Archive for the ‘Learn’ Category
It’s hard enough to remember all of the most well known denominations of Italy, but even harder to keep track of smaller, lesser-known wines from this prolific wine-producing country. Yet, this past Valentine’s Day brought me a little love from Italy in the form of a delicious food and wine event at New York’s Eataly and an introduction to a new wine denomination even for me: Carignano del Sulcis.
Carignano del Sulcis (not to be confused with the Carmignano DOCG of Tuscany) is produced from the Carignano grape, known elsewhere, especially France, as Carignan (and in Spain as Cariñena). Most frequently, this variety is used as a blending partner, but the Carmignano del Sulcis DOC, established in 1989, requires a minimum of 85% of the Cargnano grape, giving it greater prominence that it has elsewhere. Moreover, many wines are produced with 100% of the variety. When blended, the balance is made up of local varieties such as Bovaleddu.
Carignano del Sulcis hails from the island of Sardegna (Sardinia), which is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, situated to the west of the Italian mainland. Located in the southern-most part of Sardegna, Sulcis is the oldest area of the island in geological terms. Here, the Mediterranean climate nurtures the Carignano grape, grown in sandy soils that do not require the vines to be grafted as they are in most regions of the world.
While the average age of the local vineyards are 60-70 years old, some vines are as old as 150, providing low yields, but extremely concentrated fruit. Significant sunlight means the grapes become very ripe, but the high winds and proximity to the sea keep the wines fresh. These are generally intense wines with firm tannins, rich red fruit aromas and flavors and smoky, anise and slight herbal notes. Nicely structured, these wines can be aged for a few years, giving the tannins time to soften.
The wines tasted at a recent winemaker lunch primarily ranged from $20.00-$30.00. The most expensive of the lot was priced at $65.00 and was a more modern-styled wine with darker fruit character and longer aging potential, having spent (comparatively) considerable time in new French oak. The luncheon included a tasting of wines from five different producers: Cantina Mesa, Calasetta, 6Mura, Sardus Pater and Santadi.
Despite their intensity, these wines are at home on the dining table and paired well with a Sardinian-inspire menu of Roasting Winter Squash with Pecorino and a Carignano Reduction, Malloreddus with Sausage and Tomato Sauce and Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Fennel and Potatoes.
Cork is harvested from the bark of trees as a renewable resource. As a readily biodegradable material, the use of cork promotes a sustainable agro-forest system and improves the biodiversity of the ecological environment. This natural material has been used for several centuries as wine closures. It is only as of recent that synthetic corks, and twist of tops have been introduced to the world of wine. To read more about the benefits of each option- read our article all about corks! http://www.wineportfolio.com/sectionLearnWineCorks.html
This solution on how to seal wine bottles brings forth a secondary problem. How do you remove the cork wedged tightly into the neck of the wine bottle?
The corkscrew was originally designed as a worm (the screw) with a Tbar and required manpower to pull it out of the bottle. This would take around 100 pounds of force to pull the cork out. More modern versions of the corkscrew use the models of physics and lever systems to assist with the force.
These wine openers are named for their common use in restaurants by wine stewards or sommeliers. Compared to all other forms of wine openers, theses are small, portable, and safe to keep in your pocket. Surely, you wouldn’t want to keep a traditional corkscrew anywhere near those family jewels. These wine openers have a worm (corkscrew) that unfolds in the center and single or double lever at the end. They often come equipped with a small knife to cut off the foil prior to removing the cork. With some practice it is easy to master this technique!
Butterfly/ Winged Corkscrew
As one of the easier methods, the butterfly or winged corkscrew has a frame with two long arms that move upwards as the worm is screwed in. Removing the cork is as easy as pushing the two arms back down.
Screwpull lever (Rabbit)
Speaking of easy, this model is nearly dummy proof. Doing all the work for you, this is the perfect gift for a new wine drinker. Opening the bottle is as easy as placing it over the neck of the wine bottle, lowering the lever and then raising it back up. I can guarantee you wont’ see a waiter pull one of these large contraptions from their pockets though.
