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Posts Tagged ‘sparkling wines’

A Perfect Summer Wine Cocktail: The Classic Bellini

August 2nd, 2010 No comments

If you find yourself craving something sweet and fruity during these hot summer days, we’ve got the perfect suggestion for you: the Bellini.  The Bellini originated in Venice, Italy at Harry’s Bar (which is still going strong and serving great Bellinis!).  The Bellini is a very simple cocktail that uses only two ingredients–sparkling wine and peach puree (making this the perfect recipe for summertime, when the peaches are at their sweet and juicy best).  These two flavors play off of each other exceptionally well, and make for the ideal hot-weather cocktail that is great with brunch, for a bridal shower, or just any old lazy Sunday.

For the best quality Bellinis, we recommend using fresh summer peaches.  Traditionally, this recipe is made with Prosecco, which is a generally dry Italian sparkling wine.  However, you can substitute any decent-quality Champagne, sparkling wine, or Cava.  (Unlike in many of the cocktails we post, because there are so few ingredients in a Bellini, the quality of the sparkling wine you use really makes a difference, so don’t buy the cheapest stuff for this one.)  Here’s the basic recipe:

  • Pour 2 oz peach puree into a champagne flute.
  • Slowly add 4 oz sparkling wine.
  • Garnish with a peach slice.

Could that be any easier?  Just make sure that you don’t pour too fast or, heaven forbid, mix the cocktail, because you can disturb the bubbles and make the final product flat rather than fizzy.  For that reason, it’s best to make this one at a time rather than in a big pitcher.  Now go to it!
Bellini Cocktail on Foodista

Love Champagne but Hate the Price? Try Cava.

July 20th, 2010 No comments

I love to drink champagne.  It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, in fact, sometimes I’ll make one up just to have an excuse to celebrate with the bubbly stuff.  Whether I’m toasting to a job well done or a job I didn’t quite get done, champagne always puts a smile on my face.  But what doesn’t make me smile is the price: champagne isn’t cheap!  So today on the VC blog, let’s talk about a delicious and more affordable alternative to the fancy french stuff: cava.

I discovered cava on a recent trip to Spain.  It’s a Spanish sparkling wine, and something that Spaniards take quite seriously.  Spain is renowned throughout the world for their excellent wines: they are known especially for the care they take in growing wine grapes perfect for their different regions.  Their wines are generally excellent and highly regarded throughout the world.  Not as popular in the US, but just as important to Spaniards, is cava.

Cava is produced in the Catalonian region of Spain, concentrated in the northwestern Penedès area.  130 million bottles of cava is produced each year by 250 Spanish cava makers.  The grapes they use are predominantly Macabeo, Xarello, and Parellada, which give cava light, bright, and perfumed characteristics.

Cava is made in the traditional French method used to produce champagne: méthode champenoise, and in fact was called champán or xampany after true French champagne until champagne was given Protected Geographical Status.  In fact,  there are very strict rules governing what can and cannot be labeled a cava (just as there are such rules for champagnes) and one of them is that it’s not a cava unless it is made in the proper méthode champenoise. Thus, in terms of production at least, it’s really no different than a true champagne.  The same, of course, can’t be said for its grapes and growing conditions, but Spain’s reputation in these categories definitely makes cava a tough competitor.

Because cava isn’t as well-known as champagne, you can generally get significantly more bang for your buck by reaching for the Spanish, rather than the French stuff.  Be aware that cava comes in different degrees of sweetness, with Brut Nature being the driest (no sugar added) and Dulce being the sweetest (more than 50 g/litre of sugar added.)  Also be aware that not ever sparkling wine from Spain is a cava (and those that aren’t are not subject to the same production quality regulations).  Here’s an easy way to tell: all true cavas have a 4-pointed star on the cork.

So, fellow champagne lovers, get out there and try some cava, and let us know what you think!

A Guide to Food and Wine Pairing

January 30th, 2010 1 comment

Wine lovers are often foodies too, and for them, there is nothing more satisfying than a wine perfectly matched to a dish, complementing and enriching the flavors of the food.  Such a meal is truly one of life’s great pleasures, feeding both the stomach and the soul.  But with so many wines and so many dishes to choose from, forming the perfect pairing can be an overwhelming challenge. (Stuck on choosing the perfect wine? Here are our tips on how to navigate a wine list.)

“Serve white wine with white meat, and red wine with red meat,” is the old adage.  But not only does this not account for meats like veal and Ahi tuna, which are really neither white nor red, it’s very limiting and leaves out considerations like sauces, spices, and how the food is prepared.  Food and wine pairings vary with each combination, and rather than memorizing a rule, wine lovers should consider several difference aspects of the way the food and wine will work together.

A good pairing is balanced, with neither the wine nor the food becoming overwhelming. The flavors of the food and wine should enhance each other, bringing out the best flavors of each.  Here are some tips to consider when pairing food and wine:  

Match flavors. A wine with earthy notes such as a Pinot Noir will bring out the earthy flavors in mushrooms.  Just as a squeeze of lemon enhances grilled fish, the citrusy acidity of a Sauvingnon Blanc will brighten a seafood dish.

Consider how food is cooked. Steamed or poached fish and vegetables need a delicate wine.  Braised or roasted dishes are heavier and can stand up to deeper and more intense flavors.

Match the flavor intensity of the food and wine. Light foods such as chicken breasts, for example, would be overwhelmed by a rich Cabernet Sauvignon: you want to taste both the food and the wine.

Match the wine to the sauce. A creamy sauce should never be paired with an acidic wine (think about how acid curdles milk.)  A rich tomato sauce, which is high in tannins, wouldn’t match well with an acidic wine such as a Zinfandel, which is also high in tannins.  The two together would create an overwhelming bitter, astringent taste.

Consider matching opposites. The flavors in rich and spicy ethnic foods can work well with a sweeter wine like a Gewürztraminer.

Match by geographic region. The foods and wines from the great culinary regions of the world, like Spain, Provence, and Tuscany, have developed together for hundreds of years and often have a natural affinity for each other.

Consider how the flavors interact. Wine and food are both made of chemical compounds.  When imbibed together, these chemicals react with each other, forming new tastes.  Sweet notes in a dish will magnify bitterness and astringency in wine, making it seem drier and stronger.  Highly acidic foods decrease the sour notes in wine and make it seem richer and more mellow.  Bitter flavors in food increase the perception of bitter flavors in wine, while sourness and salt in food decrease it.

Consider using wine as a palate cleanser. Acidic wines remove the lingering fat compounds the foods leave behind.   A sparkling wine before the meal or during the appetizer course prepares the taste buds for new flavors.  A wine with acidic qualities served with a rich, heavy dish can make it taste fresher and brighter.