Archive

Posts Tagged ‘white wine’

Introducing Viognier

May 15th, 2012 No comments

While the Viognier grape may be new to most wine drinkers, it’s been grown in France’s northern Rhône region for centuries.  Because its acreage in France is relatively small, so is the French production of Viognier.  Interestingly enough, decent Viognier vineyards have appeared in California since the late 1980s, and Australia is also producing the grape.

Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in Amador county, California.

Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in Amador county, California (Image from Wikipedia)

It’s tough to grow Viognier, since the grapes are sensitive to variable climates.  The vine often requires additional attention and massive pruning, plus it ripens at an odd time.  Though Viognier wine has a high alcohol content (usually more than 14%), it contains luscious flavors of peach, apricot, honeysuckle, hints of vanilla, oak, honey, and additional citrus fruits.  It pairs very nicely with sushi, salmon, shrimp and oysters, as well as duck, chicken, and pork.  It makes a nice accompaniment to cornbread, too, and even butternut squash.  Dishes that are lightly smoked, and recipes that include either apricots or peaches make great candidates for pairing.  Though difficult to grow, rare, and often on the pricier side, it’s definitely worth giving a bottle of Viognier a try.

Dare to Mix Red and White Wine?

April 10th, 2012 No comments

mixing red and white wineBefore reading further, please understand that wines like rosés are not just mixtures of red and white wines.  They are made by a process similar to red wine, but the skins of the grapes are removed before they fully turn the wine a deep shade of red.  (Read more about the process of making rosé wine in our previous post How to Choose a Great Rosé.) That said, some experimental wine drinkers delight in mixing red and white wines, producing curious concoctions that either intrigue or disgust  (This is the adult equivalent of the way kids mix multiple sodas together at fast food restaurants).  While purists will have no part in such playing, some wine drinkers delight in making their own mock blends of “signature” wines this way.

Is it possible to mix red and white wines to create new blends of your own?  Yes, it is.  Will they be any good?  While there’s no guarantee, if your palate is discriminating enough you may just very well be able to come up with a custom mix that suits your fancy (We can’t speak on behalf of your guests, however!).  And while your blend will not be a real rosé, it may still exhibit an interesting, rosé-like appearance.

How should you go about mixing red and white wines?  If you want your results to be drinkable, follow these simple steps:

  1. Decide on the two wines you want to mix.
  2. Fill a glass halfway with whichever wine has the weaker flavor.
  3. Add half a shot glass full of the stronger wine.
  4. Stir!
  5. Sip, and see what you think.  If the flavor is too weak, repeat to steps 3-5.

If you’re lucky, you may have discovered a personalized blend you’re absolutely crazy about.  Then again, you may have Frankenstein’s monster on your hands!  If so, discard your glass and use a wine preserver like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the unused, untainted portions of your two opened bottles fresh for another time to be enjoyed on their own!  Good luck, and happy mixing!

Wine May Help Prevent Diabetes

March 29th, 2012 No comments

American studies have shown that drinking wine helps to prevent type-2 diabetes, and a recent study conducted in Europe concurs.  The results, soon to be published in the Journal of International Medicine, were derived by examining numerous variables among thousands of participants.  These included detailed lifestyle and eating habits of individuals living in Italy, Spain, the UK, and other European countries.  Examining the data from this massive selection of people, what was the verdict on alcohol?

The blue circle represents diabetes, and wine may help reduce the risk of diabetes

The blue circle is a universal symbol used to represent diabetes

According to this study, scientists discovered that moderate alcohol use is connected with a 13% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes in men, and a whopping 20% lower risk in women.  (Ladies, raise your glasses!)  Women who drank primarily fortified wine (as opposed to other types of alcoholic beverages) fared even better; their risk factor of developing diabetes was 32% less than the norm.

Another very interesting finding had to do with weight.  Moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of diabetes in overweight participants much more than participants who were of average build.  Scientists could not explain why this was so, but have theorized that heavier folks may metabolize alcohol quicker.

In short, the study reports that moderate alcohol consumption lessens one’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes.  Wine drinkers, especially, had the highest percentage of protection.  This is welcomed news for the world of wine!

*This blog does not constitute medical advice.  Consult your primary care physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.   Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

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.

If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!

March 6th, 2012 No comments

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer AwarenessThere have been a lot of benefits associated with drinking red wine.  Now, a study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at Los Angeles has demonstrated that a glass of red wine a day may help reduce the risk of breast cancer.  What did the researchers find?  Chemicals just under the skins of red grapes (and in their seeds)  lowered women’s estrogen levels slightly (and also boosted testosterone levels).  How is estrogen control helpful?  Elevated levels of estrogen, in women, puts them at a greater risk of developing breast cancer cells.  Lower estrogen levels decrease the risk of this cancer.  Women participating in this study who drank red wine experienced lowered levels of estrogen, while women who drank white wine exhibited no estrogen reduction.