Ah- So/ Twin Prong Cork Puller/ Butler’s Friend
The ah-so wine opener takes the cake for the most difficult to master. This contraption has a handle with two metal prongs that slide into either side of the cork along the inside of the bottle’s neck. With a slow twist and pull, you can pry the cork out. The Ah-So is most practical with older wines, when there is risk that the cork has dried out and could crumble. Since this technique doesn’t require you to puncture the cork, it works to prevent any of the brittle cork from crumbling into the wine.
The twist off cap
Place hand on cap and twist. (And you thought the Rabbit was easy!)
What is your preferred method of cork removal?
Like many highly priced, highly valued commodities, the truffle market has caused a serge in underground trade. European white truffles sell for as much as $3,600 a pound. Recently, a two pound truffle sold for $300,000 in an auction.
This product is being stolen, imitated, being traded in a black market and sold out of the back of trucks. As the premium french product is becoming scarce, they are being threatened by an inferior, cheaper chinese product. In China, rather then using pigs or dogs to sniff out ripe truffles, humans rake through the ground and pick them whenever they find them, without necessarily waiting for the truffles to ripen. This causes the truffles to be void of both taste and smell, or so the story goes.
Sorters at the Urbani factory say that they have found Chineses truffles mixed in with the French products.
This mafia like attitude starts sounding a little like the drug business, doesn’t it!
To understand what that plastic ball or widget is doing floating at the top of your can of beer, we must start off with a short lesson in what makes beer fizz!
Most beers are carbonated with carbon dioxide (CO2). Some of the CO2 is dissolved in the beer and when the can is closed, the pressure inside the can is higher than outside of the can . When you open the can, there is a sudden drop of pressure causing some of the CO2 to bubble out of the beer with the agitation of the pouring. This results in a beer with a thick layer of head on top.
Stout beers like Guinness, which are canned with widgets inside, are pressurized with a mixture of CO2 and nitrogen. Nitrogen is not absorbed into the beer at the same extent as the CO2. While a can of stout beer may have the same pressure as a can of lager, due to its lower CO2 content, it is less fizzy.
Without the widget, a stout like Guinness, would not have a very thick layer of head because most of the CO2 would stay dissolved. The purpose of the widget is to release the dissolved CO2 from the beer, to create more head, giving the beer a creamier longer lasting head, that stout is known for.
The widget is a plastic, nitrogen filled sphere with a tiny hole in it. Just before being sealed, a small shot of liquid nitrogen is added to the beer. During the rest of the canning process, the liquid nitrogen evaporates and pressurizes the can. As the pressure increases in the can, the beer is forced into the widget through the small hole, compressing the nitrogen inside it.
When the can is opened, the pressure drops and the compressed gas in the widget forces the beer out of the plastic ball and into the can. This agitation causes the dissolved CO2 to form tiny bubbles that rise to the top of the beer and form the head!
ENJOY YOUR FROTHY BEER!
Bubbly is a basic when ringing in the New Year – but there are some differences between the different bottles that go “pop”. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know – and pick – to toast with on the stroke of midnight.
To be labelled as Champagne, a wine must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France – in one of the five districts of The Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. These are the traditional wines chosen to ring in the new year, and include famous brand names like Taittinger (James Bond’s favorite), Bollinger, Perrier-Jouet and Moët & Chandon.
Throughout the world, however, there are thousands of vineyards that produce wine made with the same grapes, and in the same style, as champagne. Although they’re not allowed to label it as such, it has most of the same characteristics and increasingly rival the “original” for quality.
Champagne-style wine is unique because the fermentation process gives it the signature effervescent bubbles. This is achieved by first fermenting grapes in a regular wine vat, and then bottling them and adding additional yeast and sugar. The second fermentation saturates the wine with carbon dioxide; which is what causes the cork to burst out of the bottle upon opening.
Whether produced in Reims, or in any of the hundreds of other sparkling wine regions of the world, the final designation of the wine depends on how much sugar is added after the secondary fermentation to balance the acidity. Doux or demi-sec wine has a high sugar content, while the most popular designation, brut, has very little sugar (and brut nature has none.)
There are other methods for producing sparkling wine, however – and many of these alternatives are equally popular on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps the most popular is the Italian spumante - which is made in a style similar to traditional champagne, but using sweeter grapes, like Moscato. The result is a sweeter wine with a lower alcohol content. An even sweeter and less alcoholic variety is frizzante, which has about as much alcohol in it as beer.
