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The Perfect New Year’s Eve Wine Cocktail

December 31st, 2013 No comments

Your search for the ultimate holiday party cocktail is over. Spiced wine is the perfect festive beverage to serve at your New Year’s Eve gathering, and to enjoy throughout the holiday season. This traditional drink will warm your guests through and through, and looks impressively festive. But they’ll never know that this beverage couldn’t be simpler to make.

Spiced wine has been around for centuries. Nearly every culture that drinks wine has added spices to it at some point in history. Historically, this doctoring has served a number of purposes, from supposedly increasing the wine’s medicinal value to masking the taste of the beverage gone bad.

Today, of course, we know that a few spices probably won’t make wine better for us, and we have no need to disguise the taste of rancid wine. Modern spiced or mulled wine recipes cause for the wine to be warmed with a few spices, along with additions of your choice. Here, we use orange juice and zest, but you can also add a fortifying beverage such as brandy to make your wine cocktail even more festive.

The roots of spiced wine go back as far as ancient Egypt. The Egyptians laced their wine with figs, herbs and pine resin (yum!) to create what was believed to be a medicinal brew. Spiced wine was also popular in Medieval Europe, where it helped the people get through long and terrible winters, and on top of that, was rumored to function as an aphrodisiac — cheers!

The crusades played a major role in spreading the love of spiced wine across Europe. The countries that embraced spiced wine made it their own, designing recipes that are deeply ingrained in their traditions today. In Britain, the beverage is called mulled wine and is a popular drink throughout the winter. In Germany, it’s called Glühwein. In the Nordic countries, it’s called glögg or gløgg.

Whatever you call it, spiced wine has a long history and tradition that make it a great choice for a wintertime party cocktail. There’s no strict recipe, so feel free to make tweaks to the recipe below to make a signature version of spiced wine that you can enjoy with your friends and family for years to come.

Spiced Wine:

In a large pot, bring to a simmer:

1 bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon

3-5 cups apple cider (depending on how strong you like your spiced wine)

The juice and zest of one orange

3 tablespoons-1/3 cup honey (depending on how sweet you’d like it)

3 cinnamon sticks

A few cloves

Simmer for 30 minutes, then pour into mugs and serve.

Jake’s Corner: Cabernet Around the World

December 12th, 2013 No comments

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine

One Monday evening last month, six people sat down for a blind Cabernet (and Cab-based blends) tasting. There were no experts on the panel. There were two people that prefer whites to reds. There was one experienced craft beer person, and there was me, representing Vintage Cellars (and I hold an advanced certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust).

The one amazing thing I enjoyed in the tasting was watching the participants get more excited as the tasting progressed. There was one cheat sheet with basic descriptions of primary to secondary red wine aromas and tastes. The cheat sheet was in constant use as the participants tried to figure out smell and taste. Each person became more and more involved and interested as we progressed through the wine. Keep in mind, this was a completely blind tasting.

The instructions were simple: Note the sight (color), smell(aroma) and sip(taste) of each wine. Each time, we had to guess which wine we had just tasted (we had a list of the six bottles) and also guess the price point. Here are a couple of points I discovered:

  1. With a few exceptions, everybody was within $10-15 when guessing the price point of each wine.
  2. With one exception, everybody was able to guess the Bordeaux.
  3. The most guessed right was four of six. The beer guy had two of six.
  4. Most were amazed at the quality of the Cabernet from Mendoza (Argentina), as their familiarity with Argentinian wines is “cheap.”

Here are some combined notes on each wine:

2008 Melanson Vineyard Matthews Block Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

  • Deep purple with long legs on the rim. Allspice, blackberry jam and dried fruit on the nose. A hot smell from the alcohol. Blackberry and prune on the palette start fading to leather and smoke. Fruit forward with soft silky tannins and a nice long finish

2009 Chateau Martinat Cotes de Bourg

  • Tawny color fading to brown on the rim. Cedar planks with an earthy animal nose. Very light on fruit with a hint pepper. Very dry with under developed tannins, tar, pepper and barnyard characteristics with little discernable fruit. This was the least favorite wine tasted by the group (of course I had a budget, so it wasn’t a first growth).

2011 Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Mendoza

  • A deep intense ruby color. Aromas of blueberry, blackberry and full of herbs: sage & basil. A deep silky texture that took over your mouth with a sweetness of dried fruits like raisins. Attractively sweet like blackberry cobbler. A long finish with smooth tannins that develop a thought of violets.

2007 Korbin Kameron Cuvee Kristin Sonoma Valley

  • Equally split between ruby purple, with aromas of black cherry, chocolate and tobacco. All fruit on the palate, concentrated cooked down blackberry, boysenberry and dried cherry. The tannins are soft and well-rounded.

2007 Guilliams Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District

  • Intense purple that appears almost black. Pepper, blackberry and chocolate on the nose with hints of cedar & cigar. It’s chewy like stewed black fruits. Hints of licorice, almonds and even basil. Very tannic with a dry finish. More licorice on the finish.

2088 Mazzei Philip Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana

  • Garnett in color. Black cherry, baked red apples, even dark red Jolly Rancher. Lots of black fruit aromas. A peppery zing when it first hits your palate with spice, chocolate and young firm tannins. A spicy finish.

Overall, there were three first place votes for the Korbin Kameron, two for the Melanson and one for the Susana Balbo. As mentioned in the tasting, the Bordeaux was the least favorite on each scorecard.

I’m looking forward to setting up a white tasting with Rieslings from around the world. Want to be invited?

-Jake

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