A Taste of Lazio #ItalianFWT

One of the things I love most about food and wine is their ability to transport one to a different place.  And a  place’s people, culture, and customs are reflected in its food and wine.  In that sense, one can virtually travel the world through food and wine.  And that is exactly what we are doing through Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT).  We taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Lazio!

Lazio, which is also goes by it Latin name, Latium, is located central Italy.  Its neighbors include  Tuscany to the north, Campania to the south, Abruzzo to the east and Umbria to the northeast.

It’s home to the ancient capital city of Rome with its art, historic sites, and of course, a plethora of gustatory delights.

Understandably, with Rome as the crown jewel of the region, it’s easy to overlook other places to see, and things to do.  But, should you want to take the road less traveled, consider a visit to Tivoli, home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites: Villa Adriana, the sprawling country estate of Emperor Hadrian, and the 16th-century Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa famous for its landscaped gardens and lavish fountains.  Or perhaps Viterbo, which despite sustaining heavy bomb damage in WWII, is the region’s best preserved medieval town.

Both are easy day trips from Rome.

Lazio

Source: http://italianwinecentral.com

Lazio Wine

Before we received this month’s theme, I’d never heard of Lazio. The region’s vinous reputation is primarily based on its white wines.  Among the 30 DOCs, there are three white wine DOCs that stand out – Castelli Romani (the most important), Frascati (the more renowned and traditional) and Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone.  The region has three DOCGs -  Cannellino di Frascati,  Frascati Superiore and Cesanese del Piglio, which produce a dessert wine, a blended white wine and a red wine respectively.

In My Glass And On My Plate

I wanted to try both a white and a red wine from the region.  I was able to track down a couple of the DOCG wines – a Frascati Superiore (K&L Wine Merchants) for my white and Cesanese del Piglio (Beltramo’s) for my red.

Let’s begin with the white…

Frascati  is named after  a tiny, ancient town in the hills just south-east of Rome. Grapes have been cultivated for wine in the area since the 5th century B.C.!

Several grape varieties may be used to make Frascati wines, but the core is formed by the classic central Italian white-wine blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia.

The wine doesn’t have the best reputation.  It’s an easy-going, often the innocuous, dull wine that’s served as “house wine” all across Rome.

Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore ($14, 13%) Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines

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The Casale Marchese property dates back to the middle ages.  It’s been owned by the Carlettie family since 1713.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from 40 year old vines.  It is a blend of Malvasia del Lazio, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia di Candia, Bonvino and Bellone.  The wine is raised in stainless steel and sees no malolactic fermentation.

The wine pours a very pale yellow color.  It shows aromas of peach, apple, dried herb, almond and a bit of lemon aromas.  On the palate it’s medium-bodied and zesty with peach, green apple, nectarine, and lemon flavors underscored with an appealing vein of minerality

This is a delicious, delightful every day white wine that I’d buy again. Very Good (86-88 pts) >>Find this wine<<

I paired the wine with Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels.  It was a wonderful pairing. The shellfish seemed to bring out the lemony acidity of the wine, and the minerality of the wine was a satisfying complement to the dish.

A Taste of Lazio - Spicy Linguine with clams and mussels

Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels

2013 Casale Della Ioria Cesanese del Piglio Tenuta Della Ioria  ($24.99, 14%) Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines

Cesanese (“chae-sah-NAE-say”) is an ancient red wine grape indigenous to Lazio.  It’s quite possible that Cesanse was local wine of ancient Rome because the grape existed in the region during pre-Roman times.

Cesanese gives credibility to Lazio’s growing wine culture. Produced near the hilltop hamlet of Piglio, Cesanese del Piglio…boasts winemaking roots that date back to 133 B.C. and the ancient Romans who first recognized the favorable position…Soils are red and dark in color, and volcanic tufa stone is common in the Colli Albani area.- Wine Enthusiast

There are two different genetically unique Cesanese species. One is called “Cesanese Comune” or “Local Cesanese” and the other is called “Cesanese d’Affile. Cesanese d’Affile is considered the finer of the two grapes.

Cesanese del Piglio DOCG is considered the best Cesanese wine, made with 100% Cesanese grapes from the Frosinone Province.