Metodo Italiano is another Italian variety, in which the secondary fermentation is carried out in a stainless-steel vat, rather than in the bottle. The most famous wine made in this style – and one of the most popular alternatives to champagne – is classic Prosecco.
In England and Northern France, a popular sparkling product is Cidre, or Perry. This is made from fermenting apples (in the case of cider) or pears (with perry) to produce a fizzy beverage similar to beer. Perry, especially, is often sold in champagne-style bottles and marketed for celebratory events – so much so that champagne wine producers even attempted to have it banned at the turn of the 21st century. However, neither of these products are strictly “wine” in the classical sense.
The final method for producing sparkling wine is considered “cheating” – so much so that its actually illegal in the European Union. This is because it involves injecting carbon dioxide into traditional white wine – in much the same way bubbles are injected into Coca Cola or lemonade. Although the finished product is undeniably inferior to more traditional “bubbly” wine products, carbonated wine remains a popular – and cheap – alternative to champagne throughout the world (and speaking from experience, some of it’s not all that bad.)
Ultimately, though, whatever you choose to toast 2012 with is less important than those you choose to toast it with – and the hopes and ambitions you have for the coming twelve months. Happy New Year!
- The chance for the average American traveler, in the course of their lifetime, to die in an airplane crash is 1/5,552 . The chance they die in a car crash is 1/247.
- According to the US Transportation Secretary, flight delays cost the US economy $15 billion annually.
- The travel and tourism industry in the United States is valued at $1.6 trilion
- This industry generates anywhere from 7-8 million jobs in the United States
- The Washington Post did a study in 2001 of airline delays. Over 1/6 million passengers were delayed at least 15 minutes that year- an accumulated time of 170 years
- On an average 7 night sailing aboard the Disney Magic Cruiseline, the following food items are consumed:
- Beef – 5,000 pounds
- Chicken – 10,000 pounds
- Salmon – 1,200 pounds
- Shrimp – 1,300 pounds
- Lobster tail – 1,000 pounds
- Pineapple – 3,300 pounds
- Melon – 12,800 pounds
- Individual eggs – 71,500
- Coffee – 57,820 cups
- Soda – 3,125 gallons
- Wine and Champagne – 2,700 bottles
- Beer – 12,385 bottles/cans
The key to choosing a German wine lies in two characteristics: ripeness and sweetness. While ripeness is under nature’s control, sweetness can be under the winemaker’s control using chaptalization.
TBA Trocken Beerenauslese: when harvested, the berries are selectively picked by hand and are overripe and shriveled to the vine. Affected with botrytis cinerea, these wines are rich, sweet, luscious and honey-like.
BA Beerenauslese: Super ripe grapes for beerenauslese are often partially affected by botrytis cinerea. The botrytized grapes are picked one by one by hand. Messy to press, difficult to ferment, and painstakingly long to pick, these grapes will make extraordinarily sweet wine.
Auslese: Very ripe grape bunches are hand selected in late August. These wines are intense in bouquet. While they are at times affected by noble rot, it never dominates the character of the wine. These desert wines are often light and sweet, though they can by dry and quite high in alcohol.
Spatlese: Spatlese translates to late harvest. These wine of superior quality are picked after the normal harvest and are more intense in flavour then Kabinett. Allowing the grapes to stay on the vine for an elongated period of time lets the grapes ripen on sunny Autumn days, thus increasing the intensity of fruit flavours.
Kabinett: Kabinett wines are light wines made from fully ripened grapes.
QbA Qualitatswein: These are quality wines of a specific appellation. They are made from approved grape varieties (for that appellation) and picked at sufficient ripeness. These wines may undergo chaptalization. This process allows these otherwise light wines to become fuller and gain some body.
Deutscher Landwein: These are superior table wines and must follow several requirements:
- the wine must be produced exclusively from one of the recognized german grapes and grown in one of the 19 Landwein regions.
- must reach a natural alcohol content of at least 0.5% more than simple Deutscher Wein
- must be either trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (off dry)
Deutscher Wein: Must fulfill the following conditions:
- produced exclusively from legally recognized German grapes and grown in Germany
- must reach a natural alcohol content (must weight) of either 5% or 6% depending on the climate zone
- reach an existing alcohol content of 8.5% by volume
- reach a total acidity of at least 4.5 grams/liter
Trocken : bone dry
Halbtrocken: dry to the taste but containing up to 1.8% residual suger per liter
Sweet: from a little bit to a lot
According to the California Wine Institute, 14 million people visit the California Wine Region a year!
