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Posts Tagged ‘champagne’

Winos, Healers, and Wine Weirdos: Four Historical Personalities

March 13th, 2012 No comments
Frederick the Great

Frederick the Great, who brewed his coffee with Champagne instead of water

Here are four interesting people who really enjoyed their wine!  (Whoever said history had to be dry?)

  1. Frederick the Great (1712-1786), King of Prussia, brewed his own coffee with Champagne instead of water, adding a little bit of powdered mustard to make the flavor stronger.  (Note: for anyone adventurous enough to try this at home, do not put Champagne into your Mr. Coffee® machine; use an easy-to-clean French press, instead.)
  2. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), in his day, earned $25,000 a year.  From that amount, he annually spent around $3,000 on wine, alone.  (That’s quite a bit, considering the time period!)  He admired good Madeira and Bordeaux, and helped to stock the wine cellars of the first five presidents of the United States.
  3. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), composer, writer, philosopher, mystic, and Benedictine abbess, prescribed herb-infused wine for pain relief.  “One who is in pain from a stone should take parsley and add a third part saxifrage. He should cook this in wine, strain it through a cloth, and drink it in a sauna.”
  4. Dr. John Carmichael (1761-1837), a surgeon at Fort Adams, enjoyed his wine collection so much that he spent the majority of his later days in a rocking chair, staring at his wine cellar.  His will included specific instructions about how he was to be buried, following his death: before the burial, his friends were to move the casket containing his body to the wine cellar, then drink his entire collection of wine in its presence.  Following two full days of dutifully emptying his cellar, Dr. Carmichael’s friends forgot what they had done with his body!  After sober reflection, the casket was eventually found, and Dr. Carmichael was given a proper burial.

Wine and Ice Cream

February 7th, 2012 No comments

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® ice cream flavor

This week, we’re prepping you for a wine lover’s Valentine’s Day with some yummy ideas you can share with your sweetie!

So, your Sweetie Pie wants some ice cream to accompany a romantic bottle of wine during an intimate evening in?  Unheard of?  Think again!  There are, in fact, some decent wine and ice cream pairings you can try!

Is your ice cream chocolate, or chocolate chip?  Consider following a spoonful with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Ruby Port, or even a glass of Madeira!  In the mood for coffee or mocha ice cream?  Follow a bowl with a bottle of Sherry.  If you’re a mint chocolate chip fan, you’ll love how a jammy, Red Zinfandel augments your ice cream’s delicious mint taste.

Pair wine with a sorbet

Photo by Renee Comet

Strawberry ice cream, as you may guess, simply begs to be accompanied by Champagne (or a similar sparkling wine), but it can also go nicely with Sherry or Chianti.  If your ice cream is a little more adventurous, like a passion fruit sorbet for instance, give it a whirl with a good Chardonnay.  (Unoaked varieties usually pair better in this case).  Is raspberry sorbet more to your liking?  Try a taste with a Sparkling Rosé!  A quality French Bordeaux makes a great companion to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia®, and for you folks who favor plain, old vanilla, here are some wines just for you: Sherry, Sauternes, Ruby Port, and Muscat.  Cheers!

A Little Bit About Prosecco

February 2nd, 2012 No comments

Prosecco bottles

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that is often made Dry or Extra Dry.  Unlike sweeter sparkling wines, today’s Prosecco is intended to be on the drier side.  Though Prosecco is often used as a Champagne (or other sparkling wine) substitute, it has its own distinctive taste.  While Champagne and other sparklers are sought after for their complexity, Prosecco is manufactured to be lighter, fresher, and much more on the plain side; it works very well as a pleasant palate-cleanser between courses, and even between wines during select wine tastings.  Enjoyed chilled, like Champagne, Prosecco works as an aperitif on its own; however, it is frequently paired with hors d’oeuvres like bruschetta, canape, crostini, soft cheeses, stuffed mushrooms or shrimp, and even olives.

Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza (3-door model)

Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza (3-door model)

Unlike Champagne (whose second fermentation process occurs in the bottle), Prosecco’s second fermentation process occurs in stainless steel tanks.  This is one of the main reasons why it’s often less expensive than Champagne; it’s less expensive to produce.  Unlike other sparkling wines that do ferment in their bottles, Prosecco is meant to be consumed within three years, lest it become stale.  (Some higher quality bottles of Prosecco may be kept up to seven years, but if you’re in doubt, drink it while it’s young!)

To keep your Prosecco at the proper serving temperature, consider using a stylish wine cabinet like the Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza, or the Le Cache Wine Vault 3100.  Always remember to drink your Prosecco while it’s still young!

Happy February, wine lovers! Stay tuned for some fun, yummy Valentine’s day content coming up soon!

The Importance of Champagne Flutes

January 3rd, 2012 No comments

Did you ring in the New Year with a flute of Champagne? Honestly, we wouldn’t blame you for hiding your nice flutes from rowdy NYE party-goers, but for quieter occasions there’s no substitute for a lovely flute.