IMG_3048Casale della Ioria is ‘Lazio’s best producer of Cesanese’ according to Italian wine expert Ian d’Agata.

Fruit for this wine is grown in Ciociaria.  The wine is made from Cesanse di Affile.  It is aged in French barriques.

The wine is a dark ruby color with promising red fruit, juniper, and forest floor aromas.  On the palate it’s medium-bodied  and fresh with a very smooth texture, and a subtle savory character.  It shows distinctive Morello cherry, red mulberry, hints of red currant, black olive and vanilla flavors with an earthy undertone.  

The wine reminds me of a cross between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.  Among the many things I enjoyed about this wine is that takes a chill quite well. I’ll be adding it to my (short) list of chillable reds.  Very Good to Outstanding (89-91pts) >>Find this wine<<  

I paired this wine with Sausage, Pepper and Mushroom Spiedini with Grilled Truffled Polenta.

A Taste of Lazio

My grill marks didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, but the truffled polenta was flat-out delicious!

And what a  harmonious food and wine pairing it was!  Cesanese is a very versatile wine at the table. Will buy more!

Sausage, Pepper and Mushroom Spiedini with Grilled Truffled Polenta
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp of truffle oil
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 pound basil garlic sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 (10-inch) skewers
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and truffle oil. Stir until butter melted.
  2. Pour the cooked polenta into the baking pan and smooth the top. Let cool until firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. When the polenta is cool, invert it onto a cutting board and slice it into 12 squares. Brush the squares with a little canola oil and grill until they are heated through and have nice grill marks, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, if you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes or while you prepare the sausage and peppers.
  5. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Arrange the sausages on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes giving them a ¼ turn every couple of minutes. Remove them to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut them into ½-inch thick pieces. The sausage will not be completely cooked through. It will finish cooking on the skewers with the peppers and onions.
  6. While sausage is cooking, core and slice the peppers. Cut them and the onion into 1 by 1-inch pieces.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons canola oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning and mustard.
  8. When you are ready, heat the grill or grill pan over medium heat. Thread each skewer with 3 pieces of the sausage, 4 pieces of onion and green pepper and 2 pieces of the red pepper making sure to alternate the ingredients. Brush them with the oil and vinegar mixture and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the skewers on both sides until they are hot and sizzling, about 6 to 8 minutes. Arrange them on a serving platter and serve with the grilled polenta

I really enjoyed both these wines.  Both were wonderful expressions of the grapes and a taste of Lazio!

The first Saturday of each month, the #ItalianFWT bloggers visit a region of Italy. Check out the other posts about Lazio:

If you’re seeing this early enough make sure to join us live on twitter at 8am PST. Follow #ItalianFWT. Tell us your food, wine or travel stories of Lazio. We look forward to chatting with you.  Next month on Saturday August 1st we’ll feature the island of Sardegna in Italy. Feel free to join us! Ciao!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine. Since I’m a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Vietti Arneis #winePW

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work (or learn from the ones that don’t); along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic.  Valerie Quintanilla of GirlsGottaDrink.com is hosting this month’s #SummerofArneis theme featuring summer recipes that pair with Arneis.

On My Plate

Have you ever gotten a feeling that a certain type of wine would pair well with a certain dish?

I don’t exactly know why, but last month when the #SummerofArneis theme was announced, Shrimp and Grits popped into my head.  A couple of weeks thereafter, I was at a local winery that has an Arneis.  I took a sip.  Shrimp and Grits popped into my head again.

I knew I had to try the pairing!

For the uninitiated, Shrimp and Grits is classic dish of the American South with Native and African-American roots.  It was elevated from a humble and simple breakfast dish to haute cuisine in the 1980′s.

I used this recipe for Shrimp and Grits.

Except, when I went to my local grocery store, the only grits they had were instant.  I’m a grits purist from way back.  And instant grits just won’t do.

What’s the difference between grits and polenta? Not much it turns out…but enough to know there’s a difference. At least in texture, if not in flavor.

