I can hardly believe it, but our community wine tasting club – The Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) is entering its fifth year, and going stronger than ever. Our most recent gathering had an Italian theme. Since we’ve previously tasted Chianti, and Barbera those were not options. But with over 500 different Italian grape varieties, including at least 10 major grape varieties, there were still plenty of options. We settled anyItalian Reds, and folks were encouraged think beyond Sangiovese!
Our tastings alway start with a “Happy Hour” where we get a chance to catch up with each other, and grab a bite to eat (we do a themed potluck). Since we had an Italian theme, there was plenty of Italian food (click to enlarge)
Here’s how our blind-tasting went down:
Italian red priced between $15-$25
Maximum of 9 bottles tasted
There were 19 tasters, with a diverse range of experience with wine
Tasters are required to score all wines
Both average and median scores are calculated. The winner determined by highest median score. Average score used as tie breaker.
We had a nice selection of wines that showcased some of the diversity of Italian wines. Geographically speaking, Tuscany was the most well represented, but there were also wines representingVeneto, Piedmont, Sicily, and Campania. From a grape variety standpoint, Sangiovese was the most well represented, but we also had wines made from Aglianico, Corvino, Corvino blends, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.
2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (10 pts)
2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (10 pts)
2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (9.8 pts)
Blind tastings are always fun, and there’s almost always a surprise of some sort. More often than not, it’s a $10 wine beating our a $25 wine. Not only did the lowest priced wine, but it was made from a blend of mostly (91%) Bordeaux grape varieties – definitely non-traditional Italian grapes.
Likewise for the second place wine, which was the second lowest price and made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon.
I think the obvious answer is that our tasters prefer the “New World”, rather than “Old World” style wines. Speaking from personal experience the more rustically styled Italian wine can take some getting used to.
Regardless of which style one prefers, I think everyone found a wine or two they really enjoyed, and got a chance to try something new (it was my first Amarone, and Aglianico) while expanding their wine knowledge. And isn’t that what a wine tasting club experience is all about?
Over the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to blog about sparkling wines. For a time I blogged about a different sparkling wine on a weekly basis (At one point I tried 30 different sparkling wines over a 30 week period!). Though I’ve gotten away from it in recent months, it’s not because I stopped drinking sparkling wines (I still drink bubbly pretty much on a weekly basis; I don’t wait for a special occasion and neither should you!), rather it’s because after a year and a half of trying more than my fair share of sparkling wines from around the world, I’ve found many I enjoy that have become repeat purchases.
While I love Champagne, it’s more expensive (entry-level examples start at around $30) than its sparkling wine brethren (I did find one for under $19.99, but didn’t care for it enough to purchase it again). There are just too many other sparkling wines i enjoy more (especially since I’m footing the bill;-)…
Please allow me a moment on the Sparkling Wine soapbox..
Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region of France
Sparking wines are great wines – drink as you would other wines (i.e. don’t limit your consumption to special occasions), including trying different styles (White, Rosé, Red, Blanc-de-blancs, Blanc-de-noirs, Brut, Extra-Dry, etc.)
Sparkling wines are under-appreciated food friendly wines – If I’m not sure about a food a wine pairing, you can bet I’ll reach for a bottle of bubbly! Besides being the only wine that’s socially acceptable to have with any meal, sparkling wine is one of the few wines that can take you from appetizers to dessert!
Ok…now that that’s off my chest…
Image couresy of Grape Sense – Glass Half Full
Your best bets for finding quality for the price sparkling wines under $20 are to:
Here in the U.S. – look for sales on most major California labels, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Roederer are in wide distribution and frequently significantly discounted. At leastone of those brands is on sale at my local grocery store every week for less than $20 ( and often less than $15…)
If you prefer sparkling wine with as Champagne-like character, look for Cava from Spain, or Crémant from France (Crémant de Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, and Loire). They’re produced using the same method as Champagne, so you’ll get a more yeasty character,and save some coin.
If you prefer sparkling wine with fruitier aromas and flavors, and you’re not hung up on the method of production, look for Prosecco from Italy.
Sparkling wine is made the world over, so you can find good value in sparkling wines from South Africa, Australia and even South America.