As with most studies, researchers stressed that further studies are still required.  Even so, it’s interesting that moderate amounts of red wine have shown a beneficial estrogen-reducing effect, while white wine displayed no impact on estrogen.  Dr. Chrisandra Shufelt, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, has commented that “If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red. Switching may shift your risk.”  This is some curious food for thought.

Please note that of course this blog does not constitute medical advice.  Consult your primary care physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.   Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

Wine and Spice: Hot Foods & Wines to Choose

March 1st, 2012 No comments

It’s still winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the season for spicy food.  In fact, a good meal filled with spicy delights might be just the thing to warm you up!  Are you eyeing that jalapeño?  Are red, hot chili peppers calling your name?  Here are some wines that are sure to complement your spicy food’s zestiness!

red hot chili pepperIf your dish contains mild, flavor-rich peppers (like chili peppers or cherry peppers), consider having a glass of Malbec on hand to soften the burn.  If Malbecs seem too “big” for you, perhaps a fruit-flavored Pinot Noir will be an acceptable counterpoint to your cuisine?  And if you’re a diehard white wine drinker, never fear; dry Rieslings will also soothe your taste buds while simultaneously pairing well with your meal.

If your dish is so hot that it could be labeled “nuclear,” consider pairing it with a wine that has a lower alcohol content and is also on the sweeter side.  A German Riesling with low a low level of alcohol, such as Spätlese, is an excellent choice (as is an Alsatian Gewurztraminer).

Don’t be afraid to pair your spicy, winter cuisine with a bottle of white or red listed above.  You’ll be surprised how a decent, appropriate bottle can compliment even the hottest of peppers.  Cheers!

What are Wine Diamonds?

February 21st, 2012 No comments

Ever drink a glass of really good wine and find little crystals at the bottom?  These are “wine diamonds,” not sediment, and they have been helping to preserve your wine!

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is a byproduct of winemaking. In cooking it is known as cream of tartar.

Potassium hydrogen tartrate is a byproduct of winemaking. In cooking, it is known as cream of tartar.

Wine diamonds are, in actuality, potassium bitartrate crystals that sometimes form on a wine bottle’s cork, most often when chilled.  During the winemaking process, itself, they naturally form on the sides of fermentation tanks.  They can be found in both red and white wines, and do not in any way mean that there’s a problem with your wine.  In fact, when present, they help lower the pH, making a hostile environment for many types of bacteria that can spoil wine, helping to preserve wine after fermentation.

The majority of winemakers, however, have gone to great lengths to eliminate these crystals from their bottles.  (Mostly, this is a reaction to complaints about the harmless crystals.)  Very cold stabilization before bottling (usually between 2 or 3 weeks) is a “solution” that brings these tartrate crystals to the fore, allowing them to be easily filtered from the wine which is then warmed back up.

If you do find wine diamonds in your wine, your wine was probably made very naturally, and this is a good thing!  Also note that consuming the crystals will not harm you; these wine tartrate crystals are the very same ingredient in the cream of tartar you used for baking the other day.  They’re also used in a bunch of other foods and nonalcoholic drinks.  It so happens that wineries are the only commercial sources for tartrates, and they often collect and sell wine diamond deposits that form in their tanks.

So, the next time you see a few crystals at the bottom of your wine glass, know that they have occurred naturally, are nontoxic, and that they have helped to preserve your wine.  Cheers!

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!

Romanian Wine

January 17th, 2012 No comments

A Map of Romania

We often don’t hear much about Romanian wines, but Romania is in fact the 5th largest wine producer in Europe; only France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal produce more wine than Romaina.  With a history of winemaking that goes back over 2,500 years, coupled with unique geography (mountain ranges, valleys, coastal winds, and several microclimates), Romaina’s land is perfect for growing grapes and producing wine.  Like other European countries, Romania boasts several varieties of indigenous varietals, as well as some western ones.  Some more well-known native varietals include Grasa de Cotnari, Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, and Tamaiosa Romaneasca.  For reds, varietals include Feteasca Neagra, Babeasca Neagra, Cadarca, and Negru Vartos.  Romaina’s largest wine-producing region is known for its production of Cotnari wines, which are sweet dessert wines similar to Tokaj.  The southern regions of Muntenia and Oltenia make excellent red and white wines (as do Crisana and Maramures in the west), while wines from the picturesque Transylvanian plateau are mostly white.  If you’re looking to try a decent Romanian wine, here are a few picks that range from about $10 to $25:

  • Prince Mircea Merlot, 2008
  • Prahova Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, 2009
  • Terra Romana Pinot Noir, 2009
  • Castel Starmina Riesling, 2001

Perhaps you’ll find one of these to your liking?    Noroc!  (That’s “cheers” in Romanian.)