I used cornmeal instead, thinking it would be a solid substitution.  Alas, my “grits” turned out more like polenta than grits.  Ha! I suppose my recipe could be referred to as Shrimp and Cheese Polenta.  Let’s consider it a bridge between the American South and Italy!

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Vietti Arneis #winePW

I’m afraid my “grits” may be polenta! Oh well…Buon Appetito!

In My Glass

Arneis (literally “little rascal” in Piemontese) is a white Italian grape varietal originating from Piemonte, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba. Arneis  is referred to as “little rascal” because it has a reputation for being somewhat difficult grape variety to grow. so-called because it is regarded as a somewhat difficult varietal to grow.  It is low-yielding, and susceptible to powdery mildew.

For centuries, the white Arneis grape has been added, in small quantities, to Nebbiolo wines soften the tannins and harshness of Barolo.  Traditionally Arneis vines were planted next to Nebbiolo vines largely as a form of protection; the Arneis grapes’ stronger fragrance distracted hungry birds and insects away from the more highly prized Nebbiolo vines..

The grape was approaching extinction until 1967, when the late Alfredo Currado, a member of the well-regarded Vietti wine family, took it upon himself to invest time and effort into rediscovering and understanding the grape.

Luca’s father Alfredo practically invented dry Arneis in 1967 and was responsible for rescuing the variety from extinction; previously Arneis had been vinified sweet. Another name for the variety is White Nebbiolo, suggesting that Arneis could have been an early mutation of the red variety.” – Stephen Tanzer

Today, the grape is more commonly seen as a varietal wine.  In fact, I’ve tried several Arneis from California wineries that I’ve very much enjoyed.

But, once I learned a bit about the history of the grape,  the Vietti family, and saw that it was available at my favorite wine shop, I knew I wanted to try the  Vietti Arneis Roero.

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My tasting notes follow:

Very pale green color with pretty stone fruit, white flower, citrus and a hint of hazelnut aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, crisp, persistent, moderately complex, and well structured. It shows peach, apricot, and bit of melon flavors with a complementary mineral note and wonderful length

The Pairing

Overall, this was good pairing – one I would categorize as somewhere between “peaceful co-existence” and “each one makes the other taste better”.  The Arneis was a wonderful complement to the flavors of the shrimp and vice-versa.  I think the issue was the strong cheddar cheese flavor in the grits/polenta. It overpowered the wine at times.  Had I used mild cheddar, or another milder cheese(s) or less of the sharp cheddar, I’m  sure this would have been a better pairing.

Next time!

Don’t stop here! Check more Summer Arneis Food Pairing Recipes!

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you’re reading this early enough, you can join us today for a live Twitter chat on our theme #SummerofArneis on Saturday, June 13th, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m Pacific Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

Wine Pairing Weekend July: Join us next month!

In July Americans celebrate Independence Day and the French celebrate Bastille Day. July’s Wine Pairing Weekend will take place on Saturday, July 11, led by Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog. The group will explore food and wine pairings from the United States and France. From Michelle, Get creative and make your favorite all American food and wine meal, your favorite all French food and wine meal, one of each or a combination of both! With these two regions the sky is the limit!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

It’s Prosecco for my weekly bubbly tasting this week.  I picked this up on a whim from K&L Wine Merchants.  The price was certainly right at $8.99, and it had quite a few favorable staff reviews. And I’ve had good success with wines from K&L  that had at least 5 favorable staff reviews.  Here’s one of the reviews from the K&L Wine Blog:

“This is the perfect party Prosecco! I poured this at one of our local events. It was a hit! I kept the price to myself until they tried it. Every single person was shocked that something so good could be so affordable!! Bring some to your next party and watch it disappear.”

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

Where it’s from: Italy

The grape(s) Glera

Production method: Methodo Italiano (Charmat Bulk)

Alcohol: 11% Retail: $9 

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with a good amount of bubbles that persisted longer than most Proseccos with fruity stone fruit and flora aromas. On the palate it’s light bodied, with a surprisingly soft mousse. It’s crisp and dry while maintaining some nice fruit flavors of white peach, nuanced apricot, and apples. Short finish. Great QPR! – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make a very good aperitif, or to take along on a picnic!