Here are my Top 20 sparkling wines under $20 (click on the bold italicized links for my more detailed blog posts from my T.G.I.F. series of weekly sparkling wine tastings) It’s a diverse list geographically, and stylistically. There is with bubbly from Argentina, Australia, California, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. And there is Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and even a dessert sparkling wine. Many can be found at grocery stores, or large beverage retailers like BevMo, and Costco. Others may be more challenging to find, but are definitely worth seeking out.
Taltarni Brut Tache - (Australia) Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish. >>Find this wine<<
Schramsberg Mirabelle North Coast Brut Rosé - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas. On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
2011 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain) Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, white flower, yeast, apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish >>Find this wine<<
Törley Doux Tokaji- (Hungary) The only dessert bubbly in the bunch – Pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick sized bubbles and brioche, apricot, mineral and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a creamy mousse, and is sweet but nicely balanced very good acidity with apricot, peach, and vanilla flavors. Made from Furmint grapes. 11% alcohol >>Find this wine<<
Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - (California) - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
El Xamfra Cava Mercat Brut Nature - (Spain) - Pale straw yellow color with lot of bubbles, and floral, stone fruit, citrus and slight sweet yeast aromas. On the palate, it has a surprisingly explosive mousse, and approached medium-bodied with stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut flavors. Medium finish. 11.5% alcohol. Zero dosage. A great value! >>Find this wine<<
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - (California) - Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
Graham Beck Brut Rosé- (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries. On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate. Short-medium finish. Great QPR! >>Find this wine<<
La Marca Prosecco - (Italy)Very pale straw yellow color with white flowers, stone fruit, and a whiff of tangerine aromas. It shows an active stream of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with a creamy mousse and peach, and tangerine flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut - (France) Pale yellow color with a bit of bronze tinge and brioche pear, raspberry, and mineral aromas. On the palate it was light-bodied,and between dry, and off-dry with good acidity, and a prickly mousse with pear, raspberry, and mineral flavors. A Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. >>Find this wine<<
Scharffenberger Brut Excellence - (California) Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors.>>Find this wine<<
Gruet Blanc de Noirs- (New Mexico) Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut - (California) – Very light straw color with persistent bead of smallish bubbles, and fresh bread, apple, citrus,and a bit of ginger aromas. On the palate, it shows a moderately creamy mousse, with apple, pear, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec - (Argentina) - Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles with baked bread and ripe cherry aromas. On the palate, fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, and with delicate almost imperceptible tannins, with flavors of cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. >>Find this wine<<
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas. On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me. It’s a great value at $9/bottle! >>Find this wine<<
Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut - (France) Very pale straw yellow color with toasty pear, citrus and hint of spice aromas and tiny bubbles. On the palate it’s fresh and fruity with pear, fuji apple, a vanilla, and sweet baking spice flavors. Wonderful QPR @$10! Available at Trader Joe’s
Korbel Natural- (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas. On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry. Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors. Short-medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
What are your favorite sparkling wines under $20? I’d love to give them a try!
This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods. You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.
When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers! Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo! We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.
Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!
Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)
For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors. Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!
Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: Martin D. Redmond
Recipe type: Stew
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups finely chopped onions
¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
¾ cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 small Dungeness crabs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!
Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.
Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir. Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything. It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep. Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.
I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes. Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked. The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character. Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.
Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain. I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character. Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner. It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab. It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.
Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese. Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins. Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food. On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes. Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes
Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works: The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!
Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon. One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″ It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements. This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.
Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Ventwith a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker. Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)
Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes. I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak. Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.
Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc. It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity. Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients. It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.
Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris. I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character. Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries.
Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake)with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity…
Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat. All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.
And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.
When I saw the theme for this week’s #SundaySupper - Dishes in 5 Ingredients or Less – my first thought was “Wow, that’s going to be a challenge”, because I’ve seen the creativity and passion my BFFs (Best Foodie Friends;-) bring to the #SundaySupper table. Then I thought, why not try to pair the undoubtedly diverse menu with only 5 five wines? As I’m sure it was a challenge to use only 5 ingredients and still get great flavor, it’s challenge for me to limit myself to a list of the 5 most food friendly wines. Ah, but in challenge lies opportunity!