Aside from simply looking elegant, drinking from the right glass enhances your experience of the wine.  Because Champagne and sparkling wines are served chilled, it’s very easy for the heat of your hands to warm them prematurely.  Champagne flutes with long stems allow your beverage to stay cool longer because your hand makes contact with the stem of the glass; it does not cup the wine itself.  Furthermore, the bowl of the glass is specifically crafted to maximize your beverage’s bubbles; the opening is narrow, meaning the surface area is reduced, which makes the bubbles last longer.

A Riedel Champagne Glass

A Riedel Champagne Glass

While Champagne saucers are frequently found at wedding celebrations, their large surface area causes bubbles to dissipate rather quickly.  While this may be okay for sweeter sparkling wines, these saucers tend not to do justice to the more-common, drier ones.  Some people also prefer to drink sparkling wine from regular white wine glasses (mainly for the benefit of experiencing its nose.)  Usually, however, good Champagne glasses, like a set of the Riedel Wine Collection Champagne glasses will be perfect for your sparkling beverage.  If you’ve got a good wine, why not use a good glass to enjoy it to the fullest?  Shall we toast?

Good Wine for Auld Lang Syne

December 29th, 2011 No comments
Champagne glasses on New Year's

Photo by Mike Gifford

Sung to celebrate the stroke of midnight which begins each New Year, Robert Burns’ poem is a New Year’s staple, and so is the tradition of toasting to the hour with Champagne, or other sparkling wines.  Are you hosting a New Year’s Eve party?  If so, what do you plan to toast with?  Here’s some basic info to help you out!

Champagne and sparkling wines are categorized (and, thus, labeled) according to their sugar levels.  “Brut” is probably the most popular seller.  It’s dry, crisp, and pairs well with lots of finger foods.  “Extra Brut” is especially dry.  If your wine is labeled “Extra Dry” it’s actually (oddly enough) a bit sweeter than the common “Brut” which makes it a terrific aperitif.  This might be a wine to consider toasting with, especially if it’s being served on its own.  “Demi-sec” wine is very sweet, and often benefits from being served with fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and desserts.

The Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS

The wine you choose will probably also be labeled as “vintage” or “non-vintage” (often abbreviated as “NV” on the label.)  Sparkling vintage wines come from a single year, while non-vintage ones are blends from many different years.  While vintage Champagne is usually pricier, the majority of sparkling wines are NV.

Always remember that sparkling wines are meant to be served chilled (i.e. usually between 42°F to 50°F), so don’t let your bottles sit out at room temperature before you pop their corks!  To achieve just the right serving temperature, a wine storage cabinet like the Le Cache Mission 1400 wine cabinet, or the Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS cabinet, is far more precise than putting bottles of Champagne in your fridge. Cheers to your successful party!

 

And  very happy new year to all our blog readers, customers and fans!

Champagne: a Holy Toast

December 27th, 2011 No comments
A Stained Glass Window of a Monk Examining Champagne

The important history of monks and Champagne is captured in a stained-glass window.

Named after the Champagne region of France, Champagne was first bottled by French monks.  But where do the bubbles come from?  The process of making the bubbles needed for this sparkling wine was invented by two Benedictine monks and cellarmasters: Frère Jean Oudart (1654–1742) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre aux Monts de Châlons, and Dom Pierre Pérignon (1639–1715) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers.  Since the Champagne region has a very cold and short growing season, Champagne grapes must be harvested very late in the year.  Because of this they have less time to ferment, and cold winter temperatures often halted the fermenting process.  To counter this, the monks introduced a second fermentation procedure that takes place in the bottle during the spring.  It’s this second fermentation that creates the much-loved bubbles that are Champagne’s calling card.  Thank you, Brothers Oudart and Pérignon!  For more information about the process and actual chemistry of aging wine, check out the Vintage Cellars Science of Aging Wine page.  Cheers!

Wine: The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

December 20th, 2011 No comments
Last-minute shoppers looking for gift ideas

Shoppers on Dundas, photo by Ian Muttoo

Shopping for gifts at the last minute, again?  Does what to get for a certain loved one have you stumped?  If you continue to suffer from the daunting task of gift selection, here’s a gift that is always appreciated: wine!  What is more, shopping for wine is much easier than sifting through racks of ties, perusing packages of festive socks, or combing the entire hardware section of Sears.  And unlike jewelry that may not see the light of day once fashions change, or knickknacks that may have just a two-week shelf life, wine will always be popular and appreciated.  You need not break the bank when purchasing wine (there are good bottles in every price range), and its affordability allows you to easily put together decent gift baskets for less than $50.  Single bottles can even be given as gifts; special “artistic” bottles created by vineyard artists make excellent showpieces after they have been enjoyed, and most retailers offer gift bags, boxes, and wrapping services so your present will look extraordinarily presentable!  Because gifted wines often get opened around a broad array of holiday foods, at least one wine to include in a gift basket is a Pinot Noir since it pairs adequately with most foods.  Equally good is a sparkling wine, which is always associated with festive times.  For variety’s sake, you may want to gift one of each– white, red, and sparkling wine –so that your recipient has options to choose from.  Also, you may want to consider including a rosé; though this wine is often associated with summertime, it adds a breath of fresh air to winter dinners.