I enjoyed this. It’s a nice value play.  I’d buy again if it was available.  When I checked at K&L it was wait listed!


T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…2008 Murgo Brut Rosé

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.

2008 Murgo Brut Rose

Where it’s from: ItalySicily

The grape(s)  Nerello Mascalese

$20 – Retail , 12.5% a.b.v.

Production method: Metodo Classico; 

My tasting notes follow:

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

Wine Words Demystified: Old World

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Old World

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 Old World refers to those countries where wine first flourished, namely European ones and others ringing the Mediterranean basin.  Old world techniques, by extension refer to ways of growing grapes and making wines that rely more on tradition and less on science.

In other words, Old World refers to countries like France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Germany.  Tradition, of course, has it’s place in wine making, especially when it comes to where grapes are grown.  However scientific advances, including things like the organic movement have blurred the lines between the Old World and the New World (United States, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Chile).  Sounds a lot like Ole Skool/Nu Skool to me!

Image courtesy of Google Images

Which wines do you prefer Old World, or New World?

Value Alert – 90pt Stunner from Italy for $13!

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

What’s The Difference Between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?

A bunch of Pinot gris grapes.

A bunch of Pinot gris grapes - Image via Wikipedia

I was having scallops for lunch the other day, and was in the mood for something other than Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc.  I looked at the wine list and decided on the, Bottega Vinaia  Pinot Gris Trentino.  It was a very good wine – Nice tropical, apple aromas, medium bodied with a tropical/apple/vanilla flavors.

When I got home I was looking for some information about the wine, and noted it was referred to as Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio Trentino on the wine label.  That brings me to the question my wife asked me during lunch…

“What the difference between Pinot Gris, and Pinot Grigio”?

The answer?  There is no difference in terms of the variety of grape.

It’s the not so unusual case of the same grape going by different names.  Pinot Gris, as it is known in France tends to be fuller-bodied style wine with tropical aromas/flavors.  Whereas in Italy, whereas the grape is known as Pinot Grigio is a lighter, crisper style wine with citrus aromas/flavors.

But outside of France, or Italy what wine makers call their wines made with this grape tend to be a stylistic decision.  It’s the same thing with labeling a wine either a Syrah, or a Shiraz when it doesn’t originate in France or Australia.  What you label the wine can set expectations for what’s in the bottle. Ironically, the wine I ordered was from Italy.  Even so, stylistically, since it was a richer wine with a tropical aroma/flavor profile the restaurant choice to refer to the wine as a Pinot Gris.  In this case, I got what I expected – a fuller-bodied wine.

Generally speaking then if you’re looking for a light-bodied wine with a citrus aroma/flavor profile – order a Pinot Grigio.  On the other hand if you looking for a medium/full-bodied wine with a tropical aroma/flavor profile order a Pinot Gris.

Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20

Over the last 30 or so weeks I’ve enjoyed sparkling wines from around the world on a weekly basis, and blogged about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like… series.  One of the things I’ve learned, is that there are plenty of sparklers that offer great bang for the buck.  I’ve found some very good to excellent sparklers for less than $20, including, to my surprise a few Rosé sparklers, which are among the food friendliest of wines.  My top 10 list follows
  1. NV 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.
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose - (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.
  3. 2008 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green 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
  4. NV Graham Beck Brut Rose - (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!
  5. NV 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. Short finish .
  6. 2008 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and toast flavors.  Medium finish.
  7. NV Jean Louis Denois Brut Tradition - (France)  Light straw color with bread dough, and apples aromas.  On the palate creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity with pear, apple, hazelnuts flavors along with a touch of minerals. Medium finish. Very good QPR.
  8. NV 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!
  9. Mionetto Brut Prosecco Treviso -  (Italy) Very light – the color of clarified butter, with sweet bread,wet stone and citrus aromas. On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry for me, fairly well-balanced, with sweet lemon-lime, fuji apple, and slight vanilla flavors.  It grew on me more and more with each sip. Medium finish.
  10. 2008 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.
Click here to search for these wines online

In addition to the sparklers noted above, there are a handful of sparklers I heartily recommend that didn’t make the list because they retail for more than $20.  However, because they are widely distributed, they frequently go on sale. When they do – grab a bottle and see for yourself!