As I contemplated the five most food friendly wines, I kept coming back to wines that are flexible in structure and in style. By structure, I mean all the wines have a great backbone of acidity, a core of succulent fruit, lower alcohol, and modest or no tannins. What I mean by style is that the grape produces wines in a wide range of styles from light to full-bodied. That diversity of style makes these wines versatile pairing partners with a broad range of foods.
Champagne and other sparkling wines like Cava, and Prosecco have an incredible affinity for a wide range of foods. Aside from the aforementioned high acidity and lower alcohol, there’s the bubbly effervescence! I alwayshave a chilled bottle of bubbly on hand! Unfortunately, most folks only drink bubbly when it’s a special occasion or as a cocktail without food. But now you know better. Right?!
Sparkling wines work especially well:
To accompany raw fish (sushi, sashimi, oysters, etc.),
Tart foods: citrus, vinegars, pomegranate, dill, capers, and tomatoes
As a counterpoint for foods that are salty, moderately spicy, rich and creamy, or deep-fried. (For example, a classic pairing is buttered popcorn with sparkling wine)
With many Latin dishes (empanadas ceviche and mole), Asian cuisines (Tempura, gyoza, Chinese deep-fried dishes, fish cakes, Indian Samosas, etc.), Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, baba ghanoush)
To accompany dishes that are challenging to pair with other wines like egg dishes and soups.
To pair with dishes that are inherently toasty like canapes or puff-pastry dishes.
Riesling is widely regarded as the most food friendly white wine. It’s among the most versatile wines because it’s made in a wide range of sweetness, from bone-dry to very sweet dessert style wines.
Riesling goes well:
Almost any fatty poultry like goose, duck and other gamy birds.
Rich, salty meats such as ham, sausages, and charcuterie. LIkewise for mildly salty cheeses such as Gorgonzola.
Sweet shellfish such as crab, lobster, and prawns.
Dishes seasoned with exotic spices, such as curries, cardamom, clove, mace, star anise, etc.
Quiche and other egg-based dishes.
You know how a squeeze of lemon seems to enhance almost anything? I think of Sauvignon Blanc as a vinous equivalent. It can be a polarizing wine. It’s a bit like cilantro – people tend to either love it or hate it. But since this a wine that is made in a diverse range of style, I believe there is something for virtually everyone. It’s a matter of finding the style that suites you!
Sauvignon Blanc goes well:
With dishes emphasizing fresh herbs, or dressed with a vinaigrette dressing.
With dishes prepared with a variety of cooking methods, from low-impact such as steamy to high-impact such as smoking, and grilling.
With most vegetarian soups.
As a counterbalance to rich dishes made with light-cream or butter-based sauces.
With acidic or sharp ingredients such as citrus, dairy (yogurt, sour cream,etc) dill, capers, olives, and tomatoes.
With spicy hot dishes – the acidity and generally lower alcohol level refreshes the palate.
With a wide variety of cheeses. Goat cheese is the classic pairing, but try it with Brie, Gruyere, Neufchatel, or sharp cheddar.
Pinot Noir is known as the Chef’s wine because its affinity for such a broad range of foods. It’s also the wine most often described in sensual terms! Depending on the vintner’s choices, it can be delicate and light-bodied, or bold and full-bodied!
Pinot Noir pairs well with:
Damn near everything (which is why it’s often the first choice for a food-a-palooza like Thanksgiving) because it’s so flexible.
Dishes that complement its inherently spicy flavors such as dishes spiced with coriander, cumin, cinnamon, or ginger.
With foods that are smoked, lightly charred, or grilled, especially if you’re serving one with a more oak-driven style.
Many fish – especially Salmon, tuna or swordfish.
With veggies (especially mushrooms) and dishes with earthier flavors such as cooked beans, greens, lentils, or dishes seasoned with Dijon mustard.
A multitude of Asian cuisines – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean foods. That’s because these cuisines often have sweet-salt flavor combinations with which Pinot Noir plays well.
Sangiovese is produced in diverse range of styles. In Italy, where the wines are named after geographical regions rather than the grape varietal, there is, of course, Chianti, but there’s also Brunello, Montepulciano, and “Super Tuscan” variations of Sangiovese.
Sangiovese goes well:
With dishes with tomato-based sauces.
Dishes that are slow braised, grilled, or lightly smoked.
