities.

    What makes sparkling rosé special is the deeper fruit flavor, fuller body and roundness that comes from pinot noir grapes.† Never confuse rosé Champagne or other fine sparkler with “pink Champagne,” a lesser-quality product that is colored pink, rather than allowing a natural color extraction from the pinot noir grape skins.

    *Only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France can be called “Champagne.” Wines made anywhere else—including other regions of France—are called sparkling wine.
    †Some sparkling rosé wines are 100% pinot noir, others are blended with chardonnay grapes. Sparklers that have no pink color can still contain pinot noir, but have not had skin contact with the pinot noir grapes, which impart the color.

    Rosé sparklers tend to be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. But for about $22.00 a bottle, a bottle of Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé is delicious; for $50.00, the Domaine Chandon Etoile Rosé has wonderful complexity and is well worth the money if your budget allows.


    Pretty in pink: as a cocktail or a dessert. Photo courtesy Domaine Chandon

    The two sparkling wines are made by Domaine Chandon, the Napa Valley winery founded in 1973 by Moët-Hennessy, producers of Moët et Chandon and Dom Pérignon champagnes.
    Serve these delicious bubblies:

  • As an apéritif, before dinner
  • As a sherbet champagne cocktail (shown in photo): 1 ounce of sorbet in a champagne flute, topped with Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé (the strawberry sorbet complements the strawberry notes in the champagne)
  • With dinner
  • As dessert: Adapt the champagne cocktail by adding a scoop of strawberry sorbet to a sherbet champagne glass, globe wine glass, parfait glass or compote dish; top with champagne and sliced strawberries.
    Should you serve sparkling wine with chocolates or chocolate cake?

    Only if it’s a demi sec or sec (sweet) style.‡ There’s too much acidity in a brut Champagne or sparkling wine, which fights the sugar in the dessert. Here are our suggestions for:

  • Pairing wines with different desserts
  • Pairing wines with different chocolates
    ‡While sec is French for “dry,” it’s idiosyncratic that, as regards Champagne and other sparkling wines, sec refers to a sweet style.



    ENTERTAINING: Wine And Cookies From Cookies & Corks

    As much as we’re fans of casual entertaining—stop by after work for some wine, or at 4:30 p.m. for tea time—we love to plan special entertainments.

    If the planning is effortless, so much the better.

    That’s why we were so pleased to discover Cookies & Corks—a young business founded by two young moms who met via their kids’ activities.

    Cookies & Corks is a new twist on wine pairing: dry wines with sweet foods. The company sells cookies and recommends which types of wines to pair with them.

    Then, instead of popping the cork and serving a plate of cheese, you serve a plate of cookies.

    These are not just any cookies, but sweet-and-savory cookies crafted specifically to pair with the wines. Your own recipe for chocolate peanut butter cookies, for example, would need to be tweaked a bit to work as well as the Cookies & Corks version does.


    Open the box, pop the cork and enjoy.
    Photo courtesy Cookies & Corks.


    Here’s what’s in store for your get-together:

  • Red Wine Cookie Pairing: White Cheddar Rosemary, Shortbread and Espresso Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies.
  • Sparkling Wine Pairing: Parmesan Thyme, Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal and Zesty Lemon cookies.
  • White Wine Cookie Pairing: Apricot Sage, Ginger Molasses and Peanut Butter Chocolate cookies.
  • No need to decide: Get one box of each flavor.
    Each box offers two tasting opportunities. The simple approach is to get one bottle of wine per box of cookies. The more interesting approach is to get a bottle of each of the three wine options recommended:
  • The red wine group: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah.
  • The sparkling wine group: Brut Champagne, Rosé Champagne, Demi-Sec Champagne and Prosecco.
  • The white wine group: Chardonnay, Gewürtztraminer, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
    Each box contains 15 all-natural cookies—five each of three flavors. Wine pairing suggestions are included, and the wines are easy to find.
    If the concept of cookies and wine sounds quirky to you, there’s only one thing to do: Get a box of Cookies & Corks and see for yourself. Sophisticated and novice wine drinkers alike will have a fun time, enjoying the tasty cookies and marveling about how well the pairings work.

    You don’t need to throw a party: Cookies & Corks for a quiet movie evening is also a special event.

    And the next time you give a bottle of wine, including the matching box of Cookies & Corks will make it memorable.

    Learn more at



    PRODUCT: VinniBag Wine Travel Bag & More

    Thanksgiving is the biggest travel holiday of the year. If you’re planning on traveling with a fine bottle of wine in your suitcase, consider getting a VinniBag.

    We’ve tried a lot of wine travel bags. We like VinniBag the best for car and bus trunks, airline travel and anytime a good bottle of wine can be jolted. It’s not just leakproof: It’s so robustly padded that nothing should break in the first place.

    Like an inflatable bath pillow, VinniBag has inflatable air chambers that protect and insulate wine bottles and other liquids (olive oil, for example). The air pockets provide superior protection against impact and leakage.

    Easy to inflate, VinniBag deflates and stores flat when not in use.

    One VinniBag is $28.00; two or more are $25.00 each. It’s a welcome gift for friends who buy good wine and like to travel with it.

    Get yours at


    Our favorite wine travel bag: Vinnibag.
    Photo by Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.




    TIP OF THE DAY: How Much Wine Per Person Do You Need?

    If you’re planning a party, how much wine do you need? Wine quantities will vary depending on the type of party you’re having.

    Gary Sitton, winemaker at California’s Clos du Bois winery, offers these general rules of thumb:

    A standard bottle of wine (750ml, or 25.3 ounces) provides five five-ounce glasses of wine.

  • For a sit-down dinner party, plan on half a bottle of wine per guest. Then, buy an extra bottle or two, just in case the festivities go on longer than anticipated, or guests want a glass of wine before or after dinner.
  • For a cocktail party with a caterer or wait staff, plan on one-third to one-half bottle of wine per person, per two-hour period. If you’re also serving hard liquor and your guests are divided in their preferences, go for the smaller amount.

    A wine pourer helps to pour without dripping. Photo courtesy Rosendahl.

  • For cocktail parties with an open bar or where guests serve themselves, plan for 10% percent more than with waiter service.
    Now that you’ve got a handle on the wine, here’s how to calculate the amount of hors d’oeuvre.*

    *In French, the singular and plural word forms are the same: hors d’oeuvre.



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