(Listed in order of preference)

What I’ve learned tasting 30 Sparkling Wines In 30 Weeks..

Murganheira Bottle of sparkling wine.

Image via Wikipedia

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

p.s. To view the sparklers reviewed in the “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…” series, just type in T.G.I.F in the Search box above.

A Taste of Little Known Wines – Anniversary Dinner at À CÔTÉ

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary at À CÔTÉ, a Mediterranean themed small-plate restaurant in Oakland.  What I like about small-plates dining is that you get to enjoy a diverse selection of dishes.  À CÔTÉ, likewise has a diverse selection of wines from around the world.  Their wine list might challenge some Jeopardy contestants who choose Geography! It includes lesser known regions of renown wine regions such as Italy (Sicily, and Campania), and France (Corsica), along with countries not well known for their wines such as Croatia, Hungary, Greece, and the Republic of Georgia (Click to view their wine list ).

Not only were the countries of origin diverse, but the grape varieties included little known varieties such as Coda di Volpe, Biancoella, and Grecomusc, which is a grape rare, indigenous grape only grown in Irpinia.

My wife elected to go with a flight of three white wines from Campania, Italy, which included the aforementioned little know wines. I chose to start with a glass of Sherry.  We ordered Marinated Olives, Pommes Frites with Aioli, and Catalan Pork Empanadas with Green Garlic Crema to start with. We followed that with Mussels with Pernod from the Wood Oven, and Seared Scallops with Carrot Risotto, Sorrel Sauce and Sugar Snap Peas for the “main” course.  In addition to the Sherry, I ordered a flight of two Weißherbst-German Rosés.

The tasting notes for the wines I ordered follow:

NV Tio Pepe Fino Sherry – Very pale green color with. Offers aromas of salted nuts and brine. On the palate focused, light bodied, and dry with flavors of lightly salted hazelnuts, and brine.  Medium short finish.  I really enjoy this one!  Sherry was an “acquired taste” for me. But I really enjoy it because it pairs well with so many foods.  Whether it was the olives (the most well know pairing for Sherry), the Pommes Frites with aioli, or the empanadas, the Sherry worked very well with the food, and the food made the Sherry taste fruitier.  I wish I could tell you how the Sherry paired with the mussels and the scallops, it was gone by then (although I’m sure it would have paired very nicely with those too)! – 87 pts

2008 Matthias Dostert Roter Elbling Rosé Color of the eye of partridge. The nose offered red fruit, and slight vegetal aromas.  On the palate, it was off dry for me, fruity with peach, and vanilla flavors and a hint of minerality.  Light-bodied with a short finish. It was my first taste of Roter Elbling. I found the vegetal notes to be off putting for a rosé .  However, it was a good pairing with both the mussels, and scallop entrees - 83 pts

2008 Franz Karl Schmitt Pinot Meunier Rosé –  The color of strawberry soda.  Strawberry aromas, with flavors of raspberry, spice, and on the back palate, a hint of grapefruit. Between short and medium finish. I found this one interesting because it was my first experience with Pinot Meunier on a stand- alone basis.  It’s a grape that is typically part of the traditional Champagne blend. It was dry, and was a good pairing with both the mussels, and scallop entrees.  I enjoyed it a bit more with the entrees, and enough to try it again.- 85 pts

For dessert we chose Coupe À CÔTÉ – Triple Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream, Hot Fudge, Caramel Cream,Pecan Praline & Caramel Brownies.  We paired it with 1997 Cossart Gordon Madeira Bual Colheita - Dark orange color.  Nose offers dried citrus and an earthy note.  On the palate, dried stone fruit, and citrus with good acidity, and a long finish.  This was a very good Colheita, and it paired well with the dessert.  I particularly enjoyed the acidity, which provided a very nice juxtaposition to the richness of the dessert.  - 88 pts

Coupe À CÔTÉ

As for the dessert…put simply…it was one the best desserts I’ve ever had!  À CÔTÉ – great food, and great wine list. I highly recommend!

In Vino Veritas!