With dishes featuring fresh herbs such as basil, thyme or sage.
Richer, full-bodied soups such a bean soup, or minestrone.
There you have it, my short-list of the 5 most food friendly wines (for a more comprehensive list click here)! Equipped with these five wines, and spirit of exploration to find what works for your palate, pairing food and wine will go from daunting to delightful! I’ve added a new feature this week. Click on the hyperlinked name of the wine to find where you can buy. Also, since I’m limiting my wine recommendations to five, no dessert pairing this week:-(
Here is this week’s great #SundaySupper menu:
Breakfast, Starters, Butters and Jams:
Pair these dishes with Korbel Natural, a “California Champagne” made of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. It’s a crisp, dry sparkler with cherry, raspberry and apple character.
Pair these dishes with a Riesling. One of my favorites is the 2010 Trimbach Riesling. It’s dry wine from the Alsace region with delicate aromas that belie its rich, fruity tropical fruit, peach and citrus flavors:
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana. It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”. It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.
Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite 5 Ingredient Recipes! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat!
My wine of the week for March 17-23 is the NV Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé. Franciacorta, refers both to the territory, located in the Lombardy region of Italy, and the sparkling wine produced from grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory. Since 1995, Franciacorta has had DOCG status, the highest echelon of Italian wine classifications, applied solely to the sparkling wines produced in the region. Here’s a quick rundown on the main regulations that come along with that DOCG status:
Franciacorta is the only region in Italy that requires sparkling wine be made by the traditional method (“metodo classico” in Italian)
Grapes are grown in strictly delimited vineyards from within 19 different communes
Permitted grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, with 85% planted Chardonnay, 10% to Pinot Nero, and 5% to Pinot Bianco
Non-vintage (NV) Franciacorta must aged at least 25 months after harvest, with at least 18 months in contact with the yeast in the bottle
Vintage Franciacorta must be aged at least 37 months after harvest, with a least 37 months in contact with yeast in the bottle
Dosage levels(i.e., the level of sweetness) are exactly as they are in Champagne
You’re probably pretty familiar with the most popular kinds of Italian bubbly (a.k.a “spumante” in Italian), Prosecco, and Asti Spumante, which are often described as alternatives to Champagne. Think of Franciacorta as Italy’s answer to Champagne! So while Prosecco and Asti are almost always produced using the less expensive Charmat bulk process, Franciacorta is produced using the same traditional method used in Champagne.
Here’s an interesting factoid. The producer of this wine, Contadi Castaldi, is the only winery to have vineyards in all 19 communes permitted to grow grapes for production of Franciacorta.
My tasting notes follow:
Beautiful copper color with steady bead of pin-prick bubbles, and brioche, fruity, fresh red fruit aromas. On the palate, it displays a creamy mousse, and is approaching medium-bodied with fresh strawberry, raspberry flavors, and a hint of spice flavors. Medium finish. 65% Chardonnay, and 35% Pinot Nero
It’s always fun for me to try something new. As I like to say, I’m very much still in the “promiscuous” phase of my oenophilic journey, and I’m glad I’ve had the pleasure of Franciacorta. It’s got me thinking of an Italian mènage à trois…Prosecco as an aperitif, Franciacorta for the entrée, and Asti for dessert. That my friends will be bubblelicious!
This week’s sparkler is from Italy, and it is not Prosecco. It is a Rosé from Sicily! As if being a sparkling wine from Sicily isn’t atypical enough in my mind, it is also produced from the Nerello Mascalese grape, with which I was not familiar. I found this one when I went to a local wine shop called the Wine Mine. The shop was recommended to me by my wine-loving friend Farah. I wish I’d gone sooner! We went for a weekly tasting of Spanish wines, but quickly discovered they have quite a selection of wines from around the world at very good prices! I asked one of the shopkeepers for the “best sparkling rose under $20″, and she recommended this one.