Some additional California wine facts:
- There are 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in California (of the 188 AVAs in the US)
- There are over 60,000 registered California wine labels
- 90% of US wine exports are from California
- 42% of this exported wine is shipped to the European Union
- In 2010, the U.S. surpassed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation. Total consumption increased by 2% from the previous year, to nearly 330 cases of wine!
It was standing room only. Truly, it seemed like everyone in the New York wine industry had cleared their calendar to attend the Amarone Families event last October. Participants were advised to arrive early and I was glad I did, snagging a seat in the front row, with a complete set of 12 glasses. Later arrivals weren’t so lucky, counting their blessings if they had a seat and a single glass at all. Adding to the confusion, moderator Robin Kelly-O’Conner advised attendees that the wines were no longer in the order of the tasting sheet, noting, “It’s called the Italian way.” But, we all made do and finally, about 10 minutes after the published start time, the event kicked off.
The object of everyone’s affection (and attention) was the Italian wine known as Amarone della Valpolicella from Italy’s Veneto region. Produced primarily from Corvina and Corvinone grapes, local archeological evidence of these vines dates to 40 million years ago. Moreover, records of wine production in the Veneto area go back as early as the 5th century BCE. Located north of Verona, the larger Valpolicella appellation translates as the valley of many cellars and with the general profusion of wine production here, it is easy to see why.
However, Amarone della Valpolicella is a smaller, more specialized appellation than Valpolicella itself. And, operating within the Amarone appellation, the Amarone Families is a self-regulating consortium of Amarone producers who have banded together to take up the cause of quality Amarone. The initial group of families met two years ago to establish this organization.Current members include: Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Masi, Musella, Nicolis, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venurini and Zenato.
Membership is restricted to family-owned wineries that have been producing Amarone wine for a minimum of 15 years and that export their wines to major global markets. Accepted members must adhere to more stringent production requirements than those of the regular appellation laws. More specifically, even though the Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG permits production at 14% abv, members of Amarone Families must achieve alcohol levels of at least 15% abv. Moreover, while the law requires a minimum of 20 months of barrel aging; Amarone Families members must age their wines for 30 months and many of them actually exceed this time frame. Further, Amarone may only be produced in good vintages; when less favorable conditions exist, members must declassify their wines.
The Amarone Families’ attention to quality is reflected in the area’s production figures. In 2001, 5 million bottles of Valpolicella were produced compared to 16 million bottles in 2011. Among the Amarone Families producers, production during this same period rose from 2 million bottles to 2.5 million bottles, an increase of only 25% as opposed to the regional increase of 300%.
When further discussing this emphasis on quality, participants were advised that the key to making Amarone is “not technology, only grapes, grapes, grapes.” Come harvest time, the experienced workers look for healthy grapes with loose berries and thick skins. Close attention is also paid to the weather post-harvest, since, unlike in the production of other wines, winter weather will also influence the quality of Amarone wine. Cold and dry conditions are necessary for proper drying of the grapes; if the weather is wet, it becomes increasingly challenging to create a quality wine. The drying process in creating this appasimento-style wine is critical. The drying period officially runs from September through December 1, but the Amarone Families continue to dry their grapes until January 1. This additional month means that the grapes become more concentrated, but also lose more juice content. When making Recioto della Valpolicella, the drying process is further increased to build up more sugar in the grapes, since, unlike Amarone, it is a sweet wine.
Once the drying period is completed, pressing takes place followed by a month-long fermentation. As a result of this complex and time-consuming production process, the wines are big and bold with high alcohol (many of the wines we tasted were 16% abv) and robust flavors. Most of the wines in the line-up were from the 2001 vintage, which showed developing aromas of dried figs, prunes, spice, cinnamon, dried cherry, balsamic, vanilla and, despite their age, were still quite concentrated and tannic. In describing the profile of these wines, Salvatore Esposito of Italian Wine Merchants claimed that if the U.S. produced Amarone is would be a “…wine made in Texas.”