Red and white wine served at dinner

Photo by Adrien Facélina

When serving wine at your holiday dinner, make sure you use proper wine glasses, and keep your wine bottles at the proper serving temperature.  It is especially important to make sure your sparkling wines are adequately chilled.  (No one likes warm Champagne!)  Whites should be chilled properly, too, but most reds can be served at cellar temperature.  To be sure your wine reaches its ideal serving temperature, consider using a Le Cache European Country 1400 wine cabinet, or a Vintage Series 2 door single-deep credenza in your dining room.  No matter the occasion, the gift of wine is one that will always be welcomed.  Happy Holidays!

All About Champagne

August 3rd, 2011 No comments

Champagne is a summertime wedding necessity, or rather a necessity at any wedding!  But, is your toast made with the “real” deal, or with a different wine called by the same name?

Champagne toast with champagne glasses

Photo by Mike Gifford

In the U. S., the label “Champagne” is used generically to denote almost any sparkling wine (some good, some bad), but in almost all other countries it is used specifically to identify a sparkling wine made in France’s Champagne region.  Champagne used to set the worldwide standard for sparkling wine, and the wine consists of three grape varietals: the white Chardonnay grape, and red Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes.  Today, there are quality sparkling wines produced in California and Australia that are giving true “Champagne” a run for its money.  Still, in countries other than America, these wines are not called Champagne.  The “Champagne method,” however, is used by quality, sparkling wine producers worldwide.  The method includes a secondary fermentation process that happens right inside the bottle!  Because quality sparkling wine (which my or may not be, technically, “Champagne”) is created this way, a wine’s label often reads “Traditional Method” instead of “Champagne Method.”  (And has your Champagne ever looked a little more on the red side?  If so, you probably drank Champagne rosé, which is just a type of rosé Champagne made by creating a blend of red and white wine.)  While in America, “Champagne” is used generically to denote a good, sparkling wine, true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.  This does not mean, however, that other sparkling wines from California and Australia are inferior in taste and bouquet.  It just means that, technically, such wines should be called “sparkling wines.”  Cheers!

Want to learn more about sparkling wines, how to store sparkling wine, or the “traditional method” that produces them? All that and more can be found in the Wine Storage Education Center!

Map region of Champagne, France

Champagne, France

Cool Your Wine!

April 18th, 2011 No comments

Eurocave Elite

Though you may have a “good” bottle of wine on your hands, serving it at an inappropriate temperature can completely ruin it.  As a rule, a wine should be served at a temperature where its flavors and aromas are most exposed.  This “ideal” temperature, of course, varies based on the wine.  Here are a few ballpark numbers:

Warm, spicy reds are often best served between 61° and 64°, while medium bodied reds often fall between 58° and 61°.  Fruity reds are nice usually around 53° and 55°.  Oaked white wines often open well at 52°, while medium-bodied and lighter wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc range between 48° and 52°.  Very sweet, sparkling whites are often ideal between 42° and 46°, and Champagne tends to be great at around 43°.

These numbers are general guidelines, based on personal taste, so be aware that every wine has its own ideal temperature that can deviate!  If you’re ever unsure about a wine’s correct serving temperature, serve it a little cooler than room temperature.  If it is too cold, it will still open up over time while it seeks room temperature.  For discriminating temperature control, consider investing in a wine cooling unit like the EuroCave Elite.  It’s amazing what a profound effect a few degrees can have on a glass of wine.  With a such a precise wine cooling cabinet at your disposal, you can have fun discovering the ideal  temperatures of your favorite wines.  (And no longer is your wine at the mercy of environmental temperature fluctuations!)

A Christmas Brunch Cocktail

December 23rd, 2010 No comments
Bubbles from a rose champagne

Champagne is the foundation of this delicious cocktail.

You may be too old for Santa Claus, but Christmas has a hidden benefit for adults: it provides the perfect excuse to drink in the morning!  This Christmas morning champagne cocktail is perfect for enjoying with a leisurely brunch…preferably while still in your PJs.

As with all cocktails made with champagne, quality doesn’t matter all that much (but go for the dry stuff if you’re serving a crowd, it pleases more palates).  So save that good bottle to savor by itself!  Also, remember to pour the mixers first and add the champagne last, otherwise you’ll lose precious bubbles.

The Poinsettia

Fill your champagne glasses a quarter full with triple sec

Add a splash of cranberry juice.

Fill the rest of the way with champagne.

This holiday cocktail is a festive color, and tastes as good as it looks!  Serve with pancakes or coffee cake and enjoy Christmas morning the right way.