I found a couple of things interesting about this sparkler when compared to the more well-known Italian bubbly – Prosecco, and Asti Spumante. First, with both Prosecco, and Spumante, it is recommended they be consumed within a couple of year of production. This one is vintage dated, 2008 and I found it fresh, and lively. The other thing I noticed is that it held on its bubbles much longer than the Prosecco I’ve had. Both these facts lead me to believe it was produced in the “Methodo Classico”, which is the Italian name for the classic French method. In fact, this wine was matured in stainless steel vats for 8-9 months, then with yeast for 18-26 months. On the other hand Prosecco, and Asti Spumante are produced in what is called the Metodo Italiano(Charmat) process. With that process, while the wine is also matured in stainless steel vats, it is for a shorter period of time, and does not include any aging with yeast. How the bubbly was made definitely shows in this Italian sparkler compared to others I’ve had.
Vivid pink red color with spiced strawberry, floral, and a hint of yeasty aromas. It has lots of dispersed, persistent pinprick bubbles. On the palate, it has a creamy mouthfeel, and is medium-bodied, and fresh with spiced strawberry, and a hint of citrus flavors. Short finish.
Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was very nice as an aperitif, and just as nice with food. This would be a great picnic wine because it’s so versatile! It would also pair well seafood dishes.
I really enjoyed this, and it’s got very good QPR at $20. I will be buying more. I highly recommend. 88pts
I love it when I find a great value such as this wine – the 2007 Leone de Castris Salice Salentino Riserva, especially when it’s from a wine region and made from a grape varietal new to me. I’m still very much in the “promiscuous” phase of my wine lover evolution, so I like to pick up wines on a whim. That’s what I did with this one when I was a my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants. The $13 price and the 91pt Wine Advocate score caught my attention.
2007 Leone de Castris Salice Salentino Riserva
The wine is from the Salice Salentino DOC of Puglia, which is located in “the heel” of the boot of peninsular Italy. Puglia has had a reputation for producing mostly low-quality bulk wines (a.k.a. “plonk”). In the 21st century though, a growing number of winemakers are more interested in quality than quantity, as evidenced by the fact that Puglia is the second largest producer (after Sicily) of organic wines, and substantial investments by Antinori (along with flocks of consulting oenologists, and flying winemakers).
The flagship red grape of the Salice Salentino DOC is Negroamaro , which translated to English means dark (negro), and bitter (amaro). Other sanctioned grapes in the Salice Salentino DOC are Malvasia Nera, Chardonnay, Aleatico Dolce and Pinot Bianco.
My review follows:
Dark garnet color with aromatic dark fruit, smoke, and licorice aromas. On the palate full-bodied , powerful, yet refined, and well structured with vivid fruit, fine-grained tannins, and good acidity with blackberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Long finish. This Riserva is 90% Negroamaro and 10% Malvasia Nera, aged in neutral French oak. 13.5% ABV. Great quality-price ratio on this one!
I’ll definitely be buying more! To find this wine, click here
I’ve been drinking sparkling wine on a weekly basis since February, and blogging about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…” series. During that time, I’ve tasted sparkling wines from not only the usual suspects, France, California, Spain, and Italy, but also countries that aren’t “top of mind” when it comes to bubbly like Argentina, Austria, Australia, Portugal, and South Africa. I’ve had more bubbly since February than I’ve had the last 10 years!
I’ve learned a handful of things about sparkling wine as I’ve worked on perfecting my palate for bubbly. What do I mean by perfecting my palate? It has nothing to do with developing greater tasting acuity. Rather, it’s about “living” with a particular wine, learning everything you can about it, and buying as much of that wine as you can. It’s been an immensely pleasurable pursuit, which has turned me into a bubbles fiend! Here’s what I’ve learned…
Sparklers are wines with bubbles
Duh! Here’s what I mean. Like still wines, sparkling wines are made from a variety of grapes. They are easy, complex, and everything in between. They are light, medium, or full-bodied. They can be bone dry, or sweet. They are made in white, pink (Rosé), and red styles. Some are made to drink now, others can be aged for many years. And most importantly, just like still wine, sparkling wine is an every day wine. It’s so much more than a beverage for celebration. Yet, those bubbles seem to add a dash of magic to any occasion. I can’t resist sharing this quote that sums it up for me…
When Lily Bollinger was asked “When do you drink champagne?”, she replied: “I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
It’s great with a wide variety of foods
On a recent Saturday night at Chez Redmond, we had a diverse assortment of leftovers for dinner, including, steak, chile rellano, salad topped with tomato, and avocado salsa, and chicken apple sausage. We enjoyed this diverse range of food with a sparkling Rosé that paired nicely with the leftovers. Put simply, sparkling wines are food wines. Of course, like still wines, I recommend pairing light-bodied sparklers (most Cavas, Prosecco, and other light-bodied sparklers) with lighter fare. At the other end of the spectrum, I’d pair a steak with a fuller-bodied sparkler, especially a Rosé.
You don’t have to spend a bunch to drink it all the time
The average price of the sparklers I’ve tasted over the last 30 weeks was $17. The most expensive was $33. I’ve discovered an everyday Cava that’s less than $10 that has a good quality-price ratio. And, many good sparklers can be found for under $20 (Look for my Top 10 Sparklers Under $20…Coming soon!) At the same time, I’ve come to realize that I’m willing to spend more for sparklers that I enjoy. Like most folks, I used to think sparklers were limited to being consumed as apéritifs, or for celebrations. Consequently, I wouldn’t spend as much for “better” sparklers. Yet, I’d spend $30-$50 for a “better” bottle of still wine. Ironically, now that I’ve come to realize sparklers can be consumed throughout a meal, I’m willing to pay more for the pleasure.
It’s a deathbed wine for me
Yep…if I had a choice, I’d have a great Rosé Champagne (at least for the first couple of courses) to celebrate going to my Sweet Reward.
Cava – It’s not just for Mimosas anymore
I’m really digging Cava, at least Reserva level Cava. It hasn’t always been that way. I pretty much limited my consumption of Cava to using it for Mimosas. That was before I discovered a couple of Raventós i Blanc Cavas, one a traditional white, the other their outstanding Rosé. I’m sure there are others awaiting my discovery.
Here’s my hearty recommendation friends. Go out and buy a bottle of bubbly today, whether it be Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, or Prosecco. Enjoy it as more than an apéritif. Wait a day, or a week, or maybe two. Repeat indefinitely!
“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown
I enjoy drinking a variety of sparkling wines depending on my mood. What I enjoy about Prosecco is that it tends to be a bit fruitier, and less demanding (no significant contemplation needed) than Champagne, and other sparkling wines. That’s because it’s secondary fermentation takes place in a stainless steel pressurized tank, rather than individual bottles. Nor is Prosecco aged, which is what gives sparklers that undergo secondary fermentation in individual bottles their complexity (click here for a great explanation of how sparklers are produced).
Prosecco also tends to be lower in alcohol than most sparkling wines and Champagne, which make it nice (and less expensive) alternative to sparkling wines, or Champagne, especially as things heat up during the summer months. Prosecco tends to be light-bodied, so I’m more likely to enjoy it as an aperitif, with lighter fare typically consumed during the warmer summer months.
For many years Prosecco was used to describe both the grape, and the region where the grape are grown. In mid 2009, Italian wine regulations were revised to clearly state that Prosecco was no longer to be classified as a grape, but a region that was clearly delimited. There are two such regions classified as a DOCG, the highest status for Italian wines. Additionally, there are at least eight regions classified as DOC, the next to highest status for Italian Wines. Treviso, the source of grapes for this Prosecco is one of the eight DOC regions. The producer, Mionetto has been making Prosecco since 1887! And nowadays, the grape is known as Glera.
Appearance: Very light yellow – the color of clarified butter
Aromas: Sweet bread, citrus, and a bit of wet stone
Body: Bead of bubbles with a somewhat creamy mousse. Bubbles dissipated quickly. Light-bodied, fairly well balanced, and juicy.
Taste: Fruity lemon-lime, Fuji apple, and a touch of vanilla flavors
Pair with: Sparkling wines are probably the single most versatile wine to pair with a wide variety of foods. This was quite nice with an Herbed Shrimp and White Bean Salad, where I subbed colorful artisan lettuce for the arugula. The fruity lemon-lime flavor was an excellent complement to the lemon vinaigrette I made for the salad.
Herbed Shrimp and White Bean Salad
Sometimes a wine grabs you by the palate right out the gate, and sometimes it takes a little time and/or a few sips to make an impression on you. Initially I thought it was OK, but with each sip, I found myself enjoying it more and more. This is a very solid candidate for a “go-to” Prosecco for me, especially at $10! I recommend! …. 86 pts.